Watch: Openly gay Muslim secretly films documentary on pilgrimage to Mecca
An openly gay Muslim has risked death by undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca, illegally shooting a documentary about his journey.
Filmmaker Parvez Sharma documented his journey on the Hajj – an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, that adult Muslims are expected to carry out at least once in their lifetime.
Mecca is located in the heart of Saudi Arabia, where gay people face the death penalty. The journey is particularly perilous due to overcrowding, as well as to the prevalence of brutal police.
Both homosexuality and filming are forbidden in the city – but Sharma captured footage using an iPhone and two flip-cameras for his film, ‘A Sinner in Mecca’, which explores his journey, sexuality and identity.
The film-maker told the New York Daily News: “Thankfully I was not hauled into prison.
“[The religious police] walk around with these batons and some of them hit you with them if you are doing something that is not allowed. I was at the wrong end of that stick a lot of times.”
He added: “It is not a question of whether Islam will accept me. The question is if I accept Islam, and I do — but on my own terms.
“It is reporting from the street level. It’s a sort of expose of what it’s really like in that world.”
A Sinner in Mecca is set for release next month.
A blurb states: “For a gay filmmaker, filming in Saudi Arabia presents two serious challenges: filming is forbidden in the country and homosexuality is punishable by death.
“For filmmaker Parvez Sharma, however, these were risks he had to assume as he embarked on his Hajj pilgrimage, a journey considered the greatest accomplishment and aspiration within Islam, his religion.
“He brings back the story of the religion like it has never been told before, having endured the biggest Jihad there is: the struggle with the self.”