As the world responds to the recent spate of horrific terrorist attacks, the deeply misguided actions of a few extremists are unfortunately coloring public perceptions of a larger, peace-loving populace. The increasingly aggressive rhetoric and posturing against Islam and its followers by exploitative demagogues is worrisome, to say the least. Reactions by politicians and the news media, both here and on the international stage, beg the question: aren't we playing right into the hands of fundamentalists who would like nothing more than to make this an 'us vs. them' race to the annihilation of humanity?
Over the last few months, as some of this frenzy was building, I reached out to my Muslim friends seeking insights about what Islam meant to them and their views on recent developments. Their answers confirmed my suspicions. Islam, much like other spiritual paths, is about conquering the mind and finding equanimity. Obviously, a gross and deliberate misinterpretation of the Holy Quran's intent has been used by insidious fringe elements to wreak havoc at large. And instead of providing a tempered, unifying response to these scare tactics, some of our political leaders/aspirants are trying to outdo each other in stoking the same emotions terrorists use to recruit jihadis – rage, fear, and divisiveness. This hate-mongering is sadly converting to action in our streets and neighborhoods – crimes against Muslims are the highest they have ever been in the United States since 9/11. So how then does this makes us any better than extremists who kill and maim innocents in the name of religion?
As they say, the universe has its ways. Just as I was wrestling with some of these thoughts and trying to make sense of the madness, along came The Domestic Crusaders. Sindu, Basab and Raviji, the three co-founders of Bay Area Drama Company reached out to me to co-produce this play with Diya Parial. The opportunity could not have come at a better time; here was a chance to give much-needed voice to the stories of Muslim Americans. I was deeply moved by Wajahat Ali's compelling script, which has already made a profound impact on multi-ethnic audiences across the country.
The context is a post-9/11 America. The play is a peek into the daily lives of a Pakistani-American family; three generations uniting under one roof to celebrate the youngest son's 21st birthday. The story showcases each family member's unique take on the events unfurling around them, the rise of Islamophobia, and how they perceive their individual roles. It is about diversity of thought and reaction, but also about what brings and ultimately keeps us together. Despite their sometimes vehement disagreements, they are bound inextricably together as 'one family.' Come watch The Domestic Crusaders, and I assure you that you will leave wondering why we cannot come together as 'one humanity.'