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Friday, July 18, 2008

UAE's Immorality Crackdown - 79 Arrested In One Week

'A Jihad for Love': Leap of Faith

From the Toronto Star - July 18, 2008

Susan Walker
Entertainment Reporter

A Jihad for Love

(out of 4)

Written and directed by Parvez Sharma. 81 minutes. At the Royal. PG

While there is much to admire among the subjects of A Jihad for Love, the film itself is a low-grade production that risks losing the viewer with an unimaginative sequence of talking heads.

Sometimes we don't even get that: the faces of the queer Muslims interviewed in this documentary about homosexuality and Islam are often smudged out, to protect them and their families.

Born and raised in India, gay Muslim director Parvez Sharma is a journalist who has worked for the BBC and The Telegraph. He obtained much of his footage for this film surreptitiously, especially in countries such as Iran where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death.

It would be one thing if the gay men and lesbian women that Sharma interviews were content to lead secular lives, but the sting comes in their devotion to their faith.

As much as they might wish to proclaim the love that dare not speak its name, these Indians, Iranians, Pakistanis and Egyptians more fervently wish to reconcile their love of Allah with same-sex preferences.

Muhsin Hendricks, who lives in Cape Town, is a particularly poignant example. He comes from a long line of Islamic scholars. "I was virtually born in a mosque," he says. Aware of his own nature from an early age, he asks God why he had to be this way.

He goes to Pakistan and marries, has three children, then takes the bold step of coming out. As an openly gay Imam, he engages those in his orthodox Muslim community, urging them to see that the Qu'ran has no injunctions against same-sex love.

In Cairo, Sharma finds Mazen, who was raped and tortured in prison following a raid on a gay club. "God has given me patience," he says, from his refuge in Paris.

A happier story is told about Ferda, a Sufi lesbian in Istanbul, and her girlfriend, Kiymet. The camera follows them on a visit to Ferda's mother, who affectionately embraces her daughter's partner.

Most frightened of all are the Iranian gay men who flee their country to reside in Turkey. Amir shows a photograph of his back after enduring 100 lashes in an hour while in police custody in Iran.

He joins up with three other gay men from his country and waits with them while the UN refugee agency seeks a home for them. Two are granted asylum in Canada, but this victory is bittersweet for the young man who realizes he may never again see his mother.

A Jihad for Love wanders aimlessly from country to country and indulges in long digressions.

A few statistics are scattered about but the documentary lacks a strong framework in which to house these struggles of gay and lesbian Muslims, a jihad that is certainly not confined to their faith.

Parvez Sharma hosts Q & A sessions after evening screenings through Monday.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Call for Action: An Iranian Gay Couple in India Need Your Support

For more information please contact IRQO at

Subject: India, Call for Action: An Iranian gay couple in India need your support

Call for Action: An Iranian gay couple in India need your support

(July 17, 08)

Dear Friends:

We are contacting you to request your assistance on a very urgent case
involving 2 gay Iranians, Ali and Mohammad.

It is no secret that queer Iranians who flee to other countries continue to
face risks due to homophobia and laws calling for punishment of homosexuals.
This often results in depression and post traumatic stress symptoms.

Ali and Mohammad, a gay Iranian couple, fled to India.  Although they have
each been officially recognized as refugees by United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Canadian Embassy in New Delhi has still
not acted to facilitate their resettlement in Canada. It has been one whole
year since the Canadian Embassy began processing their cases!

In India, Ali and Mohammad are illegal queer refugees. They have no
authorization to work.  Furthermore, they are at risk because India's penal
code includes punishment for homosexual activity.

The common complications that queer refugees experience are escalated for them
because Mohammad's mental health is deteriorating.  He has been counseled by a
UNHCR psychiatrist for 7 months and continues to suffer.  Immediate attention
by the Canadian Embassy is critical!

Please show your support by writing to the Canadian Embassy in New Delhi,
India to urge them to expedite the processes for Ali and Mohammad.  There are
2 ways you can help:

1. You may copy and paste the sample letter in English into an email and send
it to the Embassy;   OR

2. You may write your own letter in support of Ali and Mohammad.

Please send to Canadian Embassy at , and also CC to
UNHCR at as well as IRQO at for tracking

You may also fax letters to the Canadian Embassy at:  +91 (11) 5178-2020 or
call them at: +91 (11) 5178-2000 ATTN: Canadian High Commission.

If you choose to fax your letter, please email a copy to

Thank you for your support.

Ali and Mohammad's Story

We are and Ali and Mohammad, an Iranian gay couple.  We fled Iran and came to
India, but we are facing difficult circumstances here and need assistance!

We are both refugees recognized by UNHCR in New Delhi, India. Mohammad was
recognized as a refugee in August, 2006, and I, Ali, was recognized as a
refugee too, in March, 2007.

