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A Jihad for Love

A Jihad for Love (2008)



Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 33
Fresh: 25 | Rotten: 8

This powerful documentary explores an important subject -- homosexuality in the Muslim world -- with humanity and courage.


Average Rating: 6.4/10
Critic Reviews: 17
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 5

This powerful documentary explores an important subject -- homosexuality in the Muslim world -- with humanity and courage.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 666

My Rating

Movie Info

"A Jihad for Love" is the world's first feature documentary to explore the complex global intersections between Islam and homosexuality. Parvez enters the many worlds of Islam by illuminating multiple stories as diverse as Islam itself. The film travels a wide geographic arc presenting us lives from India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa and France. Always filming in secret and as a Muslim, Parvez makes the film from within the faith, depicting Islam with the same respect that the


Documentary, Special Interest


Parvez Sharma

Apr 28, 2009

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All Critics (33) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (8) | DVD (2)

Covering more than half a dozen countries, Sharma stretches himself too thin, and as a result the documentary seems sketchy; he would have done well to present on-screen some of the background information in his production notes.

December 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

For all the research, courage and passion that went into it, the movie is sometimes curiously one-note.

September 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[Director Sharma's] focus on religion and this particular religion's all but certain hostility to same-sex love means there can be no answers to the spiritual searching of many of his characters.

September 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Often fascinating and provocative, although, as a film, it feels a bit long and somewhat repetitive.

August 22, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A Jihad for Love is a courageous documentary on the plight of gays in the Muslim world, and it reveals how the devout attempt to reconcile their sexual orientation and their faith.

August 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is propelled by tales of Muslims wrestling with their faith and sexual identity.

August 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

director Parvez Sharma sets out across the world to find out what it means to be gay and Muslim. In most cases, it means trouble.

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source:

A poignant and sobering depiction of the struggle of gay Muslims in 12 countries to reconcile their sexual orientation with their faith.

April 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Parvez Sharma's documentary, "A Jihad for Love", traces heartening, harrowing stories of Muslim gay men and lesbians.

September 12, 2008 Full Review Source: PopMatters

It is presented as an inside view of the issue, but bears the judgmental stamp of the outsider, almost to the point of cultural exploitation.

September 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

With each familiar story, you wish Sharma dug a little deeper into the issue. Still, his message conveys.

September 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Let's Not Listen
Let's Not Listen

To be called a monster and then be stoned to death is pretty much as bad as it can get.

August 29, 2008 Full Review Source:

Had Sharma dug deeper, the documentary would be more compelling

August 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews
Old School Reviews

The filmmaker and his subjects are to be commended for their honesty, yet there's an overwhelming sameness to their stories that impedes the film's dramatic value.

August 8, 2008 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

As compelling in its way as Daniel Karslake's For the Bible Tells Me So.

July 27, 2008 Full Review Source: Windy City Times
Windy City Times

More than the question of whether the mainstream religions can ever accept homosexuality, Jihad For Love shines a light on religious devotion, a powerful thing for some, even in the face of persecution and death.

July 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

The Muslims here feel bound up in an internal battle (the primary meaning of jihad) as they try to make peace between divine and earthly loves. What's lacking are deeper, more involved ruminations on such feelings, reconciliations and self-recriminations.

July 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

Audience Reviews for A Jihad for Love

[size=3]"A Jihad for Love" is an ultra-conventional documentary, but its subject matter makes it world-historic and worth seeing. It is an examination of homophobia in the Muslim world and the fledgling resistance movement that is building to challenge it. If you're seeking profiles in courage, look no further than "Jihad for Love."[/size]


[size=3]In most Muslim societies (but not all) gays and lesbians face ferocious persecution and even execution. Many people featured in the film were so frightened of retribution directed at their families that they would only appear on camera if the director promised to blur their faces. When they appear in the film, you just see foggy clouds where their faces should be. "Jihad for Love" contains more obscured faces than any documentary in cinema history, a disturbing visual indication of the terrible oppression these men and women face.[/size]


[size=3]The photo above provides an example of the blurring. Notice that there are four men in the shot, but two are obscured. These four men, incidentally, are gay Iranians that fled their country after they were arrested at a gay party in Shiraz, a city in southern Iran. Two ended up getting asylum in Canada. The fate of the other two was uncertain at the time the film was completed. [/size]

[size=3]The fact that this film was made at all (and got a distribution deal) truly is a miracle. Indian-born Muslim filmmaker [b]Parvez Sharma[/b] and his American producer [b]Michael Huffington[/b] deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. [/size]


