Parvez Sharma – whose film ‘A Sinner in Mecca’ premièred this week in Toronto – spoke about the extreme threats he received. Before the film had even been seen, Sharma had received a flurry of hate mail and death threats from angry Muslims worldwide. The film features as part of the ‘Hot Docs’ film festival, and the event organizers were forced to add extra security to the premiere to ensure Sharma’s safety, as well as that of the viewers attending the three sold-out showings.
To make the film, Sharma had to secretly record his journey to Mecca on his iPhone and other small devices, as filming is illegal in Saudi Arabia and homosexuality is punishable by death.
“I was terrified because they reserve the death penalty for people like me,” Sharma told CBC News.
Sharma had his equipment confiscated and video files were often deleted by authorities. Even so, he was determined to complete 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,” Sharma stated. “I felt I was doing it for them.”
Despite the personal risk involved, during filming and since completion, Indian-born Sharma refuses to be intimidated, as he feels it is his duty to portray life as both a devout Muslim and a gay man.
“I think I carry it as a weight on my shoulders,” he explained, “a heavy burden because I really want Muslims to embrace this film.”
Although the film has been denounced by the Iranian government for promoting homosexuality and heavily criticised by Muslims worldwide, Sharma insists he didn’t make the film to provoke controversy. However, he hopes the attention it has garnered will help lead to important 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. We’re running out of time.”
Watch the movie trailer below: