Playwright and actress Rohina Malik expressed the damaging effects of Islamophobia post-9/11 through the perspective of five different women in her one-person play “Unveiled” Wednesday night in the Campus Center Ballroom.
Malik said her play’s message is to shed light on the struggles Muslims around the world face and teach people to remove the “veil” that clouds their judgment.
“By having such diverse women, I can tackle things like the veil and give different perspectives,” Malik said.
In the first part of the play, titled “Chocolate Chai,” Malik tackled Islamophobia in the United States as she adopted the role of a Pakistani dress designer who recounts an argument with an American man at a friend’s wedding. Her character is appalled after a man yells at her to take off her hijab, calling her a terrorist and “un-American.” The man is arrested for attempted assault, but for the dress designer, she says true justice is achieved when he learns why what he did is wrong.
“(This part) was a mixture of research that I did and something personal that happened to me at a best friend’s wedding,” Malik said. “I created the fictional dress maker to give myself distance from the story because it was a pretty horrible day for me.”
The second part, called “Moroccan Mint Tea,” follows a lawyer and her client. After hearing the client’s case, the lawyer remembers when she and her husband, Joe, were attacked for being Muslim by a group of men. She was raped and Joe was stabbed and killed, leading her to fall into depression.
The third part, titled “Kahwa Saide,” features a black Muslim mother and her unborn child on 9/11. She talks about receiving glares from people on her walk home because of her hijab. At the advice of a friend, she reluctantly takes off her hijab to protect her child. She then talks about the deep regret and shame she felt after, knowing it was the only thing she could have done.
The fourth part, “Kashmiri Chai,” starts with a rap by a Indian-British hip hop artist. In the rant, she discusses society’s obsession with whiteness and the racism that was instilled into her parents.
The last part, “Shay Bil Maramiya,” features a waitress at a Middle Eastern restaurant talking to a customer. She recounts the event of 9/11 and talks about trying to contact her brother living in New York.
“What is rarely mentioned in the 9/11 narrative is that Muslims were first responders in New York,” Malik said. “It was important that I mentioned that in that part.”
Malik ended her play to a standing ovation from the crowd and then answered any questions from the audience.
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life co-sponsored the play with other clubs on campus for its Better Together Week, a week dedicated to promoting the value of interfaith cooperation.
After some students saw the play at an interfaith conference at the University of Southern California last year, they wanted to bring Malik to the University to perform and raised money to fly her out from Chicago.
“As an educational institution committed to diversity, it is imperative that we provide opportunities to look at current issues, themes and provide forums to think carefully and empower ourselves to act for the sake of the common good,” University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner said.
Malik said the best way to teach people about Islamophobia is to get out and learn about each other’s cultures and religions.
“I hold social justice issues really close to my heart, so I love learning about different things,” sophomore music major Brianna Duarte said.
“I like coming into these things with an open mind, and I think that is what’s so important with anything. Just keep an open mind, and you’d be amazed at what you’ll learn.”
Emily Lau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.