The Imam and The Homosexual, written and directed by Jamil Khoury at Silk Road Rising, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Photo: Deann Baker.
Volume 1

The Imam and The Homosexual

The Imam and The Homosexual by Jamil Khoury
 Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 1 (Fall 2014)
 ©2014 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

The Imam and The Homosexual was released in video form on the Silk Road Rising website (as well as on YouTube) in 2012.  It was written as part of a larger new play project called Mosque Alert, which will receive its College World Premiere at Illinois’ Knox College in February 2015, directed by Neil Blackadder.  It has not yet been published.  The video has been screened in classrooms, at conferences, and in public presentations, and has been downloaded from the internet in dozens of countries, including many majority Muslim countries. I encourage you to first read the script and then watch the video of the play below.


Characters

Carl Baker – A 26 year old, Caucasian male graduate student at the University of Chicago pursuing a PhD in political science.  An “out” gay man and activist for progressive causes.  Born and raised in Naperville, Illinois.  Son of a right-wing father who is active in local politics.  Home for a summer visit.

Imam Mustafa Khan – The 42 year old, Pakistani born imam of Naperville’s Al Ulama Mosque. Originally trained as an engineer.  Married to Ayesha Khan. The father of two children, Miriam and Issa, ages 6 and 4 respectively.

Setting
Summertime.  Current year.  In a “neutral” and very public space, likely a coffee shop.  At top, we see Carl Baker and and Imam Mustafa Khan sitting opposite each other, conversation already in progress.


CARL
Imam Mustafa, you have no idea how much I’ve wanted to meet you.  I’m honored.  In the civil libertarian community, you sir, are a hero.  And I am thrilled that you liked my op-ed.

IMAM MUSTAFA
Liked it?  My whole community loved it!  We were all very moved.  Who’d of thought that the son of Charles Baker would be making the case for our mosque on the pages of the Naperville Gazette?  Carl, do you realize that you have written a definitive argument for Muslim American civil rights?  And you’re not even Muslim!

CARL
I had to do something.  I can’t sit silent while my father runs roughshod over the First Amendment.  Besides, the Muslim community is being targeted here.  It’s being singled out.  The discrimination is blatant.

IMAM MUSTAFA
We’ve tried to reach out to your father a number of times, but he refuses to meet with us.

CARL
Look, I know my father has caused a lot of pain in your community here, and I’m sorry, I feel terrible, I mean . . .

IMAM MUSTAFA
Carl, it is never easy for a son.  I too am a son.  I cannot even imagine, for the son of a public figure to take such a strong stand against his own father.  Such a principled stand.  That takes a lot of courage.

CARL
Thank you.  That’s very kind.  My dad and I, we disagree about a lot of things.  I wish that weren’t the case, him being so anti-everything.  He can’t even deal with me being gay.  He can’t even pretend to not be homophobic.

IMAM MUSTAFA
(pause)  Oh.

CARL
Imam Mustafa, you do know I’m gay, right?

IMAM MUSTAFA
I had heard . . .

CARL
That’s not a problem for you, is it?

IMAM MUSTAFA
Uh, no, of course not.

CARL
I just assumed, you being a progressive Muslim and all, that you’re pro-gay rights.

IMAM MUSTAFA
There are many ways to be progressive.  Islam is a progressive religion.

CARL
I mean, I know there’s a big debate in Islam about homosexuality.

IMAM MUSTAFA
A debate?

CARL
Of course the Muslim fundamentalists are anti-gay.  Just like the Christian fundamentalists and the Jewish fundamentalists, the Mormons . . .

IMAM MUSTAFA
If by homosexuality you are referring to the act of sodomy between two men . . .

CARL
I sure hope so!

IMAM MUSTAFA
(not amused) Excuse me?  (pause)  The act of sodomy must be witnessed by four adult men before any punishment can be proscribed.  And how likely is that?  That is the brilliance of our Holy Qur’an.  An objection is raised, but then the burden of proof also gets raised, so high . . .

CARL
Either that or Islam has a peculiar penchant for voyeurism.  Four witnesses and all.  (laughs, notices that Imam Mustafa does not appreciate his humor)  I’m sorry.  Look, when Christians tell me that Christianity condemns homosexuality, I say, well then, Christianity is wrong about homosexuality.  Christianity may be right about all sorts of things, but it is . . . of course Christianity doesn’t condemn homosexuality.  Those people are just idiots.

