Gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma risked death by filming his pilgrimage to Mecca for his new documentary.
A Sinner in Mecca had its world premiere Wednesday night (28 April) at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto.
Security has been beefed up for the three sold-out screenings as Sharam has already received hate mail and death threats and the film was denounced by the Iranian state media as a ‘Western conspiracy’ to legitimize the ‘despicable sin of homosexuality.’
‘The Hajj is the highest calling for any Muslim,’ the Indian-born director told CBC News.
‘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.’
Sharma secretly filmed his pilgrimage to Mecca on his iPhone and other small cameras that looked like phones as filming permitted in Saudi Arabia
‘I was terrified because they reserve the death penalty for people like me,’ he said.
Sharma had his equipment seized and video deleted by authorities several times but he persevered with both his spiritual journey and his film.
‘I was there making this pilgrimage for the thousands of gay Muslims who were too scared to go to Saudi Arabia, who would feel they would never be welcome,’ he said.
‘I felt I was doing it for them.’
Sharma had a fatwa imposed on him by ‘a minor religious figure in South Africa’ after the release of his 2007 film A Jihad for Love, which looked at the lives of LGBTI Muslim.
But the directo insists he didn’t make the new film to provoke but hopes it will help lead to social change.
‘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 tralier for A Sinner in Mecca below: