Beneath the Veil: One-Woman Play Examines Muslim Stereotypes & Intolerance

In a southern drawl, Rohina Malik, a visiting artist, begins to tell the audience the story of a black Muslim character. Malik explained that the character’s grandmother believed that there were “three strikes” against the character. The first strike was the character’s race. The second strike was the character’s gender. The third strike was the character’s religion.

Rohina Malik’s one woman show “Unveiled” was performed last Saturday night in Tang Theatre as part of Interfaith Harmony Week. The one-woman show presented the monologues of five Muslim women with honesty, fearlessness and a touch of humor.

BrianPaul Robert ’16, an Interfaith leader, said, “Our main goal [for Interfaith Week] is to spark a discussion on campus, just in terms of faith, so I think bringing in this play helped a lot because it gives another lens on the multifaceted experience of being of faith and religion.”

The five narratives Malik shared with the audience were those of a Bollywood dress maker who was attacked at her friend’s wedding, a lawyer whose love story was torn apart by a hate crime, a black female in the American suburbs who was chastised and threatened for being Muslim, a hip-hop lover from West London who used her hijab to support feminism, and a mother who was with her children on the day of 9/11.

“I wanted to show how the veil was very different within our Muslim community, and if you talk about it with some women, they are going to go right into feminism, and ‘this is my body and I decide who looks at my body and my hair, not you.’ And then for other women, it’s more spiritual, and they’ll talk about the Virgin Mary, about modesty, and for God. So I wanted to share these different perspectives so people would realize that we are not one type of Muslim,” said Malik.

The play opened with a dressmaker sharing her story of delivering a wedding dress to her friend. Upon the narrator’s arrival at the venue, a man began verbally abusing her with derogatory slurs in front of her children. When the man almost became physical, she ran back into her car instead of attending the wedding. According to Malik, this story was based on her own personal experience.

“The first story… was based on something that happened to me at my friend’s wedding. Pushing my double stroller trying to enter the wedding and having these guys say these horrible things to me. What was frightening about it was how quickly it almost became violent, and how quickly this man would have used violence against my children,” said Malik.

Another stand-out character was the final one. This woman shared her experiences on the day of 9/11 as she picked up her children from school. Malik described the riot that formed around the school entrance as she struggled to grab her children and take them home safely. At one point, a boy shouted at her, “Take that [expletive] off your head!”

Malik said in her monologue, “I might wear a veil on my head, but I certainly don’t wear a veil on my heart. I prayed to Allah to make that boy unveiled.”

Eddy Lee ’19, an audience member, said, “I really liked the last character because of what she said: ‘Get to know me,’ and I thought that was really powerful. I completely agree when she said the way to stop stereotypes and change people’s views is to get to know them.”

Malik is a professional playwright and actress. According to Malik, she fell in love with theater and solo performance during high school.

“You know in the world of technology where it is so easy to sit at home and watch from a computer screen, theater is that one medium where you have to leave your home and come and experience something live and turn off the devices and experience something human together. To me, there’s something very powerful [about] the actors and the audience experiencing something at the exact same time,” said Malik.