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Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: LGBT

MIDDLE EAST: An online 'Arab Spring' for region's gays and lesbians

Picture 4 "Joon" is unhappily in love and needs advice.

"For the past few years I have been in love with a straight girl, my best friend," she writes.

"Apart from her being straight, I suspect she is homophobic, because bringing up this subject in any form disgusts her. What happens when we fall in love with a straight person, or worse, a homophobe?"

A person writing under the profile "Reem" responds:

"I can relate to this, as it happens to pretty much every lesbian. In my situation I realized that I simply needed to get over her. Maybe you can come out to her at some point, if she is really your best friend then her homophobia should not interfere in how much she cares for you."

The thread above was published on Ahwaa.org, a new user-generated online community and forum run by a group of volunteers where members of the LGBT community in the Arabian Peninsula and beyond can vent their feelings and discuss and debate just about any issue on their minds in what administrators say is a safe and secure environment.

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MUSLIM WORLD: Film about gays and Islam shown for first time in Arab world

Picture 1 Can one be gay and a pious Muslim at the same time? 

That's the topic that Indian Muslim film director Parvez Sharma explores in his controversial 2007 documentary "A Jihad for Love" through a range of colorful characters.

Among others, viewers are introduced to a group of homosexual Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey, an openly gay Muslim imam, and a devout Egyptian lesbian who is struggling to cope with her faith and her sexual orientation.

Sharma recently traveled to Lebanon for the screening of his film in Beirut, which marked the first public showing of "A Jihad for Love" in an Arab country. 

Babylon & Beyond sat down with Sharma to talk about his film, Islam and homosexuality, and his upcoming controversial projects.

"I was a bit apprehensive at first because I realize that people in Lebanon have a complex relationship to religion, so I was worried how they would react to such a shamelessly religious film," he said. "At the same time I was aware it was elite crowd. It wasn't exactly Hezbollah coming to see it. So I don’t think all of Beirut saw my film. I think a small bubble of it did."

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