A Jihad For Love

This wonderful documentary profiles gay and lesbian Muslims in twelve countries.  It tells an incredibly complex story (really, many stories) that I couldn’t hope to do justice to here.  I think perhaps what struck me most was this: the people in the film are being persecuted in the name of Islam, yet it is also clear that what sustains them through this persecution is precisely their deep faith in Islam.  The stories are complex, the people are complex, the interplays between culture, religion, and politics are complex– and they all (people, cultures, religious intepretations, laws) differ tremendously from one another.  I won’t try to say much more, except to note that there is a vast amount of rich material here for those interested in sexuality, gender, self-understanding, religion, culture, textual interpretation, human rights, silencing, and on and on and on.  See it as soon as you can, and tell others about it! the director has a blog here.  And here’s an interview with the director to whet your appetite.  

5 thoughts on “A Jihad For Love

  1. This is an amazingly complex, and indeed tricky issue. I was contemplating a lot about Islam and asked a number of Muslims about being gay and how it relates to the religious doctrine — since I come from Indonesia (the country with the largest Muslim population in the world) I consequently have many gay Muslim friends. A caveat, however, Islam is by no means monolithic. So it might be the case that the opinion of those I’ve spoke to are leaning toward a specific strand of Islam. Nevertheless, and I’ve consulted a diversity of Muslims on this as well, the view in regards to same-sex relationships is generally negative (I’m using the word loosely here).

    There seems to be a unanimous sentiment: according to the Qur’an homosexuality is wrong, so it is unislamic. Now I’m not quite certain on which Sura in particular, or where can one find an explicit statement that vindicates same-sex relationship, but here is a link that might be useful:


    Indeed, most of the responses my friends gave me were in reference to the story of Sodom. Since I am not a specialist in Qur’anic study I have to desist.

    But it is worth mentioning that the current reconciliatory measure (that I am aware of) involves the proposal of an alternative interpretation of the Quran. But this is a tough path to tread. For, substantially, the Qur’an is understood as the literal message from God, and it is thus literally understood that same-sex (sexual) relationship is wrong; it is unislamic. Again, I’m NOT espousing any views, but perhaps one might want to refer to this following blog as a point of departure into the discourse as well (an immensely critical one, if not strident in tone):


    I’ve been pondering over this question for a long time. I’m still unsure as to how to approach the matter. On one side, I can see how most gay Muslims approach the discourse as a Muslim first. But the consequence of this approach is to confront the majority opinion that being gay is unislamic. Of course one may argue that this is a fact of oppression, but a response would be that it isn’t at all. The fact to the matter is that BEING gay is unislamic and thus if one believe in Islam one must jettison one’s sexual preference, hence the real Jihad is in confronting one’s desires.

    This of course works under the assumption that sexual preference is not biologically determined, and thus reversible. So perhaps, should science find that sexuality is indeed biologically determined, and thus by using the ‘natural’ card, the attitude might change. But then again, I can easily see a plausible counter-argument that focuses on the downplaying of human agency as a result of emphasising biological determinism. The argument might look like this: that it is possible to reverse one’s preference irrespective of biological disposition and it is proven by the so-called sexual conversion therapy. And the argument will go on and on.

    Anyways, before digressing even further, I should really curb my desires so as to avoid lengthy exposition in what is supposed to be a mere ‘commentary’.


  2. Yuventius,
    Thanks for your open minded approach to this. I wanted to clarify one thing though: It’s not “being gay” that is not allowed in Islam (no one can be blamed for their feelings) However, it’s acting on these feelings that is not allowed in Islam.
    Thanks again and I hope we can continue to stay in touch.

  3. Taleb,
    Thanks for the clarification. I realized that I wasn’t being clear enough. Again, thank you. It is indeed important to avoid unnecessary confusion of conditionals.


  4. For what it’s worth: an Imam in the film makes a very good case (it seems to me, in my ignorance) that the condemnation of Sodom was a condemnation of homosexual *rape* only.

  5. Jender,

    That is indeed a plausible interpretation. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on this, but if you’re interested in what is actually mentioned in the Quran these following links are particularly useful as a point of entry into the discourse (the same website but different pages):



    A caveat, I’m unsure if there are enthymemes in the websource. So by all means do refer to the Quran, especially the particular Sura referred to in the source.

    Nevertheless, I dare say that it is quite true that the Quran is very straight-forward (pardon the pun) on the matter of male-to-male lust, i.e., utter condemnation. And since the Quran is the absolute authority I do not see how relying on thin interpretation is useful. In my opinion, to say the condemnation is really of homosexual rape does very little; if I may be candid, it is merely an effective appeasement to the few tormented soul. But of course, I am in no way suggesting that it ‘means’ very little. It is indeed a big gesture of support that comes from an authoritative voice.

    So I’m still unsure on what is needed to reconcile, or compromise (if I should be less optimistic).


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