This is the full video of my recent Google Talk where I recount my unexpected, surreal, ridiculous, hopefully amusing journey from an overweight, shy, dorky Pakistani American kid who spoke 3 words of English to becoming a paid writer and storyteller. Hope you enjoy.
On 9-11-11, Filmmakers Bassam Tariq and Omar Mullick spent a day with the cast and crew of Wajahat Ali’s “The Domestic Crusaders” – a 2 Act play about an American Muslim family living in a post 9-11 world – as it returned to NYC for a special performance.
This 5 minute movie was filmed on 9-11-11 in NYC at the “Art of Justice: 9/11 Performance Project” at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
For more information on “The Domestic Crusaders” please visit: http://www.domesticcrusaders.com
“The Domestic Crusaders” are….
Wajahat Ali: Playwright/Producer
Carla Blank: Director/Dramaturge
Ishmael Reed: Producer
Imran W. Sheikh: Assistant Director
Adeel Ahmed: Ghafur, The Youngest Son
Kamran Khan: Sal, The Eldest Son
Monisha Shiva: Fatima, The Daughter
Imran Javaid: Salman, The Father
Abbas Zaidi: Hakim, The Grandfather
Deepti Gupta: Khulsoom, The Mother
A leaked memo confirms a nefarious plot to infiltrate America using the one weapon we can’t resist: Total hotness
To: The Muslim World
From: Evil Muslims Worldwide, Inc.™
Re: “The Muslim Agenda: Or, How to Infiltrate America by Learning to Love Ridiculously Good Looking People in The Miss USA Pageant”
This is a transcription and translation of a meeting recently held in Arizona, U.S.A, the global headquarters for Evil Muslims Worldwide, Inc.™ Several evil dignitaries were present either in person or via Skype. Their identities have been protected.
A bearded man of average height and brownish hue dismounts his distinguished, but very evil, camel and proceeds to address the distinguished evil guests in a very evil, foreign language.
Gentleman, our nefarious plots for infiltrating America and creating a “politically correct, Islamo-pandering climate” has yielded mixed results. We need a new strategy.
It seems that our initial plan of violence and intimidation has backfired. Amateurish acts of terrorism in Times Square, failed underwear bombs on airplanes, and the introduction of hummus has done little to curry the favor (Speaker nods to Pakistani Representative) of the American people to our cause.
As you know, we are at the cusp of completely taking over and Islamicizing America. What, with our 0 Muslim Justices on the Supreme Court, 0 Muslim American owners of major media corporations, 2 Muslim American congressmen with impeccable records and high popularity ratings dominating 433 non-Muslim congressmen — and now Obama as president! (Gives a knowing look to the Kenyan Representative for successfully implementing “The Kenyan Birth Agenda”)
Our influential network of covert spies even brainwashed Food Network’s Rachael Ray to wear a keffiyeh during her stint as a Dunkin Donuts-monger! We even have News Commentators imagining using falafels and loofahs to sexually harass their young producers! We’re at the precipice of creating Sharia USA!
However, we need a game changer.
After spending considerable amounts of money and time performing sophisticated research on Google and sifting through countless pages of pornography (for research purposes only), we have discovered the American people do not cower when confronted with terrorism. Also, many are not inspired by complex discussions on foreign policy, and most are not motivated by intellectual debates concerning global affairs.
However, our research has conclusively shown that all Americans respond positively to one thing: hotness.
The point is, gentleman, that hotness, for lack of a better word, is good. Hotness is right, hotness works. Hotness clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary, Islamo-fascism spirit. Hotness, in all of its forms has marked the upward surge of mankind. And hotness, you mark my words, will not only save our “Muslim Agenda,” but also that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.
Brief smattering of applause. Continue reading
The arrest of five American Muslims in Pakistan allegedly conspiring to join the terrorist groups Jaysh Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba exposes a troubling phenomenon of domestic radicalisation, but also highlights an evolved, proactive Muslim American community seeking partnership to curb extremism.
The five young, American born, basketball loving, community service volunteers from Virginia allegedly join a growing number of jihadist-wannabes, or “jihabees.” Despite appearing mild mannered, well educated and seemingly assimilated, these “jihabees” are often hijacked by an appealing and delusional narrative extolling the heroism of martyrdom which is promoted by extremists, who successfully use the internet for global recruitment and indoctrination. The justification for their criminality is rationalised by a perverse misunderstanding of their religion which is anchored by a growing resentment towards those state actors committing what they see as anti-Muslim violence and oppression.
Recently, the disturbed army major Nidal Hasan killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood allegedly retaliating against the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which he often referred to as “war on Islam”.
Furthermore, two US Muslim men were convicted of plotting to aid terrorists by filming landmarks around Washington DC and sending the clips as potential target sites to terrorists abroad.
These isolated examples of imported radicalism nonetheless fuel the latent prejudices of a minority convinced their 4 million Muslim American neighbours represent a treacherous fifth column of stealth jihadists ready to spontaneously ignite. Despite the visible existence of millions of practising American Muslims who belie this stereotype by never engaging in terrorism, let alone felonies or misdemeanors, a study by the Pew Research Centre found that 38% of all Americans say Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Continue reading
For Khulsoom and Salman, hard-working immigrant Muslims from Pakistan, life in the American suburbs in the post- 9/11 era is not working out the way they had planned.
