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Parvez Sharma
Friday , October 08, 2010

A servant crisis in Delhi

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Sita is gone. Delhi is shining, as is Gurgaon. Sita, like my Uncle's family, lives in Malibu Towne in Gurgaon, 212 acres of a middle-class heaven where the upper-middle-class inhabitants of the tower apartments enjoy a life of "no load-shedding" - meaning the towers are run by external generators so the residents can avoid the cyclical power cuts the government inflicts on its booming populace. No marble floors and 24-hour power and water for Sita, though. She and her husband Mahesh live in a makeshift jhuggi, or shantytown, right next to the towers, where a few sticks in the mud support the blue tarp that they and their three children call home. Sita is my uncle's family's primary servant and she cleans the dishes, toilets, floors, clothes, and she even cooks. Mahesh cleans the cars. Their friend Gautam is the mali, or gardener. Their jhuggi, just....

Tuesday , September 14, 2010

An Imam, a pastor and a circus

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Seventy-two hours ago I returned from Beirut, Lebanon where there is a promise of fresh violence, ready to erupt upon the end of Ramadan. A synagogue in this predominantly Muslim and Christian city is being lovingly restored in a frantic process of re-building following decades of civil war and Israeli attacks. The Maghden Abraham Synagogue located in the middle of newly renovated downtown Beirut in an area known as the "Solidere" started restoration work in 2008, and now it is almost complete. There are 4 million people in Lebanon and only 500 are Jewish. Hassan Nasrallah, the increasingly popular leader of the Hizbullah, has not protested against the restoration of this synagogue. I conducted an unscientific survey amongst friends and on the streets of elite neighborhoods like Hamra and Achrafiyeh. Most laughed at the media feeding frenzy over the "Ground Zero Mosque" in New York. "This can....

Monday , August 23, 2010

America's Imam and his problematic mosque

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I had always been taught to believe in the homogeneity of the pious. But a year after September 11, as I snuck into a Thursday afternoon zikr at the Masjid al-Farah twelve blocks from the still smoldering Ground Zero, I was not so sure. It was Ramadan and the tradition of breaking of the fast, the iftar was going to happen after the zikr, or Sufi chanting. Looking around, I felt this was hippie for the Muslims. It was like the Muslim Woodstock or Burning Man. Clearly the congregants would prefer granola bars to kebabs. They wore all manner of what my neighborhood mosque in Nizamuddin, New Delhi, would consider un-Islamic clothes. Men and women were together. It was beautiful and affirming and yet strangely foreign. "Only in America," I thought, "can I enter here as a gay and Muslim man," and yet I felt no sense of connection....


More about Parvez Sharma

Parvez Sharma is a New York based Muslim writer and filmmaker. His first feature, which he directed and produced, "A Jihad for Love" is an international phenomenon with more than 8 million viewers in 49 nations in the first two years of its release. The leading progressive journal UTNE Reader has named Parvez a "visionary" in its list of "50 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World" headed by the Dalai Lama in 2009. He has been featured on Fox, BBC, CNN, MSNBC and much media around the world. The film has been premiered at most major international festival venues including a world premier at Toronto in 2007 and a European premiere (as the opening film of Panorama Documentary) in Berlin, 2008. The US-based OUT Magazine has named Mr. Sharma, one of the OUT 100 for 2008. He blogs regularly at his extremely popular www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com and is the winner of the prestigious GLAAD media award for Outstanding Documentary in 2009.



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