A Muslim filmmaker says he has had an overwhelming amount of threats and hateful messages – after secretly filming his pilgrimage to Mecca.
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.
Following the film’s release in theatres earlier this month, Sharma told the LA Times he has received death threats and hate mail from offended Muslims.
He said: “I’m getting an enormous amount of hate mail and threats already, and the film is just a newborn. It’s barely out there in the world.
“A lot of it is from my website [ASinnerInMecca.com], and the trailer on YouTube has gone completely viral.
“The threats I’m getting are from people with no idea because they’ve not seen it. If you see the film, you get to see it’s very respectful toward Islam, and it’s a direct challenge to Saudis. The film makes that distinction.
He added: “I’m terrified a little bit. I did not expect so much hate in the early life of the film. I thought it would happen later.”
The filmmaker added: “The very Muslims I’m seeking acceptance from are attacking me because I’m a gay man and because I made this film. As a Muslim, you are taught from a very young age that you do not mess with Mecca, and I’m doing exactly that.”
Watch the trailer below: