Amid the success of the recent events “The Vagina Monologues” and “Hijabi Monologues,” LSA junior Heba Al-Saghir found she wanted to organize a similar, more inclusive event that would still provide a place for often underrepresented voices on the University of Michigan campus. This inspiration produced the “Muslim Monologues” event, which was hosted by the Muslim Students’ Association and took place Thursday night at Palmer Commons.
“(The event) provides a forum for Muslim students to express their thoughts and ideas in an open and accepting environment,” she said. “It's also important because it encourages people of all religions and cultures to hear Muslim voices that may paint a very different picture than what they are used to hearing in the media. By humanizing Muslims, we are promoting tolerance, coexistence and a brighter future.”
More than 40 students attended the event, and more than 10 performers shared their experiences through the media of spoken word, singing, storytelling and even a piece played on the piano.
LSA freshman Ayah Kutmah kicked off the event with a short personal essay, stressing the role of her hijab in defining her identity and her constant battle with the common perception that it oppresses her. Kutmah outlined the ways in which she learned to conform to society in her earlier years, but also recognized how she has grown as confident hijab-wearing woman, especially at the University.
“I define my journey with my hijab as a personal rebellion against society, one that is on me to define my own identity on my own terms,” she said. “The point I want to make is this: I do not allow the hijab to limit me, so why do you?”
LSA senior Maham Shaikh performed her poem “Personifying Islamophobia,” illustrating the varying experiences of Muslims. She highlighted that even though she does not wear the headscarf, she experiences Islamophobia as a presence she deals with daily. In a symbolic gesture, she ripped a paper with the word “Islamophobia,” displaying her triumph over this battle.
Following Shaikh, University alum Amir Kamouneh gave a personal statement to the audience about the importance of events like these in strengthening people in this world, amid current political turmoil and war. He experiencing things in his home country of Iran, such as the Iranian revolution, to the 9/11 terrorist attack and current politics. He said he has found there is always a good side to support.
“I’m proud that you came out to say no to hate, whether you’re Muslim or non-Muslim, it takes character in today's world to say no to easy scapegoating, to easy blame,” he said.
LSA freshman Arwa Gayar followed with a spoken word poem expressing her frustration at the lack of ethnicity checkbox for Arabs in the University application.
“I don’t think you can limit my culture to the color of my skin,” she said. “I don’t think the option of ‘other’ is representative of my kin. Am I not important enough for my very own box? Tell me to write in whatever because ‘we don’t see color’ — I will not act as another diversity buffer. I will take up space.”
Following the event, University alum Misha Shaikh said it made her feel strengthened and supported in her Muslim identity.
“It brings back a lot of emotions of my experiences with Islamophobia, and the hatred that Muslims experience,” she said. “However, it was also very fun and relaxing, so it was kind of a mix.”