[size=3]"Jihad," it is made clear in the film, does not mean holy war, or war of any kind. It means struggle. By depicting the gay movement as a jihad, the film is not for a second suggesting that gays pick up AK-47s. It suggests that gays, lesbians and their supporters should pick up movie cameras, write books and newspaper articles, and generally tell the truth of their experience. (I might encourage them to pick up AK-47s, but that's me.)
[size=3]"Jihad for Love" is constructed in a highly conventional manner, which is quite disappointing. I'm amazed at the colossal lack of cinematic creativity on the part of most documentary filmmakers today. But the sweep of the film is truly extraordinary. Sharma took a film crew to many different countries and somehow found a substantial number of gay Muslims willing to speak. I can't imagine how he did it. The film starts in South Africa, then moves to Eqypt, France, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, and India. [/size][size=3]Sharma took great personal risks by filming in some of these countries.[/size]

[size=3]Several fascinating patterns emerge from the interviews. First is deep religiosity. Everyone interviewed was very deeply religious; moreover, they felt strongly that God was on their side. Only one doubted which side God was on. She at one point even suggested that she deserved to be lashed the way gay men sometimes were. She felt punishment might help her find her way out of homosexuality! She even said this in front of her girlfriend, which was highly bizarre.[/size]

[size=3]But she radically differed from the others in the film, who were completely certain that God smiled upon them. Their battle is with conservative Muslims. They believe firmly that conservatives [i]incorrectly[/i] interpret the Quran and misunderstand the spirit of Islam. Below a gay Muslim (left) has a respectful but pointed discussion with a conservative clergyman about the Quran and the few times homosexuality is mentioned in it. (The Quran's proscriptions are like those found in the Leviticus section of the Jewish holy book.)[/size]


[size=3]This deep religiosity represents a phenomenal difference from the Western experience, where the gay/lesbian movement was founded overwhelmingly by atheists and agnostics. For the past 50 years it's been almost impossible to find gay and lesbian activists in America or Europe who adhered to any of the Judaic-based faiths. [/size]

[size=3]This has been changing recently because certain denominations within Judaism and Christianity have begun to reject hetero-supremacism, But this is very new. Basically the heritage of the Western gay movement has been ultra-hostile to religion, especially Christianity. When I came out of the closet as gay, for example, I thought Christianity was a cancerous, anti-human institution that had to be destroyed. Among gays, this was the dominant viewpoint. (I no longer think this about Christianity, incidentally.) [/size][size=3]One thing is for sure, gay Muslims are most definitely not breaking from Islam. They are deeply devout and feel their place is in the mosque.[/size]

[size=3]Another pattern that emerges from the interviews is the tremendously deep, even a bit pathological, bond between sons and mothers. Almost every gay man in the film has a scene where he talks to his mother on the phone and cries his eyes out. It happened so many times that it started to become a bit comical. Even one of the lesbians has a scene with her mother. But happily, she doesn't cry.[/size]

[size=3]Not once did any gay or lesbian even mention their father. Not once during these phone conversations did the father come to the phone. Not once did the gay person even indicate that he/ she had a father. Is this a coincidence, or is there something very disturbing about the irresponsibility of fathers in the Muslim world? I was also slightly disturbed by the deep bonds between mother and son. I'm not sure it's healthy for sons to be that wrapped up in their mothers.[/size]

[size=3]I'm not surprised that an emigre would have teary phone conversations with family and friends, but with the gay men it was only their mothers. Over and over and over. They never talked to anyone else on the phone. It almost seemed to buttress the classic Freudian theory that boys with excessive attachments to their mothers and emotionally distant fathers tend to become gay. It was an awkward subtext to this otherwise politically focused film.[/size]
June 6, 2008
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

What unites the conservative elements of otherwise disparate religions is a hatred of gays and lesbians. The heartfelt and enlightening documentary "A Jihad for Love" takes this topic from a Muslim point of view. From South Africa to France to Iran to Turkey to Pakistan, gays and lesbians share their experiences. Some participants are courageous enough to have their faces revealed while others are more cautious.

As depicted in the film, Islam is more diverse than usually perceived, as the interpretation of sacred texts is up for debate. For example, the only relevant phrases from the Koran come up in the context of Sodom and Gomorrah, and as a gay imam puts it, the crimes committed there were rape, not consensual by any means.(The jihad in the title of the film is not here meant as it is usually thought of as a holy war, but as a struggle.) Another text forbids lesbianism but the worst punishment is a scolding. In some Muslim countries like Iran and Egypt, homosexuality is illegal and punishments vary but can include execution, causing Muslim gays and lesbians to live abroad as exiles. Turkey is Muslim, yet secular, and has no laws against homosexuality while Pakistan and India have rarely enforced statutes inherited from colonial England.
April 12, 2010
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

A lightweight documentary on treatments of homosexuality in the Muslim world. Unfortunately the individuals interviewed didn't add the gravity to this situation which it deserved.
February 15, 2010
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Could have been much better in how it was edited and put together but it was good.
September 16, 2009

Super Reviewer

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