One of the monologues in Aizzah Fatima’s new one-woman play begins with a woman in a hijab kneeling and praying: “God, please let me get a 30 or better on the MCAT exam so I can get into medical school. If I can get a 30 or better, than I promise to fast for ten days.” Laughter ensues.
The play, written by and acted in by Fatima, is called “Dirty Paki Lingerie,” and it’s being performed over the next two weeks as part of the Midtown International Theater Festival, an off-off Broadway showcase that runs through July 31.
"Dirty Paki Lingerie" uses humor to look at issues of sex, love, family and faith facing Muslim women living in America. Fatima plays six characters that represent a range of ages and experiences. In her roles, she shops for lingerie in a hijab, browses Urdu newspaper classifieds to arrange marriages and quietly gets divorced in a culture that traditionally eschews the practice.
“I wanted to write something, in this post-9/11 world, creating a positive image of Muslim-Americans,” said Fatima. “I wanted to help create images of Muslims that were anything other than what we were used to seeing.”
Zeba Iqbal, the executive director of the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, saw the show on Saturday, and said the play isn't just a good education for non-Muslims, it's also an important conversation starter within the community.
“You know, we as a community, to grow we need to be able to be honest about our challenges, about our fears, about our hopes,” said Iqbal. “And it’s a very honest play, a very honest portrayal.”
But Fatima admits the play is likely to rub many Muslims the wrong way.
"I think the title scares a lot of people," she said. "I've gotten some concerned comments from more conservative people. But I think once they see the play, most would say it's a positive and moving play. That's the feedback I've gotten."
Another play exploring Muslim-American issues is “The Hijabi Monologues,” inspired by the popular “Vagina Monologues.” The play, which will be performed on August 15 at the 13th Street Repertory, is about about Muslim-American life and is written by women.
For details on when you can catch “Dirty Paki Lingerie,” visit the festival's Web site.