Silk Road Rising’s “Mosque Alert” Review – Window on Islamophobia

We are in the town hall, hearing the presentation and reaction of the citizenry to the proposed zoning to allow the Mosque. Featuring left to right: Rom Barkhodar, Frank Sawa, Mark Ulrich, and Steve Silver

 

The day after you see Silk Road Rising’s “Mosque Alert” (playwright:  Jamil Khoury) you too may find your thoughts returning to the families you came to know and deeply care about in the few short hours of this play.  

 

Trying to balance sensitivity to her children's born-in-America perspective and still stick to her beliefs, this mother is beyond exasperation. Featuring left to right: Andrew L. Saenz, Rula Gardenier, and Sahar Dika

 

We meet them in their living rooms where parents and children and husbands and wives talk without filters.   

 

A devout Muslim wife nags at her Imam husband to man-up Muslim style, getting the less than true believers out of their way. 

 

Parents of a would-be feminist Muslim Millennial whose best friend is Gay try to sensitively navigate discussion of her wearing a headscarf at times when they are publicly representing the faith.  Meanwhile, these same parents semi-indulge their pot-smoking son’s secular trending comments until he so crosses the line that his mother gives him a good slap.

 

When the play opens these two men are the best of old boy buddies discussing their golf games and gloating together in their financial triumphs through less-than-savory methods. Then, a line was crossed. Featuring left to right: Rom Barkhodar and Mark Ulrich

 

That’s just one of many lines that go from invisible to barely visible to front-and-center in this story of high tension times occasioned by an Islamic-faith community in Chicago’s Naperville suburb making plans to remodel a historic library in the town center for a new mosque and study center.

 

In these high tension times two siblings argue while the sister's best friend intervenes. Featuring left to right: Andrew L. Saenz, Riley McIlveen, and Sahar Dika

 

Inspired by the true events of what’s called the “Ground Zero Mosque”, Khoury’s well-researched script gives us a window on hate-mongering Islamophobia of post 9/11 times, as he explains here—

 

 

 

More,

 

The Imam and his wife meet with the hate-mongering creator of the "Mosque Alert" website. Featuring left to right: Amy J. Carle, Frank Sawa, and Steve Silver

 

this is also a story involving very real characters who are trying to navigate issues of identity, faith, and how or whether to assimilate in a country increasingly inhospitable to them, to say the least.   

 

Two faces of modern American Islam-- a young girl who struggles to reconcile her faith with feminism, belief in equal rights for LGBT, and other humanist views, prays as she reads a secular book, while the Imam, sticks to the strictest traditions to find his spiritual solace. Featuring left to right: Sahar Dika and Frank Sawa

 

It’s always a challenge for a playwright with a strong political point of view to create a work that involves without preaching.    

 

A niece of the right-wing demogogue who starts a hate speech website called "Mosque Alert" is horrified to discover it on her cellphone. Featuring left to right: Riley McIlveen, Nina Ganet, Andrew L. Saenz, and Sahar Dika

 

Khoury succeeds where others stumble by giving us, first and foremost, characters who feel real and whom we can latch on to.   

 

Two brothers, one the head of the Chamber of Commerce and the other a right-wing lawyer, discuss the mosque and the prime real estate it will occupy. Featuring left to right: Steve Silver and Mark Ulrich

 

Hear what the entire cast has to say about “Mosque Alert” here—

 

 

 

 

This script so hooks you! 

 

Am I the only audience member today who is wondering whether the decades-old friendship between the two women—one Anglo and one a head-scarf wearing Syrian born refugee—can possibly get new juice after all that has gone down? 

 

Though they are old friends who share much in common, the much-wronged Syrian-born resident of Naperville tries to explain her bottomless rage and hurt to her one-time friend. Featuring left to right: Rengin Altay and Rula Gardenier

 

What would happen if the one-time girlfriend to the pot smoking young Syrian-American young man, an Anglo who just returned from her Junior year abroad during “Je Suis Charlie” times, said to HIM the kinds of things he said to his parents about ISIS followers being true to their vision of the faith?  

 

How are the teenage children of the Imam and his wife going to register the tsunamis of tension between their parents over this mosque issue? 

 

What would happen if a high-powered Pakistani physician joins the Mosque or a refugee from Chad or an African-American family from Chicago’s South Side?  What would happen if a Jewish family moved next door? 

 

These and so many other questions can only be answered when this story becomes the ongoing series in HBO or the like which these well-cut characters so deserve. 

 

So far, next stops for "Mosque  Alert” are a translation and production in Germany, and also a production by the Naperville High School students. 

 

“Mosque Alert” had a long gestation, starting life in video essay, short play and other formats.  It’s chilling to think of how current events put a new lens on the play nearly every week.  Seeing “Mosque Alert” on the weekend after the “presumptive” Republican nominee Trump assured his followers in his Indiana primary victory speech that “..We’re going to get Christmas back too…” certainly gave this play an added dimension. 

 

Melting pot?  Salad?  Better to think stew in a pressure cooker…

 

THIS IS THE LAST WEEK TO SEE “MOSQUE ALERT”, ENDING MAY 15.

 

For tickets and information call (312) 857-1234 ext. 201 or visit the Silk Road Rising website.

 

 

Photos:  Airan Wright

 

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