While searching for ways Arizonans will be remembering 9/11 this week through shared experiences of arts and culture, I stumbled on an upcoming performance by The AJYAL Theatrical Group — which describes itself as “the first Arab-American theatre group in North America.”
The Michigan-based group, established in 1988, says that most of their works “poke fun at the everyday lives of Arab-Americans who are desperately trying to blend into the mainstream of American culture.”
They’re performing a play titled “Shoufou Alwawa Wayn” (“Where Does It Hurt”) Fri, Sept 9 (8pm) at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. It’s written by Najee Mondalek and directed by Aziz Charabaty.
Like other AJYAL works, the play “serves as a forum to help people laugh at their mistakes and mishaps but also to come to terms with social issues facing Arab-Americans.” www.arabamericantheater.com or www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org.
It’s a particularly fitting week for a bit of Arab American theater, given the bigotry towards Arab Americans and Muslims that’s fueled each year by a minority of Americans who blame all Arab Americans and Muslims for the acts of a small group of terrorists.
Novelist Amy Waldman, formerly co-chief of the South Asia bureau of The New York Times, recently released “The Submission,” published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. www.thesubmissionnovel.com.
The book, according to the newspaper’s recent “9/11 in the Arts” guide, “imagines what would have happened if the winning designer of a memorial to victims of a terrorist attack turned out to be an American Muslim.”
We don’t have to imagine how American Muslims might be treated in the aftermath of 9/11. It’s there in black and white when you read the online vitriol of people who feel that Arab American and Muslim children who lost parents in the 9/11 attacks should have been excluded from the “Children of 9/11” documentary recently aired on NBC.
Arab Americans, many of them Muslim, were killed that tragic day. Arab Americans were among the first responders. Arab Americans defend our freedoms through military service every day. They’re Americans through and through, no less than me or you.
I’ll be spending time in coming weeks and months getting to know more about the contributions of Arab Americans to American arts and culture — starting with an online exploration of the Arab American National Museum.
So far I’ve enjoyed reviewing their list of 2011 Arab American Book Award winners, reading four online resource guides (including one titled “Islam and Muslim Americans”) and exploring a “web exclusive” exhibit titled “Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes.”
The Smithsonian Affiliate, located in Michigan, shares that its mission is “to document, preserve, celebrate, and educate the public on the history, life, culture and contributions of Arab Americans.”
The museum also serves as a “resource to enhance knowledge and understanding about Arab Americans and their presence in the United States.” www.arabamericanmuseum.org.
They’ll be participating Sept 8-11 in an event called “U.S. Rising: Emerging Voices in a Post-9/11 America,” which features discussions, storytelling, music and art. www.usrising.org.
StoryCorps, an independent nonprofit dedicated to providing “Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives,” will be at the museum Sept 8-10. www.storycorps.org.
All happy news in my book. I like to believe that art is an antidote for hate.
Note: Read the blog for “Teaching Tolerance,”a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, to learn more about promoting tolerance in homes, schools and communities. www.tolerance.org/blog.
Coming up: Talking with children about 9/11