“The Domestic Crusaders”: Muslim American Play Premiering at UC BERKELEY [ARPIL 10-11]

The Domestic Crusaders, my play about a Muslim American family is coming for a showcase April 10-11 at UC BERKELEY after premiering in NYC this fall.

Here’s Toni Morrison’s review blurb:

“This play is brilliant. Moving. Shapely. Clever. Funny. And the cast is amazing!”
— Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize winning author

TICKET AND EVENT INFORMATION HERE: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/99893

APRIL 10 -11: UC BERKELEY, DURHAM THEATER. $10

“The Domestic Crusaders” by Wajahat Ali is an authentic, revelatory, no-holds barred depiction of a contemporary Pakistani-American Muslim family. In this post 9-11 world, humor, tensions and sparks fly among three generations of family members culminating in an intense family battle. Each “crusader” struggles to assert and impose their respective voice, while trying to maintain and understand the unifying thread that makes them part of the same family.

This fully staged reading is directed by Carla Blank and co-produced by the Before Columbus Foundation. It features the widely acclaimed New York City cast, fresh from their recent sold-out five week run at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe: Adeel Ahmed, Kamran Khan, Imran Javaid, Monisha Shiva, Nidhi Singh and Abbas Zaidi.

This event is made possible through the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Center for South Asia Studies, and the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, along with funding support from the Social Science Research Council.

What the critics are saying about The Domestic Crusaders:

“Wajahat Ali is a major new voice in American literature. His play is to Muslim American theater what A Raisin in the Sun is to African American theater.”
— Pulitzer Prize nominated author Mitch Berman

“The Domestic Crusaders is exactly the sort of theater we need today. The gulf that separates cultures must be bridged and Art is one of our best hopes. I’ll be supporting this all the way – please join me and Wajahat in building this bridge!”
— Emma Thompson, Academy Award winning actress and screenwriter

“Domestic Crusaders” should be ranked with family dramas written by Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neil. [Ali] has a magnificent ear for dialogue. He’s right up there with the best, in terms of family drama. … A major new voice.”
— MacArthur Genius, Pulitzer Prize nominated author Ishmael Reed

The Domestic Crusaders is fast, funny, whip-smart and both constantly surprising and deeply edifying. If you see only one irreverent, hilarious, profound, furious and big-hearted play about a Pakistani-American family living in a post-9-11 world, make it this one.”
— Dave Eggers, Pulitzer Prize nominated author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and author of “Zeitoun”

NOTE: No one under 8 years old will be admitted.

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“Wells Fargo, You Never Knew What Hit You”

Could It Be That the Best Chance to Save a Young Family From Foreclosure is a 28-Year-Old Pakistani American Playright-slash-Attorney who Learned Bankruptcy Law on the Internet?

BY WAJAHAT ALI

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/panoramaexcerpts/Ali.html

Click here to view/download this as a PDF.

– – – –

From time to time we’ll be posting full articles from the San Francisco Panorama. Wajahat Ali, the author of the following example, hoped that this article could reach readers all over the web—especially those who might not have found the story through our usual channels—so we’re presenting the entire article in both PDF and text-only form. This story, which is hilarious and reads like a thriller, concerns Ali’s efforts (as a self-taught, foreclosure attorney) to save a family from foreclosure. It’s a must-read, for anyone interested in how banks work—and don’t work.

————-

I was late when I first met my clients, the Lipkin family, outside my office. I was very late. I couldn’t believe I was late. I felt like an imposter. Maybe I was an imposter. I had dressed as professionally as I could: a sophisticated sports jacket, slicked-back gelled hair, elegant briefcase. My straightened posture exuded the charismatic confidence of a seasoned attorney. In my mind, at least.

I extended a hand and introduced myself to a family that was about to have their home foreclosed upon. Carl and Natalie, the husband and wife (I’ve changed their names), were both in their early thirties. Their three young daughters were with them, wilting in the heat of the parking lot. They met me with open smiles, even though they had just driven ninety minutes from Sacramento on a scorching summer day. I invited them in.

