Many Muslims in the United States will say that the events of September 11, 2001, changed their life and their outlook on their faith and their place as Americans. What it meant to be Muslim American acquired a new complexity and depth that was not true of earlier generations. In order to deal with this new reality, Muslim Americans have found myriad ways to respond and redefine themselves–interfaith dialogues, rallies, Islamic studies, etc. Some, though, respond using literature, art, music, and now drama.
In a New York Times article, Laura Goodstein wrote about a new play called “The Domestic Crusaders” by Wajahat Ali, a Pakistani-American. The title alone gets your attention. Ali wrote the play after 9/11 and focuses on contemporary Muslim experience in the United States. There is nothing about terrorism or war. Rather, the play just shows the very typical struggle of Muslim Americans trying to deal with with both parts of their identity. According to Ali, the play brings out “universal themes like sibling rivalry, expectations of parents, conflict between the generations.” It played in California and in New York this past September 11th. For Ali, this play is part of the catharsis that he believes Americans are undergoing to move forward.
What makes this play interesting is that Ali gives voice to some of the concerns of Muslim Americans and also shares a part of their experience that mainstream America may not have access to. The audiences of this play and others like it will no doubt gain some insight into the struggles, differences, and commonalities between themselves and Muslim Americans. Ali, in an interview with NBC Weekend Today, shared reactions of audience members from various backgrounds who were able to connect to the characters in the play: “We learned something not only about Muslim Americans, but about ourselves.” With more knowledge, stereotypes can be dissipated and for Ali art can bring people together.
Do you think that drama is an effective way to make connections? Have you seen seen similar plays? Can art be a foundation for interfaith dialogue? Please share your comments.