'The Hijabi Monologues' Speaks to Muslims And Others Too

January 9, 2009

Author: Margaret Ramirez

Source: The Chicago Tribune


As she takes the stage and picks up the microphone, Sahar Ullah becomes the voice of Muslim-American women who wear the hijab, better known as hijabis.

At times, she is hilarious when ranting about Muslim men and their pick-up lines. Other moments, she is chilling when she portrays a Muslim wife who contracts HIV from her husband.

Using real stories from Muslim women, this performance goes beyond the much-debated head scarf and presents a deeper journey into the soul of the Muslim-American hijabi. In a twist on another popular production about women, the show is called "The Hijabi Monologues."

Ullah, 26, who created "The Hijabi Monologues" with two friends in 2006 while she was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, has recited the stories in small venues across the nation, captivating Muslims and non-Muslims.

On Friday night, Ullah and Arabic television host May Alhassen plan to perform "The Hijabi Monologues" at the Busboys and Poets restaurant and book store in Washington.

Hoping to take their message to a wider audience, the show's producers will hold a Saturday workshop at Georgetown University for Muslim women interested in performing the monologues in other cities.

When asked about the connection to Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues," Ullah said both productions reveal an unheard voice. "The Vagina Monologues" took a private body part and gave it a loud, public voice.

"The Hijabi Monologues" takes the visible head scarf and allows the woman wearing it to speak in a personal way.

"The hijab, because of how public it is, it brings out a certain set of assumptions and a certain set of experiences that only women wearing hijab would go through," Ullah said. "It's such a public physical marker, and we've infused so many meanings to it, as if it speaks for the woman.

"Yet we don't really get to hear a woman talk about her experiences and her views."

Unlike "The Vagina Monologues" where the vagina famously speaks and says it is "angry," the hijab never speaks and the veil is not the focus of any of the stories. The aim is to move beyond the stereotypes imposed by the head scarf and create a better understanding of the Muslim-American woman.

See also: Islam, Civic, Women, Campus