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Five women in one: "Unveiled" highlights Muslim identities

Rohina Malik, a playwright and actress raised in London and living in Chicago, will be coming to White Lecture Hall this Saturday at 7p.m. to perform her one-woman show “Unveiled.” 

The performance--sponsored by Duke’s Muslim Students Association--covers topics of hate crimes, racism, love, Islam and culture,  and focuses on five women, all played by Malik, who serve different kinds of tea before the audience and reveal their individual stories.

The characters range from a Pakistani seamstress, whose story Malik said relates most closely to her own, to a rapper, whom Malik called “so much fun.” Each of the characters are a mixture of the playwright’s imagination and inspiration from people she knows in reality. 

To embody several different people within one show, Malik said she goes over the show so many times that it becomes a part of her. But she also noted that the characters each have a little bit of her in them already, tying them together further since they are played by the same person. 

“These five characters were going to be more powerful if they came from the same heart,” Malik said. “That’s why it became a solo performance.” 

Beyond its unusual format and challenge on the part of the actress, “Unveiled” aims to enlighten its audience about combating pervasive issues related to identity such as racism and stereotyping.

“I was inspired to write a play to challenge the negative stereotype that exists about Muslims and Muslim women,” Malik said. “If you study hate crimes, two things have to be present—negative stereotypes and degrading language. That’s why it’s important to challenge negative stereotyping and have dialogue [about it].”

The play will inform its audience of intersectional identities involving race, ethinicity, immigrant status and class by offering the different perspectives of Muslim women, said senior Yossra Hamid, president of MSA.

“We hope to bring together the Duke and Durham community in listening to the stories of Muslims,” Hamid said. “Our voices are often misrepresented or distorted to the public.”

Hamid said that Mona Hassan, assistant professor of religious studies, approached MSA with the idea of bringing “Unveiled” to Duke after one of her classes performed a scene from the show.

“We believe that this event is an important opportunity to showcase insightful and powerful stories that many are not exposed to,” Hamid said. “We hope that it will spark meaningful discussion, and encourage a higher consciousness in the audience.”

Malik has brought the show to colleges and universities across the country including Princeton University, Yale University, New York University, Stanford University and Brigham Young University. She said she enjoys bringing the show and its ensuing dialogue to colleges because they are environments where it is necessary to talk about racism and other issues

“To have that dialogue with the students, it’s been really powerful,” she said. “That’s why they’re here—to think about issues. If it doesn’t happen on a college campus, where is it going to happen?”

The show is one of several brought to campus by MSA. Last semester, Australian Muslim comedian Aamer Rahman perfomed at Duke, using his humor to bring awareness to issues such as racism and homophobia. In 2014, MSA hosted the premiere of the documentary film “Enemy of the Reich: the Noor Inayat Khan Story” about a Muslim woman who fought against Nazis in World War II.

In addition to MSA, “Unveiled” is presented by Duke DIYA, CMA, Me Too Monologues, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, African and African American Studies, Sociology, Women’s Studies, Theater Studies, Baldwin, the Duke Islamic Studies Center, Center for Muslim Life and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.


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