SHAFAQNA – Giving voice to American Muslim women, a California show will depict the negative portrayals of veiled women post 9/11 in a bid to create dialogue, amid soaring Islamophobia. “I hope it’s entertaining and I hope it creates dialogue,” Rohina Malik, a Muslim Chicago playwright and actress, told Times Herald. “I’m looking forward to the after-show discussion where we can really have an honest conversation.” Malik was talking about her play, Unveiled, coming to the Benicia Historical Museum at the Camel Barns on Sunday, April 26. Written in 2008, the play tells the stories of love, compassion, culture and tolerance from the eyes of five Muslim women. Its concept comes from an expression in the Qur’an, which asks people to remove the veil from their heart.
“The world premiere sold out so quickly, and I realized that Americans are really hungry to hear from a Muslim voice, especially with the current climate,” said Malik, who is of Indian and Pakistani descent. Mixing fiction and personal experience, the one-woman show aims to highlight abuse faced by veiled Muslim women in the US. “People are stereotyping and it’s really dangerous,” she said. “Discrimination never starts with a gun or a knife, it starts with the environment.”
Born in London and of South Asian descent, Malik is also a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists, and an artistic associate at the 16th Street Theater and Voyage Theater Company in NYC, in addition to being a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
Her work has been produced or developed at The Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, 16th Street Theater, Brava Theater, Crossroads Theater, Chicago Dramatists, and Theater Project Baltimore.
She was also recently awarded the Y Award with the Evanston YWCA for her work to end racism and empower women.
Racism. Hate crimes. Love. Islam. Culture. Language. Life. Five Muslim women in a post-9/11 world serve tea and uncover what lies beneath the veil in this critically acclaimed one-woman show.
And well ahead of the June 1 premier of Unveiled at New York’s Voyage Theater Company, reviews are already exalting Malik’s efforts.
The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones said of the one-woman play, “Rohina Malik, the hugely talented writer-actress at the center of the Victory Gardens solo show “Unveiled,” is a remarkable new theatrical voice in Chicago. In her rich, upbeat and very enjoyable 70-minute collection of five character studies of Muslim women in modern-day America, Malik gives voice to characters from whom we hear far too little in the theater.”
A “terrific show… intellectually engrossing work of theater,” declared Chicago Tribune’s Nina Metz.
Tom Witom, Pioneer Press: “Unveiled offers a provocative, insightful and uplifting theater experience.”
“A compelling 70-minute piece, rich with illuminating surprises drawing the audience into worlds that are, both unique and truly universal. It is terrifically entertaining,” stated Catey Sullivan of the Chicago Examiner.
Web Behrens of the Chicago Free Press advised, “The stories are important, to be sure, but the cumulative effect is weighty.”
Malik’s free show is co-organized by the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Benicia, in association with its outreach program, the Abraham Path Initiative, which encourages the understanding of the Abrahamic faiths, mainly Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
“It’s important to learn about people’s cultures from hearing their stories,” Rev. Jeanne Forte said.
“Especially post 9/11, there’s so much negativity portrayed in the media about Islam. I think it’s really important to hear and learn the positive stories, especially from a Muslim woman.”
Post 9/11 Attacks on US Muslims
In the aftermath of 9/11, hate crimes against people of Middle-Eastern descent increased from 354 attacks in 2000 to 1,501 attacks in 2001 according to a report published by the Journal of Applied Psychology written by Debra L. Oswald.
Another report, prepared by the Arab American Institute, published three days after the Oklahoma City bombing (which was committed by anti-government white American Timothy McVeigh), “more than 200 serious hate crimes were committed against Arab Americans and American Muslims. The same was true in the days following September 11.”
Fast forward to 2015, marked by the post Charlie Hebdo shootings in France and executions carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, escalating a renewed series of attacks on Muslims in the US.
A February report published by the Global Research Centre highlights that 2015 is already gearing up to be a banner year for Islamophobic attacks against Muslim Americans.
On February 10, three Muslim-American students—Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19—were found shot in the head, execution-style, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The two young women were wearing traditional hijabs when they were killed.
The man who turned himself in to authorities in connection with the murders had previously brandished guns at the victims and threatened them.
Before the shooting, Yusor Abu-Salha told her father, “Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are and how we look.”
On February 12, an Arab-American man was brutally attacked by two white men at a Kroger supermarket in Dearborn, Michigan. The attackers also taunted his daughter, who wears a hijab, making references to ISIS and Muslims. The attackers called the man and his daughter “r–head” and said, “Go back to your country.”
On February 13, the Quba Islamic Institute in southeast Houston, Texas was the target of an arson attack that destroyed a substantial portion of the building and caused an estimated $100,000 in damage. On February 17, police in Austin, Texas arrested a man for threatening to bomb an Islamic center as well as a Middle Eastern restaurant.
Last month, a “Texas Muslim Capitol Day” event (the declared purpose of which was to “engage American Muslims in the political process”) was attacked and disrupted by anti-Muslim thugs. Another attack was organized on “Muslim Day” in Oklahoma City. The attacking group’s Facebook page screamed, “Get Islam Out of America.”
The rate of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States stands at five times what it was before September 2001, according to a Washington Post report.
A Gallup News Service poll found that out of all religions, Americans harbor the most negative feelings towards Muslims.
The American political and media establishment bears a significant portion of the responsibility for these trends.
Since the 9/11 attacks, US Muslims, estimated between 6-8 million, have complained of discrimination and stereotyping in their communities due to their Islamic attire or identities.
An Economist/YouGov poll found that a 73 percent of Americans believe that US Muslims are victims of discrimination amid recent attacks against the community.