Bassam Tariq is a Boing Boing guestblogger who is the co-author of 30 Mosques. A blog celebrating the NYC mosques during the Islamic month of Ramadan. He lives in Harlem, NY.
Above, is a video piece Musa Syeed and I produced for TIME.com a couple of months back on Domestic Crusaders.
The Domestic Crusaders is a two-act play in its last week at the Nuyorican Poet's Café in New York City. I strongly recommend anyone in New York City that has a chance to see the play to catch it. Though it's not perfect, I can't think of a better glimpse into the Pakistani Muslim American life. I caught the play opening night on September 11th and enjoyed every minute of it. Every character in the play falls into a certain Muslim archetype, from the mildly racist yet caring mother to the head-wrap wearing over zealous daughter. And all these archetypes are awfully close to reality. Without a doubt, I am Ghaffur, the slightly naïve, college-aged Muslim poster boy.
There seemed to be social commentary on everything from racial profiling at the airport to the gender roles at home. All the topics touched on are authentic discussions that occur in South Asian homes all over America, but the sheer amount of themes injected just seemed like overkill. It was as if Wajahat Ali, the playwright, had a checklist of "most common Muslim topics needed to be addressed" and went down from there. The flow of the dialogue was constantly ruptured by long wooden soliloquies that seemed more Bollywood than Broadway. But this issue of checklist dialogue isn't a unique problem to Domestic Crusaders. In fact, it's a problem that many Muslims typically have. Since we're at the edges of the mainstream, whenever we're given the podium to share our thoughts we want to address every issue from terrorism to women's oppression to Muslim arts. Hell, just look at the posts Aman and I have been making these past two weeks.
Many Muslims, including myself, are constantly stuck playing the role of "Ambassador Muslim" that we sometimes forget who we really are. Right after Obama's Cairo speech, many of my creative directors at work asked me how I felt about the speech, if I was moved and if I felt "more American." I look forward to the day where I'm less of a domestic crusader and more of Bassam. Besides, the play does a better job of playing that role.