IMAM MUSTAFA
Islam is very clear.  Allah knows we make mistakes.  We’re human.  We’re fallible.  We succumb to temptation.  Allah gave man free will.  Four witnesses? Maybe that’s Allah’s way of telling us to be discreet.

CARL
Allah speaks in allegory.  I love it.  Marry four wives if you can treat them all equally and since you can’t treat them all equally, you can only marry one.

IMAM MUSTAFA
(nervous laughter)  Kind of. Uh, look, I know my community.  In my community, if you talk about sex, any kind of sex, let alone gay sex, you will lose people.  You will offend people.  Maybe there’s something to guarding one’s privacy.  Maybe Allah understands . . .

CARL
Sir, with all due respect, don’t ask, don’t tell doesn’t work.  It’s asking gay people to lie.  To hide and to live in shame.  I get that you’re evolving and all, and I’m happy to meet you where you’re at . . .

IMAM MUSTAFA
Meet me where I’m at?  All human beings are entitled to privacy.  Not everything needs to be public knowledge.

CARL
But you’re not talking about privacy, you’re talking about closets.

IMAM MUSTAFA
Closets?

CARL
Obviously you understand your tradition a million times better than I do, but my Muslim friends, particularly my gay Muslim friends, and there are gay Muslims you know, they tell me that Muslim homophobia is entirely cultural, and that “sodomy” between guys is way more common in the Islamic world than it is here.

IMAM MUSTAFA
That is nonsense!  In the Islamic world?  Your friends are exaggerating.  I mean, sure there’s a cultural dimension, but there is also a religious dimension.  Yes, there are certain men and boys back home, a tiny minority, maybe even some women, perhaps, who do those things . . . we know this.  I knew some guys at my engineering school about whom, it was rumored, but that didn’t preclude them from getting married and having children.  From leading normal lives.   And if a man carries on with another man on the side, discreetly, that’s . . . we don’t condone it, we think it’s wrong, but we know it happens.  He’s still a husband to his wife.  He’s still a father to his children.  He’s still a man.

CARL
So what, I’m not a man?

The Imam and The Homosexual, written and directed by Jamil Khoury at Silk Road Rising, Chicago, Illinois, USA.  Photo:  Deann Baker.

The Imam and The Homosexual, written and directed by Jamil Khoury at Silk Road Rising, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Photo: Deann Baker.

IMAM MUSTAFA
Of course you’re man. (pause)  American culture is different.  There are things that people will accept here . . . the West has created categories that don’t work in the Muslim world.  In Pakistan, for example, homosexuality is seen as something one does, not something one is.  One engages in homosexual behavior, one is not a homosexual.  That’s how we believe.

CARL
As my friend Samir loves to say, “Lots of homosexuality in Saudi Arabia, but ain’t no homosexuals.”  Meanwhile the whole country’s downloading gay porn.

IMAM MUSTAFA
Carl, if you want to have a serious conversation with me then show me some respect.

CARL
I have nothing but respect for you, Imam Mustafa. I’m your ally no matter what.  I’m just a little miffed that . . . I too am fighting for my rights in this country.  Okay.  I too am discriminated against.

IMAM MUSTAFA
No one in American should be discriminated against.  All discrimination is wrong.  Of course.  But you cannot compare the two . . .

CARL
Yes, you can.

IMAM MUSTAFA
(pause)  Here, they tell us that people are born gay.  They say being gay is not something one chooses.  It’s like being left handed or having brown eyes. Right?

CARL
Yes, people are born gay, and we are as flawed and imperfect as everyone else.  Albeit infinitely more fabulous.  And we deserve the same dignity, the same rights . . .

IMAM MUSTAFA
We all deserve dignity.  But Allah makes no mistakes.  Allah is Al Majeed.  He is glorious, compassionate, generous, and kind.  Allah is perfect.  We are not.  And we believe that the Holy Qur’an is the word of Allah.  So if the Qur’an forbids certain activities . . .

