Monday, September 28, 2015

A Gay Muslim Filmmaker Goes Inside the Hajj

Arranging to meet the filmmaker Parvez Sharma is a little like setting up an appointment with an extremely polite spy. He asks to rendezvous in a public place — a Starbucks in SoHo where the noise level is high, the tables distant and the volume of customers great. His boundaries are clearly drawn: no discussion of his husband, his friends, his Manhattan neighborhood or his family. He arrives a half-hour early.
Mr. Sharma’s discretion is no doubt borne of his experience growing up gay in a conservative city in India, but it has deepened since the release of his 2007 documentary, “A Jihad for Love,” which depicted the struggle of gay Muslims around the world to reconcile their faith with their sexual orientation. (Homosexuality is generally condemned in modern Islamic societies, said Everett Rowson, an associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University.) After “Jihad,” Mr. Sharma was labeled an infidel, and in the intervening years, he has gotten more death threats than he cares to recall.

His new documentary, “A Sinner in Mecca,” about his 2011 hajj, or journey to Islam’s most sacred sites in Saudi Arabia, put him at even greater risk. Saudi religious police allow selfies or short videos, Mr. Sharma said, but they forbid pilgrims from taking extensive footage of the hajj, which attracts up to three million faithful a year. While Mr. Sharma said there were government-sanctioned videos of the ritual, his documentary shows images of the annual pilgrimage that Saudi officials do not want others to see.
Despite Mr. Sharma’s notoriety as a gay filmmaker — the new film includes footage of his 2011 New York wedding to an atheist musician identified only as Dan — he traveled to Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by beatings, jail time and death.
The documentary was shown at Cinema Village on East 12th Street this month; it is available on iTunes and can be streamed on Netflix starting next Sunday.

“A Sinner in Mecca” opens with Mr. Sharma sitting at a laptop in his apartment, chatting online with Mohammed, a gay man in the Saudi city of Medina. Mohammed describes visiting a market to pick up some things for his mother, only to witness the beheading of a man rumored to be gay. “Please know you are not alone,” Mr. Sharma writes. The film then cuts to videotape footage of the scene, stopping just before the executioner’s ax strikes the man’s neck. It sets the stage for the anxious 79 minutes that follow.
Mr. Sharma, a soft-spoken man with chiseled features and a trim black beard, said he was “terrified” that he would die at the hands of the Saudis. Nevertheless, he felt called to make the pilgrimage — it is considered a duty for all Muslims to perform at least once in their lives — and hoped especially to reconcile his faith with his sexuality.
In the film, Mr. Sharma, 41, struggles visibly with his fear, even as he prays. He also explores the enduring grief he felt after being rebuked by his late mother, a poet, for not finding a “nice girl” to marry.
The documentary, largely recorded on an iPhone strapped to Mr. Sharma’s neck with rubber bands, shows the pilgrimage in unflinching detail. The result is a religious reality film, but also a piercing indictment of Saudi Arabia, which influences, Mr. Sharma said, millions of pilgrims annually.
Source: New York Times, Gabrielle Glaser, Sept. 24, 2015


another country said...

Le mariage gay en Arabie Saoudite, c'est pas pour demain. Pfffffffff !

JiEL said...

Une gang d'hypocrites..

Ils se tiennent entre «hommes» et portent de grandes robes mais ils ne sont pas «gais».... La coutume c'est de se promener main dans la main avec SON copain...

Un ami d'Istanbul me le disait: ils ont des femmes pour générer des descendants ET des «tits zamis» masculins pour les «plaisirs» entre mecs... Souvent leur «amuse-gueules» mâles ont leur appartement et ils y sont à l'aise pour leurs ébats secrets...

Des hypocrites j'te dis...