An online play locally based, and inspired by real life events is shedding light on the representation of Muslims in America.
Playwright Jamil Khoury of Silk Road Rising began writing a play after he witnessed Mosques trying to be built in communities, and saw the resistance of Planning and Zoning Commissions who tried to block them out, rather than face the real issues of fear and prejudice.
“What started out as concerns about zoning and parking and congestion and building heights dissipated into the spheres about ‘they will kill us, they will harm us,’ there was somehow an existential threat being posed to the community,” said Khoury.
Through his studies, Jamil came across Naperville, a city that was dealing with opposition from some residents about building an Islamic Worship Center.
This prompted him to create a play exploring these issues with two fictional families.
“It’s the story of a group of Naperville people whose lives get greatly affected by a proposed Islamic Community Center right here in the downtown area,” said Khoury. “It’s all hypothetical but once again it’s really the look at these issues of freedom of religion and when public policy and prejudice might intersect, and how we understand religious pluralism and Americanist, immigration so forth.”
Through this play, Jamil wanted to invite people to become co-creators, posing questions and getting responses to better develop the stage production that made its Collegiate premiere in February at Knox College.
Jamil came to Naperville to present his first of ten screenings hoping to open up conversation and find out how to improve the play from residents.
“Local input you know ‘what am I doing wrong, or what am I doing right?’ in terms of how I’m imagining Naperville how I’m representing, because I want it ultimately to be a play that at the end of the day anyone anywhere can relate to, but the one that people in Naperville can say ‘oh yeah that rings true’ as opposed to ‘I don’t know what he’s talking about,’” Khoury.
After watching the online play for the first time, one resident expressed the impact he feels this play can make.
“It looks like it has the potential to be a very important play. I think the playwright is putting some real dimensions to it, he’s not putting stereotypes, he’s putting some real characters that would exist that would have that kind of bi-play that goes on and experience the life that we have here in America, both good and bad,” said Paul Sjordal, Attendee of the screening.
Jamil hopes to continue developing the play with insight from those around town, before Silk Road Rising makes the World Premiere at their headquarters located in Chicago in Spring of 2016.
North Central College will also be taking part of the play and performing live in January of 2017.
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