Gay Muslims is a 49 minute British television documentary, telling the story of several gay Muslims in Britain. Through interviews and observing them going through life, it gives you some insight into how difficult it can be to be gay and Muslim.
Not as difficult, certainly, as back in the countries they or their families are from, where they’d be even more at risk of violence, including by the law, than they are in Britain.
But still, they deal with families that are almost all hostile, clergy that describe them as sinners and criminals, ordinary Muslims who think they deserve to be killed, and non-Muslim gays who tend not to reach out to them and accept them.
It’s genuinely sad, just seeing more evidence of the unnecessary pain that hatred and bigotry and religious stupidity causes. Why is it such a radical notion to allow, and indeed facilitate, people being happy and finding human connection in their own way, if they’re not hurting others? “Well, this magic book written thousands of years ago by people even stupider than us says we’re supposed to hate and kill them…”
I did feel a little more sympathy for one set of parents who think their son’s homosexuality is wrong, yet who really seemed to be struggling with the matter honestly. They clearly still love their son, and are trying to understand, even if they’ll never quite come around to a liberal position on the issue itself. They come across as misguided but still good people in their way.
I like that the mother even finds a bit of humor in the situation. (The father says, “I look at my son, and he’s such a fine looking young man. I think to myself that if I were young [pause], I would want to look like that.” “Oh,” his wife says with a chuckle, “I thought you were going to say something else.”)
Interestingly, the gay Muslims in the film all are religious believers to varying degrees. They’ve figured out some way to reconcile their religion with their sexuality that works for them, because both are such an important part of who they are that they don’t want to lose either. As one of them admits, he’s picking and choosing what he wants to embrace from the religion, how he wants to interpret the Koran, etc., but no more than everyone else does in his view.
Though it’s unavoidable given the nature of the project and people’s limited willingness to cooperate, one of the least appealing aspects of the documentary is that only one of the gay Muslims allows his face to be shown on camera. The rest all have their faces blurred out, or more often are only shown below the neck. For that matter, the same is true for most of their family members and other Muslims who appear in the film, including those parents that I kind of liked.
So you don’t get to see who’s talking. It’s just shots of knees and backs and waists and such.
Certainly I found myself sympathetic to all the gay Muslims interviewed for the film. I may have disagreed with something one of them said here or there, but they all struck me as decent human beings doing their best dealing with emotionally difficult lives.
On the whole it’s a competent, standard, straightforward documentary. It’s not one that particularly stands out to me as special, but it does a decent job letting us get to know these people and raising some important issues.