I have been hyped about seeing “Disgraced” for so long. When I read the description for the show it said there is a casual dinner that escalates for the worse. It also said that it was about the Muslim-American identity, cultural assimilation, and a bunch of philosophical debates. What really got me interested about the show was the Muslim-American identity part because I am a Muslim-American and my experience in this country is like a more serious version of “500 Days of Summer,” and more halal. Before I went inside the Lyceum Theatre with my friend Maham, we saw paparazzi and flashing lights; it then hit us at that moment, it was opening night. I was super excited, but annoyed by the crowd size because I hate big crowds. I also really had to use the bathroom, and that was probably one of the worst experiences I have had. The bathroom was so small, and there were only two stalls. It was worse than the floor toilets in Bangladesh. When I finished my business, I was ready to watch the show and turn on my more serious side.
One of the worst things about sitting all the way in the back is the inability to gauge the actors’ and actresses’ emotions. Regardless of this, I was more interested in the content. At first, I saw a little of myself in Amir. Amir was a self-loathing Muslim, who hated himself because of his ethnicity and religion. He constantly drinks so that he can avoid these problems, but instead he speaks his true feelings. Some people might think that he is a drunk and just crazy, but what I see is something that I went through. As a Muslim, I have faced a lot of discrimination because of my religion and also the color of my skin. I remembered telling people how much I hated my own religion and how it was so oppressive when it came to freedom of expression. I never really understood my own religion until I was older and smart enough to think for myself. Although Amir never overcame this, I think that it is just a phase in Amir’s life and he will overcome this.
Now I never said that I completely identified with Amir. Amir has so many terrible qualities and I think that Amir represents more of people who hate religions and have a lack of understanding of it. He is definitely not a true Muslim because he does not know ANYTHING. When the show ended, I was a bit frightened that people would identify Amir as a Muslim and make the conclusion that Muslims are animals. This is because earlier in the show, when Amir spat in Isaac’s face, Isaac said, “ No wonder why they call your people animals.” Those words felt like a direct insult at me. I was angry because Isaac assumed that Amir was a Muslim and his actions were typical to those of a Muslim. To add onto this, Amir’s wife also gained this attitude after his actions. I just hope that people can talk to a person who is practicing Islam to get the true sense of it and not from some insensible drunk. Especially since Islamophobia is on the rise, I think this play just adds onto the hysteria and that, to me, is very dangerous.
Aside from Amir, the other character that I really liked was Abe. Now Hussein "Abe" is an example of a religious Muslim-American. When he said that Amir was going through a phase, I chuckled because I am pretty sure that most Muslim Americans go through that phase, where they hate Islam. Aside from his great points, he was pretty educated about the religion and I didn’t find myself hating him. The ending, however, when Abe said that the westerners “disgraced” us Muslims, hit hard for me. I don’t think anyone understands how difficult it is to be a Muslim in this country. We have so many news outlet, liberals like Bill Maher, and radicals like Pamela Geller, who are discrediting us. No one ever believes the Muslim’s side of the story because of what goes on around the world. Americans believe that the actions of ISIS, for example, is a true representation of Islam, when it is not. I am so, so, SO sick of trying to explain to people that they are wrong. Why can’t people understand that what we see on the news might not be the right side of the story? There are always two sides of the story, and we need to figure it out for ourselves.
When the show ended, it wasn’t a clear “love” or “hate” for the show. I was conflicted, confused, and anguished by what I saw on stage. People around me were saying how it was such an insightful piece, mature, and eye-opening. For me it was painful. It reminded me of the constant discrimination I face and how I don’t even realize that people are staring suspiciously at me in the train because it’s now so normal. I want to see change and this play made me realize that I want change so badly. I want to see a country that really follows its ideals and has more acceptance and tolerance for others. I want to see a country that is more conscious of the other side of the story and not just one side. Most importantly, I don’t want to feel disgraced anymore.