An audience of 150, a mix of Muslims and others at the Round House Theatre in Silver Spring, meet Fazal’s alter ego, a brash but flirty character who relishes asking the kinds of questions most young Muslims wouldn’t dare pose to parents:
Why must she and her father stay in separate rooms at a party at the mosque? If a woman must cover her hair in front of men who are not part of her family, how about a lesbian — must she wear a hijab in front of all women?
“Why do I have to be the ambassador for Islam? Why do I have to represent Pakistan when I’ve only been there twice?” Zed demands in her one-woman show, “Headscarf and the Angry Bitch.”
Zed is a child of 9/11, an in-your-face Muslim who rocks out yet still covers. Born in Libertyville, Ill., Fazal grew up in a home that was liberal by Muslim standards and conservative in the eyes of her Christian friends. Her family wasn’t much for going to mosque, but some parental rules rendered Fazal and her sisters different.
But in the aftermath of Sept. 11, she became uncomfortable with her father’s decision to go on local TV to try to explain that Islam was a religion of peace. She grew exasperated over having to somehow prove her patriotism to strangers and angry when her dad’s name temporarily popped up on a no-fly list because it was similar to that of some bad guy.
In the past 18 months alone, U.S. Muslims have felt compelled to explain — to themselves and their non-Muslim neighbors — the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre, the attempted bombing of Times Square, the backlash against a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero, and sting operations that led to the arrests of alleged Muslim proto-terrorists from Portland, Ore., to Ashburn.
The more Muslims feel singled out, the more they focus on painful divisions in their own ranks, between young and old, native and newcomer, secular and devout, militant and moderate. Two-thirds of this country’s Muslims are immigrants, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, hailing from scores of countries.
“In the ’60s and ’70s, we built mosques only to pray,” the imam says. “In the ’80s and ’90s, we built schools to educate our children. Now we are building cemeteries because we want to die in America. We are saying, ‘We are here. This is home.’ ”