LOVE JIHAD: ORLANDO AND GAY MUSLIMS
By Robin Wright
When he was twenty-five, Naveed Merchant, tormented by the tension between his Islamic faith and his homosexuality, swallowed almost three hundred Tylenol pills. His mother and brother found him and rushed him to an emergency room in Southern California. “But the struggle was not over just because I told them I was gay,” he recalled, two decades later. “I believed that I brought enormous shame on my family and that I’d never amount to anything—and so I should just die. Every time I tried to be straight, to fake being straight, I would get more depressed and it would lead me to a suicidal ideation.”
For fifteen years, the New York filmmaker Parvez Sharma attributed the death of his mother, a devout Muslim, to her discovery of his homosexuality. She died shortly after he came out to her, when he was twenty-one. She was livid; he was ashamed. “I always felt the pain I brought her was responsible,” Parvez, who is now forty-one, told me this week. “I carried a lot of guilt around for a long time.” The fact that his mother had cancer seemed beside the point. Reconciling his Muslim and gay identities has consumed him ever since.