Stories of affirmation, pain and spirituality filled a dimly lit Hoff Theater with an intimate, reflective aura at the Muslim Monologues on Friday evening.
Ten students shared spoken word, stories and songs at the event organized by the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Over one hundred people attended.
The theme was “The Prophet’s Promise,” which emcee Naeem Baig connected most performances back to when speaking between acts.
In an interview after the event, he explained that in Islam it is one of the prophet’s sayings that people do not experience challenges alone.
“That experience brings that person closer to god and … brings that person further along in their journey,” Baig said. “That, to me, is just incredible because you think about the things you go through in your life and feel like no one understands the things you go through … none of it goes unnoticed by god.”
Senior civil engineering major Hareesa Mohammed performed a spoken word piece about her identity as a black Muslim woman. She usually only shares her writing through Instagram, she said. However, she wanted to take this opportunity to speak more personally about the challenges she faces with what she considers to be three odds stacked against her: her race, religion and gender.
“It felt like a cleanse,” Mohammed said. “It felt like a moment of empowerment of just being able to own the stage with my words.”
Her performance, as well as several others, invited questions from the audience about experiences and emotions that inspired the piece.
She shared that she has faced racism within the Muslim community. She also said that it can be hard to not see anyone who looks like her in her classes and to wonder what strangers will say to her when they begin to speak.
Mohammed also directly addressed the audience to open a dialogue about how the Muslim community can be as inclusive as possible. Audience members suggested reaching out to Muslims of different ethnicities than their own, as well as individuals beyond the Muslim community.
“I think it’s important for us to know each other’s struggles in order to uplift each other,” Mohammed said, reflecting on her decision to participate in the event.
Other performances included pieces about national identity and what it is like to balance Islam with the rest of one’s life.
This was the first time that MSA has held Muslim Monologues in three years. The organization decided to bring it back this semester because it recognized that it had talents to showcase, MSA secretary Lubna Barakat said.
“I think it was a really successful event because we had a lot of people express their opinions about really relevant issues,” the sophomore biology major said. “It’s good for students to have a safe space to talk about that stuff.”
Baig said he initially went in as an emcee as a way to help out the organization but ended up being blown away by the performers.
“At the end of it, I was done a favor,” he said. “I was the one who was being helped out.”
Featured Photo Credit: Hareesa Mohammed, courtesy of the Muslim Students Association.
Teri West is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.