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Irish 'Hijabi Monologues' to break down barriers and assumptions

The play, which explores the experiences of Muslim women in Ireland, will be staged in axis Ballymun in April.

Image: Immigrant Council of Ireland

THE EXPERIENCES OF Muslim women in Ireland will be explored when an Irish version of the Hijabi Monologues receives its European premiere in Dublin this month.

There are 49,000 Muslims who now call Ireland home, and the Immigrant Council of Ireland has come on board to produce an Irish version of the US play Hijabi Monologues, which sees professional actors and non-actors perform the real-life monologues of Muslim women.

The council says the show can break down stereotypes and assumptions around Muslim women in Ireland, with personal and true stories being dramatised. The production is being co-hosted with the ICI, the British Council and axis theatre, Ballymun,

It is a licensed version of the US play, and Denise Charlton of the ICI said:

[Muslims] are playing a positive role in our society and are active in every part of Irish life. The aim of this production is to reflect that reality and to breakdown misconceptions which people may have about the Muslim community.

The play does not focus on the Hijab, or headscarf, but instead of the many thoughts that Muslim women have on Irish culture, society, life, education and other areas. The women featured in the stories may not wear a headscarf and some may not be Muslim themselves.

A call for submission was put out at the end of 2012, and now the play is in its final stages: the three actresses have been cast, the monologues chosen, and the show will hit the stage on 18 April, running until 20 April.

Diverse population

Jen Curtin of the ICI told TheJournal.ie that there are both professional and non-professional actors involved in the production. “There are happy stories, sad stories – it’s about women’s diverse experiences. The Muslim population in Ireland is quite diverse.”

She said the response to the call for stories was very positive:

People were very interested in having their voice heard. There are a lot of stories written about the Muslim communities, but not by the Muslim communities’ voices are often absent from these conversations.

She noted that Muslim women can often be represented as a homogeneous group, while they are in fact a very diverse population. The women whose stories are featured in the play don’t represent Muslim women as a whole, but themselves, their own journeys, their own stories, their own valid and important take on being a woman in Ireland – Muslim or not.

The stereotypes that surround the issue of the hijab or headscarf-wearing are generally negative; the real-life experiences of the women who actually choose to wear a headscarf, for example, help to smash such stereotypes.

With all age-groups featured in the show, from young girls to grandmothers, and with a range of experiences and emotions to be shared, women from all aspects of today’s Ireland are bound to find much to connect with in the Hijabi Monologues.

For those who want to learn more about the issues raised, a number of workshops will be held around the dates the production is held. For more information, visit the axis Ballymun website.

Read: Football chiefs lift ban on women wearing headscarves>

Column: Muslim women face all kinds of assumptions. Let’s look behind the headscarves>

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