Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sandi DuBowski's 2001 documentary Trembling Before G-d dealt soberly and relatively non-judgmentally with the dilemma of gay men and women who identify themselves as Orthodox Jews. Now DuBowski serves as a producer on Parvez Sharma's A Jihad For Love, about the even more tenuous position of observant Muslims who choose to be openly gay. While Jewish homosexuals can at least have long, analytical talks with their rabbis about whether being gay and devout is a contradiction, in some Islamic cultures, coming out means risking a death sentence.


Jumping from country to country, Sharma finds gay men and lesbians living in exile from their original homes, and lets them tell their stories about growing up feeling different from their peers, then trying to suppress their desires by getting married, then fleeing their community when the truth comes out. Sharma frames Jihad's subjects tightly, isolating them from their communities, and because so many faces have to be blurred for privacy reasons, the movie looks a little abstract at times. But even though the message that people should have the right to love whomever they want is hardy groundbreaking, Parvez captures some interesting conversations about what it means to be gay and Muslim.

One woman talks about how she enjoys wearing the hijab, because it lets her feel normal and anonymous. One Egyptian man recalls being put on trial with 50 other clubgoers for the vague crime of "debauchery." Another Egyptian man, now based in Capetown, spends his days doing radio interviews and lectures, trying to convince his community that the Koran is actually ambiguous about whether homosexuality is a sin. The people he talks to are skeptical but polite, even as they're saying that they believe he should be stoned to death. Perhaps he'd have better luck if he used the argument of one Turkish lesbian, who contends, "We have no right, if we are truly Muslim, to alter Allah's creation."

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