Homosexuality isn’t a choice, but often, many forget, neither is religion. And this is certainly the case for the world’s dense population of devout Muslims, now comprising the second largest religion in the world. Since the dictates of various orthodoxies seem almost by design to painfully rub up against basic biological desires, the demonization of sexuality has been widely reported upon and dramatized, whether directly or indirectly, for as long as there has been sophisticated thought.
Though the most blatant and rigorous denial of carnal desire is extended, as ever, to homosexuality, only in recent years have we been granted the courtesy of fine documentaries such as Sandi DuBowski’s Trembling Before G-D and Daniel Karslake’s For the Bible Tells Me So, primers on the eternal battle of conscience and love waged in the minds of gay individuals for whom abandoning faith-based communities is not an option. For them, the need to touch another human body does not preclude the desire to be close to God; of course, in dealing with a handful of extreme, sexually repressive Islamic societies, Parvez Sharma’s passionate, yet reserved new documentary “A Jihad for Love” can’t help but seem even more urgent.
Sharma, a gay writer, reporter, and filmmaker born in India, is himself a Muslim, and his lack of condescension toward the religious communities he captures on film is A Jihad for Love‘s greatest strength. Sharma excels at depicting the effects of repressive regimes on individuals in a matter-of-fact manner, without the aid of overly cute populist doc tricks or direct audience appeals; one comes away with the sense that Islamic governmental law based on religion isn’t so different from nonsecular Westernized rationalizations for discrimination.