CARL
There was a billboard in North Carolina that read “Abortion is Murder, Homosexuality is a Sin, Islam is a Lie.”  It was put up by some whack job Christian church.   For me that billboard crystallized precisely what the American right wing thinks of us—women, queers, Muslims.

IMAM MUSTAFA
And we have to fight such people.  We have to fight their hatred.  We have to fight their ignorance . . .

CARL
And we should do it together.  Queers and Muslims walk on common ground in this country.  Those who despise queers, also despise Muslims.  Effective politics are coalition politics. Sure, we may disagree every now and then.  And yes, there are Muslims who hate queers and queers who hate Muslims, but instead of attacking each other, we should be learning from each other.

IMAM MUSTAFA
Muslim Americans can learn a lot from the struggles others have fought in America.  I learned recently that even Europeans from Ireland and Italy and Poland were mistreated in this country for generations.  And they’re all Christians!  And yes, I am very impressed with the way gay people in this country have been able to create change in this country.  I’ve studied your movement, I’ve . . . your community went from being one of the most despised communities in the country to one that is today championed by the country’s president.  That is brilliant.

CARL
Queer kids get bullied in school.  Muslim kids get bullied in school.  Queers suffer violent hate crimes.  Muslims suffer violent hate crimes. Queers are discriminated against at work.  Muslims are discriminated against at work.

IMAM MUSTAFA
Carl, I reached out to you because you wrote a most eloquent and powerful and compassionate piece . . . I thought we were meeting . . . you said in your email to me that you wanted us to brainstorm changing public opinion about the building of mosques . . .

CARL
And I do!

IMAM MUSTAFA
I am an imam. I provide spiritual guidance to my community.  I help people make sense of their faith.  I want every Muslim in my community to have a meaningful relationship with God.  And yes, the Muslim community and the gay community, yes, we have some enemies in common.  But we’re also very different.   Look, I respect your right to make whatever choices you want . . .

CARL
Choices?  Is that what you . . . you know, you speak as if there’s some impenetrable wall separating Muslims and queers.  But a lot of people happen to land on both sides of that wall.  Muslims are queer and queers are Muslim.

IMAM MUSTAFA
I don’t know what that means.  What I can tell you is that Muslims are very family oriented people.  We’re very traditional, we’re very conservative, especially when it comes to our children, our families.  I’m not saying that’s always good . . .

CARL
Let me ask you.  If a young member of your congregation were to come to you and tell you he was gay, what would you say to him?

IMAM MUSTAFA
(pause) In America, there’s this idea that straight relationships and gay relationships are the same, that they’re equal . . .

CARL
They are equal but that wasn’t my question.  If a young member of your congregation were to come to you and tell you he was gay, would you . . . ?

IMAM MUSTAFA
The masjid, the mosque, it belongs to the community.  It’s a place where we gather to commune with Allah.

CARL
And if you’re gay?  Are you also welcome to commune with Allah?

IMAM MUSTAFA
That is between the individual and his creator.

CARL
So this gay kid finally works up the courage to out himself to you.  No words of encouragement?  No understanding?  No assuring him that he’s a valued and cherished member of the community?

IMAM MUSTAFA
As an imam, I do not encourage anyone, never mind a Muslim, to be gay.  No.  But if a member of my mosque were to tell me he’s gay, I would not banish him. I would not condemn him.  I would in fact defend his right to pray at the mosque even if the community objected.  But I would be obliged to instruct him as to what Holy Qur’an teaches us.  Now he can decide for himself which path he wishes to take, but on our day of judgment, we face Allah by ourselves.  We own up to our sins and our transgressions.  It is not my place to render the verdict on homosexuality.  I am merely a teacher, I’m not the authority.  All authority belongs to Allah.

CARL
Sins and transgressions!  Excuse me, but you are way too handsome to be preaching such ugly ideas.  You rail against Islamophobia and then you hide behind Islam as your dish out this doctrine of homophobia!

IMAM MUSTAFA
Doctrine of homophobia?  (pause)  Islam provides for us a clear moral path.  I wish you and every gay person in this country the absolute best.  Allah loves you no less than anyone else.  But if you are asking me, as an imam, to bless your sex life . . .

CARL
I am not seeking Islam’s approval anymore than I’m seeking the Pillsbury dough boy’s approval.  I am pointing out the contradictions, the deep flaws in your line of reasoning . . .

