Sunday, February 07, 2016

Don't stumble

While much of America was watching the Superbowl I was at The New School, watching "Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity," a community theater piece about the experiences of young adult Muslims in post-9/11 New York. (It wasn’t a choice, really—there was mention of the Superbowl on Weekend Edition yesterday and I was, like, what? and promptly forgot about it again.) “Beyond Sacred” is a work of Ping Chong, a venerable New York theater-maker, who has since 1992 directed what he calls the "Undesirable Elements” series "examining issues of culture and identity of individuals who are outsiders within their mainstream community." Non-professional actors recount of their own stories, interwoven by Ping Chong’s team from interviews. (See an earlier performance here.) It’s a formula, but it works.

Tonight’s was the twentieth performance for these young people, who had no idea when they responded to a call for young Muslims who like telling stories that they’d be on the front line against the Islamophobia revived by Donald Trump. For American Muslims it feels like 9/11 all over again, the two oldest ones said during the talkback Q&A after. All described having to respond to ignorance and suspicion and worse. They were participating in this piece to share a more accurate picture of the lives of Muslims - diverse, personal, quintessentially American.

One said that if you encounter a stone in the road, you should move it so somebody else doesn't trip over it: that is the meaning of Islam.

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