UNHCR submitted our case as "urgent" and "high priority" for resettlement to
the Canadian embassy in New Delhi.  The Canadian embassy started processing on
our application on May 17, 2007, and we completed interviews with the Canadian
embassy on July 19, 2007.  We even received our health checkups in the same
week. However, we are still waiting for our process to be complete so that we
can resettle in a safer country.

Under Indian Penal Code No. 377, sexual activity between men is officially a
crime and is punishable with imprisonment for up to 10 years.  Homosexuality
is forbidden by both the Indian government as well as by Indian society.

In addition to dealing with homophobia and anti-LGBT laws, we lack visas and
are not able to work. We are without income and we also face many problems
because of our sexual orientation.

Due to this complicated situation, Mohammad's mental health is disturbed and
he has been on medication prescribed by UNHCR's psychiatrist for over 7
months. Even Mohammad's doctor sent a letter to UNHCR and to the Canadian
embassy to describe his condition and asked them to speed up his process so he
can leave India as soon as possible.

Mohammad's health is in danger and he cannot handle this condition any longer.
It is so important that he reach a safe country very quickly.

We need your assistance and help to leave India as soon as possible.

We are waiting for your help.

Thanking you,

Ali and Mohammad

Sample Letter to the Canadian Embassy


Re:  File Number B051747780

To the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi:

This letter particularly concerns the cases of Mohammad and Ali with file
number B051747780. Mohammad and Ali were recognized by the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2006 and 2007, respectively.  UNHCR
forwarded their case to you for quick processing, noting that this case should
be treated as high priority.  Mohammad and Ali completed interviews and health
checkups in July, 2007.  A whole year has passed and they are still waiting
for your Embassy to complete their processes.

You must be aware of the perils that queer refugees in particular face in
India.  The Indian penal code calls for punishment of homosexuals and the
Indian society is homophobic.  Because of this, refugees like Mohammad and Ali
deal with escalated risks.  Confronting these risks often leads to mental
health problems and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.  It is
essential that such individuals resettle in a country deemed safe and
appropriate for homosexuals, such as Canada, as quickly as possible.

We, as supporters of queer Iranians, urge that you expedite Mohammad and Ali's
case, because they are suffering in New Delhi and Mohammad's mental health is
especially deteriorating.  He has been medicated by a UNHCR psychiatrist for
seven months.  We are concerned about their emotional states in India, and
urge you to bring them relief from their unhealthy situation.

We realize you have many resettlement cases to work on.  However, due to the
exigent circumstances especially facing queer refugees, we urge you to assist
Mohammad and Ali, and help them resettle in Canada promptly.

Your timely, informed and sensitive treatment of this case will be much


Your Name

A Jihad for Love Comes to Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, San Diego and Many More Cities!


Fourteen centuries after the revelation of the holy Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam today is the world's second largest and fastest growing religion. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma travels the many worlds of this dynamic faith, discovering the stories of its most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims.

Produced by Sandi DuBowski (Trembling Before G-d) and Sharma, A Jihad for Love was filmed in 12 countries and 9 languages and comes from the heart of Islam. Looking beyond a hostile and war-torn present, it reclaims the Islamic concept of a greater Jihad, whose true meaning is akin to 'an inner struggle' or 'to strive in the path of God' - allowing its remarkable subjects to move beyond the narrow concept of Jihad as holy war.

Los Angeles, CA Outfest July 17, 2008

Santa Rosa, CA

Rialto Cinemas Lakeside July 17, 2008
Wilmington, DE Theatre N at Nemours July 18 - 24, 2008
Lake Worth, FL Lake Worth Playhouse July 18 - 24, 2008
Columbus, OH Wexner Center for the Arts July 25 & 26, 2008

Chicago, IL

Siskel Film Center July 25 - 31, 2008
Los Angeles, CA Laemmle Sunset 5 August 1 - 7, 2008
Palm Springs, CA Camelot Theaters August 1 - 7, 2008
Denver, CO Starz Denver August 1 - 7, 2008

Tempe, AZ

Valley Art Theatre August 1 - 7, 2008

Huntington, NY

Cinema Arts Centre August 5, 2008

Austin, TX

Landmark Dobie Opens August 8, 2008

San Diego, CA

Landmark Ken August 8 - 14, 2008

San Francisco, CA

Landmark Lumiere August 22 - 28, 2008

Berkeley, CA

Landmark Shattuck August 22 - 28, 2008

Philadelphia, PA

Landmark Ritz at Bourse August 22 - 28, 2008

Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival September 4 - 14, 2008

Washington DC

Landmark E Street September 5 - 11, 2008

Seattle, WA

Landmark Varsity September 5 - 11, 2008
Fresno, CA Fresno Reel Pride September 17 - 21, 2008
Berkeley, CA JCC of the East Bay September 18, 2008

Atlanta, GA

Landmark Midtown Art Cinema September 19 - 25, 2008

Tampa, FL

Tampa Int'l Gay & Lesbian Film Festival October 2 - 12, 2008

Minneapolis, MN

5th Minneapolis Arab Film Festival October 16 - 19, 2008

Charlottesville, VA

Virginia Film Festival November 1, 2008

Director, Parvez Sharma and Producer, Sandi Dubowski - are making personal appearances in many of the cities!

