Jihad for Love: Afrose's Intro and Closing


Assalamu Alaikum. Juzzakh Allah Khair to everyone for joining us this evening in Ramadan. We are honored to present A Jihad for Love, a film that highlights the very important topic of queer Muslims in Muslim societies. We are excited to have Parvez Sharma, the director of Jihad for Love, join us for this screening. And we thank Tasveer, Trikone Northwest, and Democracy Insurgent for making this evening possible.

As we watch this film tonight, it might be easy for us to isolate queer struggles from national liberation from imperialism. (flesh this out) In light of the current political situations in the Middle East and the United States’ involvement, I compel you to consider the broader context of war and occupation, class struggle, and movements for change.

The struggle for liberation has always been important to queer Muslims and their families. However, Jihad For Love comes at a critical historical moment that highlights this struggle for a broader audience. The US is continuing to place the greater Middle East at the center of its imperialist project. The US’ support for the occupation of Palestine is one ongoing example. However, the US’ most recent actions in the Middle East do mark an important change in US empire. The current occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and overt aggression towards Iran and Syria are new and appalling developments of US Empire.

Both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, would have us believe that they wage these violent wars in the name of democracy, gender and queer liberation. However, US imperialism has only ever resulted in the exploitation of everyday people. Possessing peoples’ land and bodies has been done in the name of freeing women from their own men, such as in colonial India. Now, whether it’s women in Afghanistan, or queer people in Palestine, the US argues that its liberal stance on sexual politics will bring freedom to these people through occupation. The hypocrisy of their position is made clear when we consider that queer people’s and women’s bodies and sexualities are regulated in the United States as well as US-backed dictatorships in the Middle East. For example, the government of Saudi Arabia has maintained a strong relationship with the US government, and yet the freedoms of queer people and women in that society are seriously violated every day while the US looks away.

As a Muslim person, young or old, living in the West or the Muslim world, we can react in a number of ways. Much of the basis of the war on terror is racist propaganda. In the struggle against white supremacy and US imperialism, Muslims can choose to blindly defend Islam and Muslim people and simultaneously, gloss over the very real problem of patriarchy in our Muslim communities. (womens and queer struggles are put on backburner, Taliban for queers as part of western decadence.) Conversely, Muslim people can react by falling into the Western categories of “good” progressive Muslims and “bad” backwards Muslims. These people, such as Irshad Manji, collaborate with the racist attack on Muslims and believe the lie that Western civilization is somehow inherently more liberal than Islam.

A Jihad for Love shows the lives and loves of people who choose another path, a bolder journey. We know that their struggles are intimately connected with our own struggles to live and love freely in this country. They are people who refuse to live fractured lives, who know that there is nothing about Islam that is inherently backwards, who recognize that queer people have always lived and loved in Muslim societies, and who believe that their love for Allah and their love for people is made from the same cloth.

one clear anecdote . example of what imperialists say about saving queer muslims. people need this sourced. conservative blogs. Israeli advertisements about queer people. standiwthus campus or david project.

After the Film

In my Muslim upbringing, I was taught that every individual had a direct relationship with Allah. It was up to us to learn the moral principles we should live by and to apply them to every day situations. Somehow, this teaching contradicted with a great belief in dogma, that we should take the words of scholars on the authority of a higher power, and we should learn by rote the hadith that would dictate every action of our days and nights. Although we were taught not to question it, this contradiction became clear to me. I began to question many things in Islam and in the rest of my experience, and I came to the same conclusion offered by the social worker in the last scene. “We must interpret the world anew for ourselves” and “Islam commands us to challenge the status quo.”

The film showed us people who were doing just this, in different ways. People who could not reconcile their love for another with their faith, and found themselves stuck, or forced to turn away from their queerness. People who struggled with and within their families, their communities. People who interpreted their worlds anew for themselves and began to challenge the status quo, the patriarchy and racism that existed in their lives.


It is unfortunate that so many people have to leave their homes for the West in order to have air to breathe, when racism and anti-queer sentiment are waiting for them when they arrive. Did you meet any people that wanted to stay in their home countries even though they faced repression there? What about queer people who wanted to come to the US but were stopped by Homeland Security? (AA)

I don’t believe that change will come or that queers will have better lives in Muslim countries or anywhere else unless they organize movements to change the current anti-queer policies and sentiments of their governments and societies. Did you encounter any queer organizations that were fighting back against state repression? (NM)

It can be easy in this white supremacist society to write off Muslim people or Islam as “backwards” or believe the myth that we are not as “progressive” as the West. In the making of Jihad for Love, did you encounter any supporters who were drawing these kinds of racist conclusions from your project? (AA)

Joseph Massad writes about men in the Middle East who may engage in same-sex practices, yet do not identify with being “queer.” In other queer people of color communities, concepts such as “coming out” are regarded as not relevant to their particular social realities. Did you speak to any people whose lives may have reflected this social reality? Can you discuss histories of queer people in the middle east, because it is only talked about as being a modern reality influenced by the West. Is there an awareness of this in the ME?

There is a tension in the film among the ways different queer people interpret the relationship between Islam and their sexualities. For many queer Muslims, we want to be able to reinterpret Islamic texts, to invoke ijtihad, in order to carve out a space for queers. In my experiences of talking about the film to different Muslims, although some people support the right of queer people to not be persecuted, they are unable to accept an interpretation of Islam that permits queerness. Can you talk about those contradictions?


There have always been queer people in every part of the world, including Muslim societies, including the land that we stand on now. The status of queer folks here in contrast to the Muslim world does not demonstrate that the West is more open-minded than other civilizations. Any freedoms that queer people, or women, or black folks, or any other people have today is a result of their fight for those freedoms. If it were not for important queer moments, such as the Stonewall riots in New York that launched the gay rights movement, queer folks here would never have achieved the gains they have now.

(Has the US supported these movements for change against patriarchy in third world countries. as muslims, people of color, we have to support them because the government won’t.)

In Muslim societies, in the rest of the world, there have always been men who loved men, women who loved women, and people who did not conform to prescribed gender norms. The status of queer folks here in contrast to the Muslim world does not demonstrate that the West is more open-minded than other civilizations. Any freedoms that queer people, or women, or black folks, or any other people have today is a result of their fight for those freedoms. If it were not for important queer moments, such as the Stonewall riots in New York that launched the gay rights movement, queer folks here would never have achieved the gains they have now.

In order to challenge the status quo, as we were compelled to by the closing scenes of Jihad for Love, we have to support the struggles of queer people everywhere, Muslim or not. We have to fight for their ability to love freely and live creative lives. At the same time, we have to support the struggles of people who are resisting imperialism. Lastly, we must know that these struggles go hand-in-hand, that queer liberation and national liberation can never be achieved without each other. There are organizations, such as Aswat in Palestine, that are fighting both a queer struggle and a national struggle against a racist and patriarchal occupation.

Thank you so much for your presence here this evening during Ramadan. As we break for Iftar, Parvez and members of Trikone Northwest and Democracy Insurgent are present tonight. Trikone Northwest is a social support group for South Asian queers and allies. Democracy Insurgent is a middle east solidarity group based on UW’s campus that highlights the importance of queer and gender liberation and anti-racist and democratic struggle within in anti-imperialist movements. We are available to continue these conversations with you tonight and in the future. Assalamu Alaikum.

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