I was hoping they would never guess that despite being a licensed attorney two years out of law school, I was utterly paralyzed with fear—and earnestly praying to Allah that my potential clients were not about to call me out as an incompetent charlatan, punch me in the face, storm out of the office, and call the state bar seeking to disqualify me.

I was the guy who was going to save these people from being evicted from their own home? Who was I kidding?

In reality, “my law office” was actually my friend’s office, which he’d lent to me so that I could meet these clients. The classy jacket had been purchased at a clearance sale in an outlet store at the Great Mall in Milpitas. The gel was the last remnant of a decaying and potentially expired bottle I’d probably had since college but never found the opportunity to use. The suitcase was a gift from my relatives in Pakistan—who, much like the rest of my family, were thoroughly shocked that I had passed the bar exam and become a licensed attorney. My business cards had been printed for free by Vistaprint, and despite having a professional front side featuring my name in bold letters and the words ATTORNEY AT LAW, the back side glared BUSINESS CARDS ARE FREE AT WWW.VISTAPRINT.COM!

Game over. I was doomed.

– – – –

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2007 I graduated from UC Davis School of Law, a reputable institution that ranks in the top forty of the inexplicably influential U.S. News &World Report annual school ranking. According to my Property professor, students who graduate from top-forty law schools are bred to “find a comfortable desk job, most likely in a corporation, and make a nice income without really having to get their hands dirty.” The old saying goes that the A students become the professors, the B students find jobs in government or corporate law, and the C students end up making all the money.

But given the economy, this conventional wisdom was out the window. Instead of being employed at all, like thousands of others who were unlucky enough to graduate law school in 2007, I ended up in my old bedroom, sharing the family home with my parents and my grandmother.

Despite being thoroughly emasculating for a twenty-eight-year-old, living at home certainly has its benefits. You never have to cook, given that your mother, a culinary Jedi Knight, makes fresh Pakistani food every night. You avoid doing the laundry and the dishes, because your father has a “specific system” that only he has mastered. Also, you have your own personal “prayer factory” in the form of a very pious grandmother, who constantly sends duaas and blessings your way—and reminds you nonstop that the only reason she’s still living is to see you married and with kids. And for a solo attorney without any money, home can also serve as a convenient and rent-free law office.

After passing the bar, I immediately started scouring the internet for any job even tangentially related to law. I applied for legal-secretary positions, legal-assistant jobs designed for nineteen-year-old college students, unpaid internships at shady start-ups, even senior legal-counsel positions at corporations requiring a minimum of ten years’ experience. I shamelessly claimed, as one of my qualifications, “worldly wisdom that compensates for lack of actual legal experience.” I was denied by every recruiting center.

Dejected, I lapsed into my innate South Asian melodrama. I made the following declarations: “My life is shameful. I’m a grownass man, thoroughly qualified, who just got denied a menial job at a small law firm. If I was a samurai in feudal Japan, I would have to harakiri myself out of dishonor and shame.”

“Well, you’re no samurai,” replied my mother, “and you’re not in feudal Japan. You’re Pakistani and you’re living at home. So be quiet, eat your daal and naan, and afterward go get some hara dhaniya, pyaaz, tamatar, and Lactaid milk from Food 4 Less.” My mother is the world’s second-bluntest instrument, preceded only by my father.

Tired of being rejected, I decided to venture forth and learn the law on my own. It didn’t take a genius to figure out we were heading toward a full-blown recession; a South Asian attorney, who’d cornered the niche market of “the Pakistani American attorney” years ago, told me to learn how to file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies, which were the bread and butter of solo attorneys trying to survive. And so off I went to Google.

I typed in “Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy guides” and found the trusted and respected Nolo legal guides for less than thirty dollars apiece. These guides are manna from heaven for aspiring attorneys; they ostensibly teach the layman all the fundamentals of how to “do it yourself ” so you won’t have to spend money on people like me, but it turns out they’re just as useful to law school graduates living with their parents.

