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aammar 11-12-2012 04:01 AM

Monologues Tackle US Muslim Challenges
Seeking to reconcile actions with religious teachings, Muslim monologues are addressing challenges facing them in American society, tackling different aspects of identities and experiences with being Muslim.

Thats the good thing about performing youre vulnerable, Hannibal Kokayi, a University of Maryland University College student, told university newspaper The Diamond Back on Monday, December 10.

They get a greater understanding of who you are.
Standing on the stage in Hoff Theater in Maryland, Kokayi was one of nine students who gathered in Stamp Student Union on Friday to share their religious experiences through poetry and narratives.

Organized by the Muslim Students Association, the event was organized to address different aspects of Muslim identities.

It came a month after a call by the MSA to set up a Tumblr page entitled The Muslim Monologues, encouraging students to submit their experiences with being Muslim.

Students expressed sentiments of love and heartbreak, of identity conflicts, of stereotypes and of accepting the teachings of their religion.

Its this need to identify ourselves and others that has put me in conflict with those around me, said Tolga Keskinoglu, a sophomore business major who discussed what it was like to be Turkish-American.

I found myself constantly defending my other identity, defending Muslims as not all violent and United States-hating in the United States, but the exact opposite in Turkey not every American is from Texas and wants to dominate.

Each performer had a different story, a different background with some growing up in devout Muslim families, while others had parents who practiced different religions.

Zahin Hasan, who attended George Washington University, embraced the religion on his own without much direction from his family, a story he told through a poem written in the rhyming style of Dr. Seuss.

Writing this was like pulling teeth, Hasan said.

Sharing Challenges

The monologues addressed restrictions on premarital relationships and reconciling ones actions with religious teachings.

It made me feel pathetic, said Naeem Baig, a senior at Al-Huda School in College Park who read a poem about the hypocrisy he saw in himself.

A lot of people like to point out others flaws, and when I was writing this, I had to spend time pointing the finger at myself.

Anisah Imani described growing up in an urban Muslim community in Baltimore, discussed gang issues and recalled how fellow Muslims fell prey to drug addiction and alcohol abuse.

Its when we create these dichotomies its you, not me that we create barriers to the issues addressing us, said Imani, a senior anthropology major.

We exile people to the battlefield, and in some screwed-up way, we still expect them to come back victorious.

Connecting with others facing similar challenges, the monologues brought tears to both performers and audience members in a painful but cathartic experience.

Thats what the shared experience is: Youre bringing in someone to share your pain, and you can heal together, said performer Muneer Zuhurudeen, a senior mechanical engineering major, in a discussion session following the performance.

Realizing that was what I needed more of made me say yes [to speaking].

The monologues attracted curious students who said they were moved by the performances and came away with a new understanding of the Muslim culture.

It was a good way to get a cross-cultural perspective, said Samantha Krahling, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences.

I knew basic things, but I didnt know about the cultural practices, like prayer and some of the issues with their identity and being ashamed or nervous to associate themselves with the religion, [maybe because of] racism they face.
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