IMAM MUSTAFA
If you are my ally, than you are my ally out of conviction.  But if the price of your support is betraying my beliefs, than no, I am sorry.

CARL
A conviction only has value if it’s applied consistently.

IMAM MUSTAFA
My convictions are consistent.  With my faith!  You defend the freedom of religion, no?  Where’s your first amendment now?  (pause)  You are a lot like your father.

CARL
Whoa!  Do not go there!  You know, you’re not in Pakistan anymore, Imam Mustafa.  You’re not in the Arab World.  You’re not in Iran.  So how about dialing down all the rhetoric about what the Qur’an does and does not forbid.  We are fighting for our lives here, all of us, and you’re going to pass judgment on me?

THE END


Jamil Khoury is the Founding Artistic Director of Silk Road Rising.  He has also been named Playwright-in-Residence at Knox College for the 2014-15 academic year.  A theatre producer, playwright, essayist, and film maker, Khoury’s work focuses on Middle Eastern themes and questions of Diaspora. He is particularly interested in the intersections of culture, national identity, sexuality, and class.
Khoury is currently writing Mosque Alert, which grew out of an online interactive new play development and civic engagement project exploring resistance to the building of mosques in communities across the U.S.   He will soon be releasing his latest video play Multi Meets Poly: Multiculturalism and Polyculturalism Go On a First Date.
Khoury holds a M.A. degree in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a B.S. degree in International Relations from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is a Kellogg Executive Scholar (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) and has been awarded a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Nonprofit Management. Khoury is the 2013 recipient of the Actor’s Equity Association’s Lamkey Award for promoting diversity and inclusion in theatre, and the 2010 recipient of the 3Arts Artist Award for Playwriting.


Logo_Publications

Arab Stages
Volume 1, Number 1 (Fall 2014)
©2014 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Founders: Marvin Carlson and Frank Hentschker

Editor-in-Chief: Marvin Carlson

Editorial and Advisory Board: Fawzia Afzal-Khan, Dina Amin, Khalid Amine, Hazem Azmy, Dalia Basiouny, Katherine Donovan, Masud Hamdan, Sameh Hanna, Rolf C. Hemke, Katherine Hennessey, Areeg Ibrahim, Jamil Khoury, Dominika Laster, Margaret Litvin, Rebekah Maggor, Safi Mahfouz, Robert Myers, Michael Malek Naijar, George Potter, Juan Recondo, Nada Saab, Asaad Al-Saleh, Torange Yeghiazarian, Edward Ziter.

Managing Editor: Joy Arab

Table of Content
Essays

  • Brecht’s Theatre and Social Change in Egypt (1954-71) by Magdi Youssef
  • Re-orienting Orientalism: from Shafik Gabr’s “What Orientalist Painters Can Teach Us about the Art of East –West Dialogue” to Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced by Fawzia Afzal-Khan
  • ‘Now I will believe that there are unicorns’: The Improbable History of Shakespeare in Yemen by Katherine Hennessey
  • Radhouane El Meddeb’s Experiments With Gender: In Search of New Bodies by Omar Fertat
  • Coptic Christian Theatre in Egypt: Negotiations Between The Minority and The Majority by Mohammed Musad
  • A New Perspective on Mikhail Ruman’s Smoke in A President of His own Republic? by Anwaar Abdelkhalik Abdalla
  • Kheireddine Lardjam, Traveller Between Two Shores by Marina Da Silva
  • Where Theatre has failed Syrians by Rolf C. Hemke
  • The Arab Aristophanes by Marvin Carlson

Plays

  • Solitaire by Dalia Baisouny
  • The Imam and the Homosexual by Jamil Khoury

Review

  • Struggling Against Insurmountable Odds: Theatre in the Arab World/Theater im Arabischen Sprachraum A Book Review by Michael Malek Najjar

Malumat/Information

  • Malumat: Resources for Research, Writing/Publishing, Teaching, & Performing Arts compiled by Kate C. Wilson

www.arabstages.org
arabstages@gc.cuny.edu

Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
Frank Hentschker, Executive Director
Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications
Rebecca Sheahan, Managing Director

css.php
Skip to toolbar