“Unveiled”

A talented guest brings a new perspective to a post-9/11 United States

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From rohinamalik.weebly.com | Rohina Malik preforming her one-woman show Unveiled.

On Friday, Oct. 22, the Muhlenberg community gathered together to welcome a guest artist with a unique and powerful performance. Rohina Malik, a critically acclaimed playwright and solo artist based out of Chicago, presented “Unveiled,” which explores themes of anti-Muslim bias and the Islamophobia that comes with wearing hijab in  post-9/11 United States. The event was sponsored by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

Malik explained that the show began touring in schools and saw success through word of mouth. Educators and administrators began to approach her after some of the shows, urging her to continue sharing this story to a wider variety of audiences. Since then, “Unveiled” has seen premieres at major theatre companies, such as the New Repertory Theatre and the Greater Boston Stage Company, as well as other colleges such as the University of Utah and Wake Forest University. 

“Muslim people have been demonized, and I want to emphasize that it’s not in our faith to hurt others,” explained Malik to the audience. “It’s in our religion to practice love and live lives of peace.”

The piece began as a monologue, where Malik spoke of her own experiences and social struggles as a Muslim woman. This was followed by the stories of five other Muslim women, all portrayed by Malik. In order to transition between characters, she would pour a cup of tea from a small kettle on the table beside her, highlighting an important cultural attribute.

She then transformed into the first woman, who was situated at a close friend’s wedding with her children. However, the scene quickly turned dark as a man approaches her, harassing her relentlessly for her choice to wear hijab and calling her a series of offensive names in front of her children.

The creation of the second woman in the sequence was inspired by a hate crime that Malik witnessed firsthand. A woman married a man who converted to Islam, and he was beaten to death. Malik spoke to the wife’s experience as she learned to cope with this horrific tragedy.

Next, Malik transformed into a woman rushing to ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, who made the decision to remove her hijab due to a fear of Islamophobic backlash by paranoid white Americans. The fourth transformation followed a South Asian rapper who spoke about the profound sense of femininity that wearing hijab provides her, and how this worldview stands in stark contrast to what her society believes. For her final story, Malik embodied the persona of a woman whose husband, a Muslim man, was a first responder after 9/11. 

“I absolutely loved the show. She [Malik] is an amazing performer and playwright,” stated Amanda Berkson ‘23. “As an actor, the way that she switched between characters was amazing. She changed the accents; the way they sit and talk. When we all walked out, my friends and I were all talking about how impressed we were.”

“Muslim people have been demonized, and I want to emphasize that it’s not in our faith to hurt others. It’s in our religion to practice love and live lives of peace.”

-Rohina Malik

After the performance ended, there was a talkback, where community members were able to engage with Malik and her piece. She then provided the names of several TED talks she felt were vital to further understanding the sociopolitical issues that face Muslim women in the United States and beyond.

“The fifth character was definitely my favorite, without a doubt,” explained Joshua Myers ‘22, an audience member. “It made me think about how deeply rooted our stereotypes are as a society. More people need to hear stories like this in order to reverse the damage that has been done.” 

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