CAIRO – Depicting a decade of negative portrayal of American Muslims in the post-9/11 era, a new play will go on stage on Friday, March 30, to draw real-life Muslim experiences.
“After 9/11, when I got together with Sikhs or Hindus and other peoples of culture, everyone seemed to have a story to tell,” Rohina Malik, who is of Indo-Pakistani heritage, told The Record on Tuesday, March 27.
Tired of the negative portrayals of Muslims in the media post 9/11, Malik was prompted to write a play reflecting this experience.
In her one-woman show, Unveiled, she creates the character of a Pakistani seamstress to tell the story.
The 35-year-old Chicago-based playwright and actress said the concept of the play comes from an expression in the Qur’an, which asks people to remove the veil from their heart.
The play, to be showed in Waterloo next Friday, is divided into five skits.
Telling personal experience, one of those skits recalls an incident at her best friend’s wedding.
Pushing her baby and a toddler in a stroller, she was approached by a white man who spoke to her in a derogatory manner.
“It almost turned to violence. In his eyes, he did not see me as a human being,” said Malik, a mother of four.
Another skit tells the story of a woman who lost her twin brother in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
About 70 Muslim families also lost loved ones when the buildings collapsed.
She also tells the story of a West London rapper and the racism many immigrant teens face.
Malik, who was born and raised in London, England, said “racism was blatant in London and I faced it daily in my environment.”
After every show, Malik starts an open discussion with the audience who ask questions about the issue.
“People want to ask questions,” said Malik, recalling how a young male college student from a small town in Ohio approached her weeping because he had made fun of Muslim women who wore the veil.Malik's play had its world premiere in May 2009 at the 16th Street Theater in Chicago, moving afterwards to other American theatres, including the Brava Theater in San Francisco.
She takes her production to New Jersey in November.
Next June, she will perform the play at Kitchener City Hall at an event organized by the Coalition of Muslim Women of Kitchener-Waterloo.
Impressed by Malik show, Idrisa Pandit, director of the Studies in Islam program at Renison, decided to bring the production to Waterloo.
“It’s very rare to find a play highlighting the (Muslim) community,” she said.
“It helps the community see Muslims as ordinary individuals and recognize the humanity of the ‘other.’”
The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of nearly eight million.
A decade after the 9/11 attacks, Muslims still complain of hostile sentiments in American society.
Complaints made to the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee in 2010 rose to their highest point since 2003.
Hate acts included workplace harassment, bullying at school, housing discrimination, and problems with police and immigration officials.
In the wake of the attacks, around 481 “hate crimes” were reported from only 28 in 2000, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
By 2006, that number had shrunk to 150 and has hovered at around 100 per year ever since.
Anti-Muslim hostility has also grown over plans to build an Islamic center near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property in the past months.
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