Singapore bans gay Muslim movie from film fest

Also disallows two terrorist-friendly movies


Singapore's censors have banned four documentary films from a movie festival for portrayals of terrorism, depicting gay Muslims, and excessive scenes of sado-masochism, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

"A Jihad for Love" follows gay and lesbian Muslims, who like other Muslims, were battling racial profiling and harassment after the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent attacks in London and Madrid.

The film by Indian Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma focuses on a few dozen men and women who still feel Muslim although homosexuality is banned in Islam. The title defines jihad as personal struggle, rather than as holy war.

Two other movies "Arabs And Terrorism" and "David The Tolhildan", were "disallowed on account of their sympathetic portrayal of organizations deemed terrorist organizations by many countries," Amy Chua, chairman of the Board of Film Censors, told the Straits Times.

"Films which portray terrorist organizations in a positive light by lending support and voice to justify their cause through violence are disallowed under the film classification guidelines," said Chua.

The event website describes the 135-minute "Arabs And Terrorism" as a series of interviews with academics, U.S. policymakers and Middle Eastern political factions and their conflicting views of terrorism.

"David The Tolhildan" depicts the life of Swiss national David Rouiller who leaves home to join the militant Kurdish Workers' Party.

Bakushi, the fourth film that was banned, is a documentary on the practice of kinbaku, a Japanese form of sexual bondage which involves tying up women in elaborate rope patterns.

The four films were among 200 submitted for classification by organizers of the Singapore International Film Festival, which started on Friday and ends April 14.

Singapore has tried to shed its conservative image and woo more visitors by introducing casinos and night-time Formula One racing, but continues to be criticized by rights groups for its restrictions on expression and the media.

Gay movie

"A Jihad for Love" had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September. It was the first movie for director Sharma, who lives in New York with his partner, an American banker.

"Islam is a way of life. It's my life," he said. "I think that everything in my own life being a gay Muslim, especially living in a post September 11 world, moved me toward making this film. This film found me."

One of those shown in the movie is South African Muhsin Hendricks, a gay Imam who "came out" to a storm of protest and angry phone-ins to local radio stations, including people calling for his death.

In the film, he shares his personal point of view that censure of homosexuals from Islamic texts is a censure of forced male rape, rather than of loving relations between two men.

"My community is still very conservative, it's still difficult to work within the community, but it's easier that the constitution is protecting gay rights [in South Africa]," he said in Toronto last year.

The story is different in Egypt, where another participant in the film, Mazen, was one of those arrested in a 2001 raid on a gay club in Cairo. He was imprisoned for two years before winning asylum in France.

Mazen, whose mother still doesn't know he has taken part "Jihad for Love," said he had initially asked Sharma not to show his face in the movie, but he changed his mind mid-way through the movie making.

"I decided because I wanted to say a message," he said.