A relatively new and exciting project has been released in international theatres, aiming to provide a safe space for Muslim women to share their unique and untold stories. The Hijabi Monologues delves into the diverse experiences of Muslim women across the world. From the story of a young Muslim girl’s earned respect in the local community to recollections of disastrous ‘dates’. The speaker, a new individual each time, takes the audience through a timeline of funny, sincere, and tragic events.
“I am the bomb”
Writers, performers and real-life stories fuse to transform the theatre into a colourful piece. The skit “Yasmin,” written by Komita Carrington and performed by Rafiah Jones, showcases the real and very ‘normal’ life of two young Muslim females. The narrator, who wears a black niqab and introduces herself as “Awesome,” describes her friendship with another hijabi called Yasmin: “She brings the sassy, and I bring the cool… She don’t have time for the okey-doke, but I’ll sit and listen.”
The urge to catch the beat of the latest R&B track and boogie down the corridor of the local mall is typical Yasmin. The inclination to notice Yasmin looks like “a Flying Nun” is typical Awesome. Wherever they go, Yasmin is always on the brink of saying what Awesome won’t dare to. When one woman asks her, “You don’t have a bomb on you, do you?” Awesome blinks politely while holding Yasmin back from saying, “Don’t you know? I am the bomb.”
“A gentle nod to Eve Ensler”
Originating from a group of three friends on campus in Chicago, America in 2006, the performances have now toured around the world; heard in Holland, Ireland, Indonesia, and the UK. With the emphasis on humanity and Muslim visibility, the show gives a gentle nod to Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, down to the use of three performers and the rotating set of skits. A missing piece of discussion may be the talk of spirituality which seems almost ironic, despite the centrality of religion in the cast’s identity.
There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. With a large global presence, the Hijabi Monologues introduces insights that its audience can draw upon to get to know the Muslim community in a less demeaning light than usual, seeing as the current climate of islamophobia is intensifying. The skits, in essence, signal to the spectator that we cannot presume too much.
“Inside My Hands”
There has been one monologue that has spoken to the hearts of thousands of people. It began with an anonymous writer who shared their personal experience of learning how to pray as a young child; the monologue is named “Inside My Hands”. She tells the story of how there was widespread concern about actions, and there was no sign of care towards the inner system; whether the heart was bowing along with the body.
The story ends on a harmonious note where, as an adult, she learns to pray together with her father, whom at one point she was very angry with. The skit conveys a beautiful message that religious ritual does not have to be dividing, rather it holds the power to bind people together at a level words fail to amend.