Their oldest son is an unmarried playboy, and their daughter has become a student activist who wears a head scarf as a sign of her newfound religious fervor and is dating a devoted Muslim who happens to be an African-American. And now their younger son, the good, obedient son, comes home on a college break and announces that he is abandoning premed courses to become a history teacher so that he can help correct the misinformation being spread about Islam.
“You will get the blessings of my work,” the younger son tells his parents.
“We have enough blessings,” his mother says. “You can bless us by becoming a surgeon. You like kids? Become a pediatrician. Teach them Islam as you give them their lollipops.”
This family is at the center of “The Domestic Crusaders,” an envelope-pushing play that opens on 9/11 at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and runs for the next five weekends. When the family reunites for the younger son’s birthday, conflicts erupt over everything from biryani to sex roles to Middle Eastern politics to airport security checks to racism.
The play was written by Wajahat Ali, a young Pakistani-American who grew up in Fremont, Calif. He started writing it in the weeks after the terrorist attacks as a paper for a college class taught by the poet and playwright Ishmael Reed.
The actors, all South Asians, are playing roles that echo their own lives. Some will be performing while they are fasting for Ramadan.
Very few dramas about the contemporary Muslim experience in America have made it to the stage. Muslims from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have been slow to embrace writing and acting, which was not considered a viable profession by the older immigrant generation. Mr. Ali and the actors in “The Domestic Crusaders” are among a younger group interested in mining their experiences for theater. These are dramas not about terrorism or war, but about the cultural cacophony that ensues when you drop three generations of a Pakistani family into Silicon Valley.
“In the older generation there’s a hesitancy to support artistic endeavors,” Mr. Ali said. “They respect the holy trinity of doctor, engineer and dubious businessman who somehow makes a lot of money. And now finally, lawyers are acceptable, but only if the lawyer has a lot of money.”
He said that his “aunties,” the community’s doting busybodies, were not interested in finding a match for him even after his play was staged at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2005 and won some acclaim. “I’m the only playwright in history who got no play for writing a play,” he said.
But when he graduated from law school in 2007, he said, “my mom got all these calls from the aunties saying, ‘So, have you found anyone for Wajahat yet?’ ”
The play was born of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. Mr. Ali, then a 21-year-old undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, stopped going to classes and spent the next three weeks organizing rallies and forums with friends to respond to what they saw as a growing tide of vitriol about Islam.
When Mr. Ali finally showed up for his English class, his professor, Mr. Reed, pulled him aside. Mr. Ali thought for sure that he had failed the class. But Mr. Reed told him that if he wanted to pass he had to write a 20-page play.
“I said, “Do a family drama,’ ” Mr. Reed recalled in an interview. “That’s how immigrant playwrights have always dealt with these issues. I told him, read Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night,’ and Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman,’ about a Jewish-American family. You write about a Muslim-American family.”
It took Mr. Ali more than two years to finish “The Domestic Crusaders,” with Mr. Reed prodding him along. Mr. Reed proposed that his wife, Carla Blank, a choreographer and director, become the director and dramaturge. It played in Berkeley and San Jose, to ethnically and religiously mixed crowds. Now it will be staged in New York, a Muslim-American play with a South Asian cast, a Jewish American director (Ms. Blank) and two African-American producers (Mr. Reed and Rome Neal).
“Take away the religion, take away the Islam, take away the politics, the Arabic and the Urdish,” said Mr. Ali, referring to the Urdu/English hybrid words that pepper the play. “What remains are universal themes like sibling rivalry, expectations of parents, conflict between the generations.”
Getting the production to New York has been a communal effort, with Muslims across the country pitching in. Mr. Ali made appeals for contributions at small gatherings in six cities in the last year, scraping together $31,000. The actors are essentially volunteers, receiving only $300 each for the entire run. Mr. Ali’s mother consults on costumes.
After a rehearsal last week, on an upper floor of the Nuyorican, the actors, still in character, jumped into a debate about whether the mother in the play would expect the daughter, who is in law school, to stop working when she had children. Some of the men in the cast insisted that Pakistani mothers are tradition-bound, but the actresses playing the mother and the daughter, Nidhi Singh and Monisha Shiva, said they thought it was more complex.
“I sacrificed my master’s degree for my children,” Ms. Singh said of her character, the mother, “so of course I am proud that my daughter is going to be a lawyer. I just want her to learn how to cook, but it doesn’t mean I want her to stay home.”
Adeel Ahmed, 21, is cast as the younger son, also 21. Like his character, Mr. Ahmed disappointed his parents when he abandoned premed in college. He wanted to study acting and, as a backup, sports management. When he told his parents, his mother took off her slipper and slapped him three times with it.
Now she has begun to accept his choice, Mr. Ahmed said, and is even helping make props for the play. Last week she sent over to the theater a toy box she had made from a cardboard carton and pillow covers cut from a shimmery golden quilt.