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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Muslim Heretics Conference - A Celebration of Heresy: Critical Thinking for Islamic Reform

March 10, 2008 - Heretic Muslims Conference

Press Release by Heretic Muslims


Conference will take place Friday, Mar 28 - Sunday, Mar 30 Atlanta Georgia


The first of these conferences, "A Celebration of Heresy: Critical Thinking for Islamic Reform," will take place in Atlanta Georgia from March 28-March 30, 2008.  The organizers consist of a group of Muslim intellectuals and activists who share a commitment to the values of pluralism, democracy and respect for human rights. "This title emphasizes that we seek to promote our commitment to accept dissent and disagreement, because we believe that strong disagreement with the current views is a necessary pre-requisite for genuine and effective reform," explains one of the organizers, Dr. Abdullahi Naim, Professor of Law at Emory University. He adds, "We celebrate heresy and dissent not as ends in themselves, but in order to enable and promote innovative and critical thinking."


According to Melody Moezzi author, activist and another conference organizer, "The Muslim Heretics Conference is an effort to bring together the wide variety of voices and opinions within Islam. Our aim is to respect and appreciate dissent and diversity in Islamic practice and thought."


This conference grew out of the recognition that often, dissenting ideas against the prevailing religious traditions are written off as heresy.  Nearly all the prophets and great thinkers throughout history have been accused of being heretics. Furthermore, the stereotypical image of Muslims seems to be, as Fereydoun Taslimi, another conference organizer puts it, "An intolerance of a seemingly vain re-action to a cartoon or film and a tolerance for tyranny or oppression by some Muslims and Islamic governments. However, throughout Islam's history dissenting ideas have been prevalent and tolerated more than they have in many other religions."


"In the present atmosphere, one of the best places to hold such a conference is the United States, where Muslims can freely express their opinions without the fear of persecution" said another organizer author, activist and dissident Edip Yuksel, who will be leading a panel on critical thinking at the conference.


The conference will have panels on several topics, including critical looks at Sharia and related concerns, the Hadith and Sunnah, the absence of democracy in many Muslim countries, and women's rights.


For more information on the conference, including the organizers, speakers, schedule and more, please visit the conference website at

A Jihad for Love Comes to Europe

From Parvez Sharma - Director, A Jihad for Love

London Premiere of A Jihad for Love Info:

It is Sun 30 Mar 18:00, NFT1 (at the BFI near the river)
There will be a major panel to follow.
If not, we will reserve you one. I  can have you on my list and I hope you can bring many, many friends from the community and spread the word!

There is also a screening on
Mon 31 Mar 14:00, NFT1
with a Q & A to follow as well.

News / Updates:

The film premiered critical acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival last September, with major press coverage and excellent reviews. We have been picked up for theatrical distribution in the US with a major launch in NYC on May 21st at the IFC Center theater and our distributor First Run Features. We are fast moving towards theatrical release in many other countries and also broadcasts worldwide on Channel 4 in the UK, ADF in Germany, ARTE in France, SBS in Australia and also networks in India and South Africa.

We also had a fantastic launch of the film in India in January where we won the Jury Prize of the Tri-Continental Film Festival and held screenings in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

A great deal of the impact reports of the film from the entire world and the international press fervour generated by the film can be found at

In February we had a hugely successful European launch at The Berlin Film Festival where I did all major German TV, radio and print media and it ran up to 42 journalists from across Europe including Newsweek International running features on the film. We met with members of The European Parliament who are interested to organize a major screening at the Parliament in Brussels and work on the issues of Islam, European integration, refugees, and asylum the film raises, met with The Green Party (including prominent MP Volker Beck, the father of the same-sex union law in Germany) and their The Heinrich Boll Foundation who have offices from Istanbul to Jakarta and are interested to fund our Muslim Dialogue work, and met with the Goethe Institute to support our work in the Muslim world.

We recently also won a major human rights award at the The One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Prague selected by a jury of eminent human rights activists from five continents. This, after winning Best Documentary Awards also at MIX Brasil and Image+Nation in Montreal in November.

Everywhere we go, the film is profoundly touching people - in Sydney with 700 people at our Australian Premiere in March, a Lebanese Muslim therapist came with her gay brother and their Mom who was wearing a hijab. In Prague and Thessaloniki audiences were packed and engaged in extensive question and answer sessions. in South Africa in November, even while the Muslim Judicial Council issued a 'hukum' or judgement against the film, hundreds showed up to support it and Imam Muhsin Hendricks was joined on stage by his 14 year old daughter, telling the world that she was proud of her gay and Muslim father. It was so beautiful how they all supported one another and all of this can be instrumental to our creation of an international Muslim medical and mental health network to support Muslim GLBT people.

As we arrive in Europe on Thursday we will do Premieres in Amsterdam/The Hague, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, San Sebastian, Singapore, Torino, and in a major milestone - Istanbul - the first Muslim country to screen the film publicly.

With the plight of Mehdi Kazemi, the Iranian gay refugee, who was nearly deported from UK and Holland to face certain danger in Iran being a top news story around the world, these Premieres could not come at a better time when many European capitals are facing a rising tide of gays and lesbians fleeing the Muslim world who have been persecuted, imprisoned or tortured. A Jihad for Love and our International Muslim Dialogue Project are incredible resources for individuals, families, religious leaders, policymakers, government officials, NGO's.

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