Photo courtesy of Derek Juntunen
Photo courtesy of Derek Juntunen
Photo courtesy of Derek Juntunen

By MONICA SABELLA, Guest Writer

On Friday evening, March 7, students, families, and friends gathered together in the Social Science Building to see the performance of the Hijabi Monologues.

Hanan Hashem and Jamilah Alhashidi, co-directors of the show, appeared on stage to welcome their guests, promising tears and laughter, heartbreak and hope to their audience. They did more than deliver.

Eleven stories were told, each shining out with its own unique voice. In each, the actors, students of our university, gave their all. “I practiced my lines at least three or four hours a week,” Liala Sobh, one of the performers, stated.

Hanan Hashem, a co-director, mentioned that the girls had been studying their parts since the auditions in January. A few of the actors remarked that extra practice was essential in bringing a sense of natural flow to their characters.

Although each performance was magnificent, there were three which stood out on Friday night. The first was “Light on My Face” performed by Naseem Bokhari. It was the story of a young Muslim girl who has been ostracized by her schoolmates due to her plain looks and weight.

She is led on by the neighbor boy to the point where she winds up pregnant. He completely breaks all connections with her and she becomes consumed by feelings of loss and betrayal. The stirring performance of Bokhari held the audience spellbound throughout.

Andrea Chavez was given a more comedic role in the story of “Ten Things”. In this skit, Chavez numbered off ten things that she did which were quite opposite of the stereotype hijabi.

As she walked back and forth across the stage, bouts of laughter erupted from the audience with each bad habit she described. Chavez ended her performance by declaring that if they were shocked by her behavior, they should try to remember the hijab was, “a piece of fabric; not a magic wand”.

However, one of the most moving pieces was that of one of our own Michigan students, Rima Zalghout. Zalghout won a local competition last year when she entered her story, Control, which entailed the struggles she faced with an eating disorder. Zalghout appeared on stage and explained to the audience that when everything in her life was chaotic, the one thing she could control was her food intake. She took out her frustration by eating less every day.

She exerted her control by winding her headscarf so tight red marks began to appear around her neck. Zalghout’s monologue truly brought home the realization that these were stories of everyday women. Underneath the scarf, they’re just normal people trying to get through another day.

As I watched the actors come together, hand in hand, to take their bows, I recalled all the stories and how different each experience was. Such a mixed group could not possibly be defined by one article of clothing.

“This event was about educating people and having fun…It’s important that people understand that just because I look a certain way, doesn’t mean you know me,” Co-director Jamilah Alhashidi expressed.

This seems such a basic concept; don’t judge a book by its cover. Yet, it’s an easy enough hole to slip into. “Being in Dearborn, you wouldn’t think this would happen, but people still look at you and assume things,” Alhashidi stated.

The main impression this co-director wished to leave her audience was to not be afraid to ask questions. “If anything I admire their courage for asking,” one of the performers, Walaa Tout, remarked, her fellow actors nodding in agreement. “…the only way to dispel ignorance is through asking questions” Alhashidi said.

The Hijabi Monologues is about answering these questions and showing a side of the hijabi that most can’t see on their own. Hopefully someday no help will be needed. In the meantime, thank you for showing at least one person a new point of view.