For more information check out the following sites:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

US Ban on Visitors with HIV Could End Soon

From the Associated Press

US ban on visitors with HIV could end soon


WASHINGTON (AP) — A two-decade ban on people with HIV visiting or
immigrating to the United States may end soon through a Senate bill
aimed at fighting AIDS and other diseases in Africa and other poor
areas of the world.

The U.S. is one of a dozen countries — including Sudan, Saudi Arabia,
Libya and Russia — that ban travel and immigration for HIV-positive

Even China, said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., recently changed that
policy, deciding it was "time to move beyond an antiquated, knee-jerk
reaction" to people with HIV.

"There's no excuse for a law that stigmatizes a particular disease,"
Kerry said Tuesday at a speech to the Center for Strategic &
International Studies HIV/AIDS Task Force. Even people with avian flu
or the Ebola virus have an easier time than those with HIV when it
come to applying for visas, he said.

Kerry and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., are trying to repeal the ban,
first implemented in 1987 and confirmed by Congress in 1993. The two
have attached their measure to legislation — which the Senate may pass
this week — that would provide $50 billion over the next five years to
fight AIDS and other diseases in Africa and other poor areas.

Foreign citizens, students and tourists can apply for a
difficult-to-obtain special waiver for short-term visits, but an
HIV-positive person has little chance of obtaining permanent

Under current law, HIV is the only medical condition explicitly listed
under immigration law. The Kerry-Smith provision would make HIV
equivalent to other communicable diseases where medical and public
health experts at the Health and Human Services Department — not
consular officials at U.S. embassies — determine eligibility for

Those with HIV seeking legal permanent residency would still have to
demonstrate they have the resources to live in this country and would
not become a "public charge."

The HIV ban was "adopted during a time of widespread fear and
ignorance about the HIV virus," said Allison Herwitt, legislative
director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and
lesbian civil rights group.

Among the consequences, experts on HIV and AIDS who are themselves
infected have been unable to attend conferences in the U.S. Students
and refugees in the country who may be at risk of infection have been
reluctant to seek testing or treatment.

"Health care professionals, researchers and other exceptionally
talented people have been blocked from the United States," some 160
health and AIDS groups said recently in a letter urging Congress to
end the current policy. "Since 1993, the International Conference on
AIDS has not been held on U.S. soil due to this policy."

Herwitt said some HIV-positive people seeking visas lie on their
applications and then don't bring their medications. "It's not only
wrongheaded and discriminatory, but can also cause people to not tell
the truth."

Both President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton sought to ease
the policy and in 2006 the current President Bush asked the Homeland
Security Department to streamline the waiver process. Congress so far
has not gone along.

There's still opposition.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., may offer an amendment to eliminate the
Kerry-Smith provision from the Senate bill. Sessions cited
Congressional Budget Office estimates that the new immigrants coming
in under the relaxed policy could cost the government more than $80
million over a 10-year period. "Most people just don't want to talk
about that."

Sessions said the Health and Human Services Department already has
considerable flexibility to grant entry visas.

The measure would offset the costs of new immigrants by raising the
price of applying for a visitor's visa by $1 for three years and then
$2 for the next five years.

The House version of the Africa AIDs bill does not have the travel and
immigration provision, but advocates said it will be included in the
final version of the bill that goes to the president.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., is sponsoring companion legislation in the House.

The Africa AIDS bill is S. 2731.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Islam Throws Wrinkle into Some Flood Recovery

Nazar Osman, owner of a flooded grocery store, stands in a drizzle in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He's looking into loan programs run by Muslim banks since the Quran prohibits paying interest.

Nazar Osman, owner of a flooded grocery store, stands in a drizzle in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
He's looking into loan programs run by Muslim banks since the Quran prohibits paying interest.

Full article from USA Today - July 15, 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Offensive or Tongue-in-Cheek?

The July 21 cover of the New Yorker magazine is causing quite a stir!!  Both the Obama and the McCain campaign agree that the picture is offensive!!  The New Yorker magazine defends its decision and says the illustration is satire.

Obama is wearing a tunic and a turban.  Michelle is wearing army clothes, has an AK-47 and an afro, and the American flag is burning in their fire place.  I think that's a picture of Osama bin Laden also above the mantle and ofcourse they're doing their famous "bump."

Offensive or just tongue-in-cheek?  What do you think?

Valentine's Day Across the Muslim World (2012)