Gay Muslim director threatened over Mecca documentary

Parvez Sharma says he’s got death threats ahead of Canadian premier of film tracing his personal experiences on hajj

Filmmaker Parvez Sharma (photo credit: YouTube screen cap)
Filmmaker Parvez Sharma (photo credit: YouTube screen cap)

An award-winning Muslim documentary-maker and prominent LBGT activist said he received death threats ahead of the premier at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto earlier this week of his film, A Sinner in Mecca, which follows his personal experiences during a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

India-born Parvez Sharma, who is openly gay, filmed his trip to Mecca for the hajj, a pilgrimage to the holy city which Muslim believers are required to go on at least once in their lifetimes. The film deals with the conflict between Sharma’s sexuality and his faith.

According to the Guardian, Sharma received “a barrage of hate mail” from Muslim countries before the film was even screened on April 29, “including direct threats.” The threats prompted the organizers of the festival to heighten security measures for the screening.

Some examples of the abuse are published on the film’s website. “How dare you call yourself a Muslim, while you have commented [sic] the biggest sin ever?” wrote one poster.

The documentary-maker, who describes himself as “a defiant pilgrim,” added that he had been verbally abused online as well.

Sharma said the film, which received generally positive reviews at the festival, is meant to serve as “a call to action to all Muslims to change the things that need to change within 21st-century Islam.”

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