The atmosphere surrounding the annual Muslim Monologues, an event organized to give voice to the stories of Muslim students on Princeton’s campus, was particularly tense: Just a few weeks ago, Donald Trump was elected to the White House following a campaign that stoked division. A surge of attacks targeting Muslims and other minorities appeared to follow his victory.
But the atmosphere Dec. 11 at the Wilson Blackbox was hopeful. The turnout was larger than expected and people squeezed in together on the floor and others offered to give up their seats.
The lights dimmed and Amir Raja ’18 took the stage. Introducing himself as the president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), Raja reminded the audience that the performers were speaking not only from the Muslim identities, but also from any one of the multiple identities that they may possess. “It is critically important in these trying political times that we embrace our own community’s diversity as well as intersectionality between communities,” Raja said.
In light of the sensitive content of the performances, the program identified performers by only their first names and marked potentially triggering performances with an asterisk.
In one performance, self-described as the “Brooklyn Bengali Blues,” Shehab described what it was like to live as the son foreign immigrants. He described a typical exchange: “I’m from Brooklyn. But you don’t look like it! I’m from Brooklyn. But you don’t speak like it! Do you need to see my Timbs and my Yankees cap to believe me?”
Other performances spoke directly in response to the political struggles of Muslim Americans.
“It is time to thank our president-elect and all his white supremacist and neo-Nazi cohorts. I thank them because they put names and faces to the devils that try to erase us,” Aamir said. “But naming it is one of the first steps. Once you know the name you can eliminate it. You can exorcise it.”
Responding to the somber tone of many of the performances, Hajrah decided to improvise and reframe her monologue as a standup routine. “I felt really sad sitting there and just really needed to laugh,” she said.
Though her monologue discussed serious topics such as the stifled conversation around mental health in Muslim communities, Hajrah ended her performance on a cheerful note. As the audience went back and forth between laughing and crying, she told everyone to get more sleep. “Go to sleep guys. It’s good for you!”
Hajrah said later that she wanted to subvert expectations with her monologue, where she noted that wearing a hijab does not necessarily make one oppressed or meek.
Following the event, MSA hosted a reception in Wilson Commons to continue the conversation between performers and audience in a more casual setting.
“Everyone was really passionate about their monologues,” said Vidur Beharry ’19, who came to watch a friend perform. “It should definitely happen again.”