Gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma
Gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma has documented his hajj pilgrimage using secret cameras  (A Sinner in Mecca/YouTube)

The openly gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma risked his life while filming his hajj pilgrimage, knowing that his sexuality could attract death threats from fundamentalist groups. Sharma captured his religious journey with cameras he sneaked inside the holy city and made the movie, A Sinner In Mecca, with rare and extensive footage inside the pilgrim spot.

"Thankfully I was not hauled into prison," the New York-based Sharma told New York Daily News. The report says Sharma used iPhone 4S and two small HP cameras that look like flip phones to produce the documentary.

"They walk around with these batons and some of them hit you with them if you are doing something that is not allowed," Sharma narrates, referring to the local "religious" police. "I was at the wrong end of that stick a lot of times."

Though the religious site has been filmed before, Sharma insists his documentary shows the real Mecca that the Saudis don't want people to see. He also accuses Saudi Arabia of transforming Mecca into a capitalist city and systematically destroying the history of Islam.

"It is reporting from the street level. It's a sort of expose of what it's really like in that world," Sharma says. A Sinner In Mecca releases on 4 September. The description for the movie in its YouTube page reads:

For a gay filmmaker, filming in Saudi Arabia presents two serious challenges: filming is forbidden in the country and homosexuality is punishable by death. For filmmaker Parvez Sharma, however, these were risks he had to assume as he embarked on his Hajj pilgrimage, a journey considered the greatest accomplishment and aspiration within Islam, his religion. He brings back the story of the religion like it has never been told before, having endured the biggest Jihad there is: the struggle with the self.