"Barack Hussein Obama," a Free Online Video Dramatizing Intra-American Muslim Reflections on our Nation's 44th President

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As part of a new play development process, playwright Jamil Khoury has created a highly engaging and thought provoking American Muslim reflection on President Barack Obama.

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The ‘specter’ of Muslim identity and Muslim affinity has surrounded Barack Obama since his emergence on the national scene, primarily in venues that have excluded and/or denigrated American Muslim voices.

Silk Road Rising, a Chicago based nonprofit polycultural arts organization, creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses. The company has embarked upon an 18-month long ten step interactive online new play development and civic engagement process in support of playwright Jamil Khoury’s new play-in-progress Mosque Alert.

Now in step four of the ten step process, known as “Conflict Scenes,” Silk Road Rising just released Khoury’s free online video called “Barack Hussein Obama” (13 minutes, 10 seconds), a highly engaging and thought provoking intra-American Muslim reflection on America’s 44th President. “Barack Hussein Obama” represents the first of nine such conflict scenes that Khoury will write and produce. To view “Barack Hussein Obama,” visit http://www.silkroadrising.org/video-plays/mosque-alert/barack-hussein-obama The video is free to access, easy to stream and easy to share.

Mosque Alert tells the story of two suburban American families living in Naperville, Illinois, one family’s Christian, the Baker family, and the other family’s Muslim, the Khan family. The Bakers and the Khans find their lives torn apart by a proposal to build a new mosque in their community. As a new play development and civic engagement process, Mosque Alert will culminate in both a new stage play and an online video play.

“Barack Hussein Obama” features the characters of Imam Mustafa Khan (played by Khurram Mozaffar), the Pakistani born charismatic spiritual leader of the Naperville Muslim congregation in question, and his wife Ayesha Khan (played by Fawzia Mirza), a hijab wearing Muslim feminist and head pharmacist at a local drugstore.

The Khans are both Obama supporters. But Ayesha has grown rather critical of Obama’s leadership style, whereas Imam Mustafa defends Obama’s leadership. In criticizing Obama, Ayesha is indirectly criticizing her husband’s leadership in the wake of the mosque controversy. In defending Obama, Imam Mustafa is defending himself. The perceived performance of President Obama thus becomes subtext for their marital tensions.

In 2011, Pew Research Center released a study that found 7 out of 10 American Muslims view Obama’s tenure favorably. Also in 2011, Gallup released a poll that found American Muslims “happier and more optimistic about their lives than nearly every other faith group in the United States,” with nearly 60% describing themselves as “thriving.” “Barack Hussein Obama” presents a fictionalized account of one Muslim couple’s perspectives on Obama, but also relates to polling that finds American Muslims feeling more politically enfranchised since Obama’s election in 2008.

Playwright Jamil Khoury says, “The ‘specter’ of Muslim identity and Muslim affinity has surrounded Barack Obama since his emergence on the national scene, primarily in venues that have excluded and/or denigrated American Muslim voices. In writing ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ I wanted to create space for an American Muslim conversation about Obama that would also shed light on specific inter-personal dynamics between two characters in my play. I did not write ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ with the intent of including it as a scene in Mosque Alert, but rather as content that would inform the broader world of my play.”

As part of an online interactive development process, Khoury poses three questions for viewers to respond to after viewing “Barack Hussein Obama” that appear on the video’s web page (visit: http://www.silkroadrising.org/video-plays/mosque-alert/barack-hussein-obama). Responding is entirely voluntary. Viewers may also post their own comments and questions for the playwright. Furthermore, viewers are encouraged to engage the first three steps of the ten step process, respectively The Spark, The Prologue, and The Characters, so as to enhance their understanding of “Barack Hussein Obama” as the inaugural video in Step Four: Conflict Scenes.

Mosque Alert seeks to dramatize a multiplicity of views and allow audiences to arrive at their own conclusions. It is intended as both a work of art and a civic engagement tool, advancing Silk Road Rising’s commitment to emotionally compelling drama that facilitates cross cultural dialogue and discourse. According to Pew Research Center “population projections show the number of Muslims more than doubling over the next two decades in the United States.” Mosque Alert provides a unique and accessible opportunity for online participants to learn about the growing American Muslim population.

To lean more about Silk Road Rising visit http://www.silkroadrising.org

To lean more about Artistic Director and playwright Jamil Khoury visit http://www.silkroadrising.org/pages/founders


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Malik Gillani
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