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Europe’s Muslim women—and the men who murder them. Two Islam-themed plays at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Exploring Islamic “purity”: “The Veiled Monologues” og  Adelheid Roosen’s “Is.Man”

On the November night in 2003 when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death by an Islamist extremist in Amsterdam, Nazmiye Oral was in a tiny Dutch town acting in The Veiled Monologues. The production is about, and performed by, women from Europe’s Muslim communities. Her shaken audience, in a small country struggling with large numbers of immigrants, suddenly had no idea what to think about Muslims and Islam. “The feeling in the theater was electric,” the actress recalls.
Back in Amsterdam, mourners in Dam Square were banging on pots and pans. So Oral made a curtain speech-—now her program note—telling the shaken audience that “we came to make noise from the heart. If we can touch each others’ hearts, then there is hope.”

This week, Oral arrives in Brooklyn hoping to reach American hearts. She and her fellow cast members—all from Dutch Muslim backgrounds—will perform two theater productions in English, opening October 5 and running in rep through October 14.The Veiled Monologues evokes the conflicting worlds and desires of immigrant women. Is.Man is about a conflicted immigrant man who kills his daughter.

Despite its title, The Veiled Monologues is not a variation on The Vagina Monologues. The Veiled Monologues was inspired by director Adelheid Roosen’s 2003 interviews with hundreds of Muslim women now living in the Netherlands. The women, who came from Kuwait, Mali, Turkey, Morocco, and elsewhere, spoke privately and anonymously about love, desire, anatomy, and cultural conflict. Roosen—a performer, director, and documentary maker well known in the Netherlands—artfully shaped and sculpted their stories into 12 poetic monologues (in English) for three performers, who are accompanied by asaz, the Turkish lute. Roosen uses colorful language and ample humor for a difficult subject; although the monologue form might sound familiar, there’s little sentiment or didacticism.

Roosen’s darker companion piece, Is.Man, deals with the male side of this coin. Weaving three generations’ perspectives, Is.Man unravels the events that lead a father to kill his teenage daughter, whom he suspects is unchaste, so he can uphold rural Turkish honor codes. The piece, which premiered in Amsterdam this spring, is partly based on Roosen’s real-life conversations with men serving prison sentences in the Netherlands.

Getting inside these minds—and these prisons—was not easy for Roosen. “I made Is.Man out of a creative anger,” she said in a telephone interview from Amsterdam. Dutch audiences were embracing the lighter Veiled Monologues, but a culture of aggressive male supremacy underlying the women’s stories was getting overlooked. Roosen wondered if audiences simply couldn’t wrap their minds around it: “Killing your child out of a perception—that is something we do not understand in Holland.”  (..)

Most of the debate that the shows have generated around the world has been civil and civic-minded. But the Amsterdam theater where it premiered in 2003 did receive a bomb threat.”I made this for the West,” she stresses. “I am from the West.”   Village Voice 

 (her kan jeg minde om at der i   bare  i Berlin de seneste  fire måneder,  er myrdet seks (6) kvinder  ved  æresløse drab. I nært beslægtet kategori er de  efterhånden ikke så få indvandrermord på europæiske  kvinder.)

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