A new documentary called A Sinner in Mecca tells the story of gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma as he does what more than 15 million other Muslims do annually — travel to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.
But as a gay man, Sharma’s journey is fraught with peril — homosexuality can be punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.
Sharma sees his film as a message of defiance for the thousands of gay Muslims who are afraid to make the trip. “I felt I was doing it for them,” the Indian-born director told CBS News.
Related: A Loving Jihad For The Gays
The film was denounced by the Iranian state media as a “Western conspiracy” to legitimize the “despicable sin of homosexuality,” and security for the three sold-out screenings a the Hot Docs festival in Toronto was amped up in light of the death threats and hate mail Sharma has received.
“The Hajj is the highest calling for any Muslim,” Sharma explained. “For years I felt I really needed to go, so this film is about me coming out as a Muslim. I’m done coming out as a gay man.”
He shot the film on iPhones and other small cameras, as filming is not permitted. Along the way his equipment was seized, footage deleted, and he constantly feared for his freedom and life.
But it was never about salting wounds, says the director, but rather healing them.
“I feel the film is a call to action to all Muslims to change the things that need to change within 21st Century Islam,” he said. “We’re running out of time.”
Watch the powerful trailer below:
This is precisely why new atheists like Bill Maher and Sam Harris are spot on in challenging the barbarism of Islam and why Liberals in America are so quick to go after Conservative Christians but will defend Islam as if challenging what Muslims believe is “Islamophobic”… the hell? The fact that this man can be killed for being gay in his own home country should be enough for us to be looking at that crap and saying “How are people still believing this nonsense in 2015?” And don’t give me that shit about Christianity’s past because if you need to go back to the past to compare to current atrocities in the name of religion then you’re an idiot. ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab… fucking spare me with this bleeding heart liberal Islam apologist bullshit… and I say this as a liberal.
This man is proof positive that the biggest sufferers of Islamic extremism are other Muslims… call it what you want, but this nonsense needs to be challenged just like we have no problem doing to Christianity.
What does he want to change, besides the “gay” part?
They’d still be walking counter-clockwise around a big black rock, drinking stinky “holy” water, and throwing stones at the “Devil,” while dressed up in a ghost costume or beekeeper suit. Maybe the reason the authorities don’t want this filmed is that it makes the participants look like a bunch of idiots.
Sounds like the most un-fun vacation ever. And the most un-gay one too! Let me know when you can get a margarita in Mecca, then we’ll talk.
Mmm…I dunno. Do pilgrims on the Hajj look any more “ridiculous” than monks humming and chanting, or Jews at the Wailing Wall, or Christians with smudged faces on Ash Wednesday?
Whatever you think of Islam in general, the Hajj is a fascinating ritual. The New Yorker did a great piece on it a few years ago. Hajj tourism is a big industry with options for every budget and that industry is driving the changes in the Mecca skyline.
@Glücklich: The relevant difference is that those religions don’t freak out at filming those scenes. But yes, of course, plenty of secular people in the West think those scenes are silly too.
“Driving the changes in the Mecca skyline” – LOL. In other words, Mecca is becoming the most boring “historical” pilgrimage place imaginable. The Wahhabis who run Saudi Arabia regard historical preservation as a sin, comparable to idol worship. In recent years they’ve demolished whole neighborhoods dating back over a thousand years to Mohammed’s time. Mecca and Medina are now full of ugly skyscrapers for the rich (some visible in the video).
Good luck, I hope he made it back with his head and penis intact.
There’s something a little strange about the whole story. How would anyone “know” he’s gay? Sexual activity of any kind is forbidden during the hajj. No one could guess he’s gay from the way he’s dressed. He must be quite a “swisher” (not that there’s anything wrong with that, IMO) if people can still guess he’s gay even when he’s dressed in a ghost costume. The name Parvez Sharma indicates he’s Iranian (and Shi’ite) which might put his gayness somewhat down the list of potential problems in Saudi territory.
The real problem seems to be not that he’s gay, but that he was filming it all illegally and “sinfully,” so maybe he should take that up with Islam’s prohibition on graven images.
You are a gay man and you have accepted the fact that you are gay.
But for some strange reason, you are unable to break free from some old desert cult.
Gay and brave, and whatever you think of religion, his film looks fascinating.
Hope it does well.
@Sameer Nurani: I hope it does well too.
It’s hard enough for LGBT films to get a fair shake from mainstream critics. You’d think all films would stand on there own merits, but a lot of us know that isn’t true.
So, I’m bothered by how easily the LGBT on-line community and self appointed critics leap at the chance to trash films and television productions that are trying to bring to light our own stories. All these stories need to be heard, IMO, and this trend of trashing these efforts does not serve us well.
Therefore, go back to your Marvel Comic films if that is what you want, but why not stop and think before focusing on the negative comments. Creative LGBT people put their lives into making movies. Does it hurt to hold your tongue now and them?
On a side note, last year Outfest 2014 presented a short film about two gay Persian men and what they faced in an anti gay country like Iran. The film is called Abad and Korshid. It was very well done.
I have no stake in this other than my appreciation for LGBT film.
@martinbakman: Sorry, the film is Aban and Korshid <– correction
@martinbakman: Queerty’s sensational, drama queen headline didn’t help, and maybe is based on their understanding. Nobody on the hajj risks death just for “being” gay. The hajj is only 8 days long. A gay person who’s stuck living in Saudi Arabia for decades is in a terrible situation. A pilgrim/tourist on an 8 day trip, meh.
It’s a crime to film the hajj, but probably not a capital crime and even if it is (theoretically), all they did to him according to this account was confiscate his film, hassle him etc. So it’s unlikely he was “risking death” on this project, unless perhaps an irate camel was chasing him at some point.
Maybe it’s an interesting film, but it doesn’t sound like a particularly “gay” one.
This looks like a fascinating film. I wonder what he thinks and has to say about being a gay Muslim in India; there are intersectional issues there I’d love to hear him talk about.
The purpose of his film is to shed light on not only an issue that is prominent within his culture, but on the thousands of LGBT peoples living within Saudi Arabia. Coming out in his culture is punishable by death. When closeted teens living in this area see people like him, they will feel empowered. His purpose is to empower those who are weak within the Muslim culture. It’s not because he’s bound by his religion, it’s because he wants to help those LGBT people who are. His video makes total sense and it’s a shame that other people in the comments don’t see just how powerful what he is doing is. It’s even empowering to those in our western society. It might help those struggling come out to their parents by just watching someone like this help themselves to freedom and equality.
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