I devoured every bankruptcy book I could find, and then turned to my associate legal counsel, Google, for more (free) information on bankruptcy law. Somewhere along the way I read an article predicting a rise in foreclosures due to the disastrous economy, and realized the rate of Chapter 13 bankruptcies was going to increase exponentially as people desperately tried to save their homes.

I also discovered that agents and brokers who’d made hundreds of thousands in the once booming but now hemorrhaging “loan refinancing market” had magically transformed into “loan-modification consultants.” So the subprime-mortgage brokers who had actively preyed on unsophisticated people by convincing them to sign “too good to be true” loans—which later defaulted, thereby capsizing the housing market—were now demanding more money from these same clients in order to modify their loans and allow them to avoid pending foreclosures.

Despite being equipped with some—some—knowledge, I shared the quintessential trait of all young attorneys: unrelenting, paralyzing fear. It overwhelms everything we do and contaminates the first two to three years of our law jobs. The thought process goes something like this: “I know nothing. How the hell did I get this degree? How the hell did I pass the bar? Law school didn’t teach me anything. Do my employers know I’m incompetent? How long can I fake this before they figure it out? Are my peers like this? How come everyone else knows what they’re doing? What if I never learn? What happens if I get fired or fail? Will I get disbarred? I bet I’ll get disbarred! Damn, I’m getting disbarred! Please, God, don’t let me get disbarred.”

I had all these thoughts as the Lipkin family sat on my friend’s office couch and told me that they were about to lose their home. These people trusted me more than I trusted myself. God help us both.

– – – – Continue reading

French halal burger sparks appeal

Sign advertising Halal meat at a Quick restaurant in Roubaix, France, 17 February 2010

Quick said it was testing commercial interest in halal menus

A French council has lodged a complaint against a fast food chain that serves only meat that conforms with Islamic dietary laws at a local branch.

The mayor of Roubaix, in northern France, said the halal menu constituted “discrimination” against non-Muslims.

The Roubaix branch is one of several restaurants at which the chain, Quick, took non-halal products and pork off the menu in November.

The move has triggered the latest row over France’s Muslim minority. Continue reading

Obama’s Global Popularity: More Challenges Ahead

WAJAHAT ALI

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wajahat-ali/obamas-global-popularity_b_460900.html

https://i2.wp.com/assets.nydailynews.com/img/2010/01/13/alg_bam_barack-obama.jpg

Recent polls show that Obama’s popularity has reached its lowest after one year in office.
Last year, President Obama soared into office as a universally beloved multicultural Superman who was expected to single-handedly save the world from a crippled economy and the disastrous effects of President Bush’s reckless, arrogant, and shortsighted foreign policy.

According to recent polls on Obama’s popularity, most around the world seem to believe that Obama might not be the optimal hero they expected; in fact, he might just be vulnerable and human after all. Despite losing his luster, hope remains that Obama can ultimately fulfill his promise of “change,” provided people considerably lower their unrealistic initial expectations of him.

Currently, President Obama’s approval rating is at 46 percent; dipping below the 50 percent for the first time. When he was elected nearly a year ago, America’s first biracial President averaged a 64 percent approval rating and an overwhelming worldwide popularity, which stood in striking contrast to the astounding animosity felt toward his predecessor, George W. Bush. Continue reading

Shah Rukh Khan uses melodrama to tackle tough issues

Kirk Honeycutt
Fri Feb 12, 2010 8:45pm EST
Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan arrives for the screening of his movie ''My Name is Khan'' at the 60th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 12, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan arrives for the screening of his movie ”My Name is Khan” at the 60th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 12, 2010.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61C0FF20100213

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Peter

BERLIN (Hollywood Reporter) – The thing about some Bollywood superstars is that they are actually fine actors as well as charismatic performers. So it’s not surprising in “My Name Is Khan” to see Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan — he’s light-years beyond a mere superstar in Hindi cinema’s cosmology — challenge himself to expand his acting range and possibly his international fan base. In convincing fashion, he plays an Indian in America battling the double whammy of living with Asperger’s syndrome and as a Muslim man in the post-9/11 world. Continue reading