Award-Winning Playwright, Wajahat Ali, on Islamophobia, Art & Muslims
Wajahat Ali is a playwright, journalist, attorney, humorist and consultant. His award-winning play, “The Domestic Crusaders” [www.domesticcrusaders.com], is one of the first major plays about the American Muslim experience originally premiering at the Thrust Stage of the Tony award winning Berkeley Repertory Theater to universal acclaim in 2005 and making its New York premiere on 9-11-09 at the world famous Nuyorican Theater.
In 2008, he was honored as an “An Influential Muslim American Artist” by the State Department. In 2009, he was honored as a “Muslim Leader of Tomorrow” for his journalism work and invited to participate in the “Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow” conference in Doha, Qatar. The same year, he was the recipient of Muslim Public Affairs Council’s prestigious “Emerging Muslim American Artist” recognition and cited as a Young Muslim American Leader by The Center for American Progress.
He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, The Guardian, Salon, Slate, Wall Street Journal, CNN.com, Huffington Post, McSweeney’s, and Counterpunch. He is an Associate Editor of Altmuslim.com, the leading American Muslim online magazine. He is Contributing Editor to the award winning Illume Magazine (http://www.illumemagazine.org/).
He is frequently invited to speak on diverse issues including Islam and Muslims, post 9-11 Muslim American identity and politics, multicultural art and activism, and New Media Journalism. He is currently writing a pilot for HBO with author Dave Eggers and is co-editing the anthology “I Speak For Myself: 45 American Men on Being Muslim” which will be published in the Summer of 2012.[divider]
We were lucky to have Wajahat Ali visit Singapore in May 2012. I got the chance to interview him and here are the questions that I asked him:
- You are now on tour for a program called Generation Change. What are you going around teaching the young leaders?
- In an interview, you said that sometimes fiction is the best way for people to learn. Here in Singapore, I’ve seen several plays by Muslims about Muslims but for the wider Singaporean audience, but they were very critical about certain aspects of Islam.
Firstly, what is the function & purpose of telling stories? And what are your thoughts on the role of Muslim artists in portraying Islam? Do you think they should be responsible for portraying a good image?
- You also published a report (Fear Inc.) about Islamophobia in the United States. In it, you found that $43 million has been pumped in over 10 years to the Islamophobia network. Why are they investing in Islamophobia? And what does this mean for faith relations in the US?
- The US exports more than just products. As a global leader, they also export culture and knowledge and I think, in this case, Islamophobia. What is the right response towards Islamophobia?
- You are also writing a pilot for HBO. How did that come about and what is it about?
- Another question on your many talents, you were also the editor of “All American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim”. What was it like to be involved in this project, and what are the main things that readers should take away from the book?
- You’ve written a play, a report, a book and a pilot. What else are you involved in or what else do you hope to achieve?
- Advice for Muzlimbuzz.