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'Hijabi Monologues' Aims to Foster Greater Understanding About Muslim Women in US

  • Ade Astuti
  • Susy Tekunan

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world after Christianity, and it is also one of the fastest-growing faiths in the United States today. Some Muslim women in America are working to foster understanding of their faith and lifestyle through theater performances. For producer Ade Astuti and Susy Tekunan, VOA's Carla Coolman reports.

While there are no official population figures for religious affiliation in the United States, experts estimate that there are approximately six million Muslims living in the country. Yet as a non-Western faith, many Americans are unfamiliar with Islam.

To foster greater understanding, University of Chicago alumni Zeenat Rahman created the "Hijabi Monologues".

It is a performance where American women who are Muslim tell their stories, in their own words. Through the power of story-telling, these women talk about a wide range of situations, creating a sense of shared experiences among them while enriching understanding of their lives.

Rahman says, "The name is a play on the 'Vagina Monologues.' And we think whereas the 'Vagina Monologues' took something that's very private, and brought it out to the public sphere, open for public discussion, we took the kind of public conception that people have of Muslim women which is the hijab, but then what we really seek to do is delve into the deeper, more substantial experience of Muslim women beyond what is on their head or what they wear."

The word hijab primarily refers to women's head and body covering,

Dan Morrison, the play's co-producer, says it was his interest about this Arabic term and his Muslim friends that led to the production of the Hijabi Monologues. "I probably had never seen a hijab unless it was on a television report, or something like that. During that time, we were close friends, so I could always ask those tough questions, or ignorant questions, all the way from, like: 'Why do you wear the hijab? When did you start wearing the hijab? Have you ever not worn it,' etc? And so they started telling me these stories," he said.

The performances do not focus on the often-contentious issues surrounding the hijab itself. Instead, they aim to create a better understanding of what it is like to be a Muslim woman living in the United States.

A "Hijabi Monologues" actress says, "This guy never ever talks to you and then all of a sudden he approaches you and says, 'Hi, remember me? We haven't met each other, or spoken to each other before. But you have to know we're soul mates and I would die if I can't be with you. I'd like to meet your parents.' You usually keep your distance from this guy -- and his mother."

The "Hijabi Monologues" is a collection of real-life stories that reveal a world where the Muslim culture and Western society melt together on stage.

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