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Faceless, written by Selina Fillinger and directed by BJ Jones, is an emotional, dramatic, tense, and eye-opening play. The play debuted January 26th, 2017, at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie. The play that reenacts the real-life event of an 18 year old girl charged with conspiring to commit acts of treason against the United States.
Susie Glenn, a convert to Islam, faces an intimidating prosecution who threatens to send her to jail. Susie had been in contact with a man she met on Twitter who claimed to be following the Islamic faith. Susie sees this man as a source for knowledge about the Islamic faith. Soon this mysterious man offers Susie the chance to join him abroad. This man is actually affiliated with terrorist groups and convinces Susie that his actions match up with her faith. Susie, being a convert, assumes that this man knows more than her, but in reality he has no intention of truly teaching or learning about the faith.
The play is set in the courtroom where the prosecution paints Susie as a threat to the U.S. and the defense attempts to prove Susie was psychologically incapable of making the decision to attempt to go abroad to join terrorist forces. Both Susie and her prosecutor don the hijab, a scarf some Muslim women wear. The play highlights the sharp contrast between Islam and political groups pretending to follow this faith. The prosecutor aims to preserve her own faith and seek justice against Susie who she believes is one of the terrorists hijacking her faith. Susie comes to know the true meaning of the Islamic faith, rather than hearing the incorrect religion told to her by the mysterious man from Twitter.
My personal experience with the play started with my mom, sister, and me packing into the car. Still not sure where we were going, since my mom loves taking us with her to any cultural-appreciation event, I began to play on my phone. We picked up my two friends, who both seemed more interested than I in what the play would be like. My mom explained to them a summary of where we were going and that it was a play about a Muslim. In my head I was thinking “An entire play about Muslims? Woah. That’s pretty awesome. So many people are going to learn about what Islam is really about in a time when so many misconceptions are there about the religion.” Then my mom said the play is about a Muslim being accused of being a terrorist by another Muslim. Then I started getting a bit more confused and was trying to figure out what I should think. I decided that it was best to just watch the play rather than thinking too hard about what I was going to see in the next two hours anyways.
I enjoyed the play and thought that it brought up important issues. One: most Muslims want to preserve their faith, but they want to do this by opposing groups like ISIS who are not an accurate representation of any religion. PEW Research supports this when stating that “people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism.” Two: a shocking amount of people aren’t getting their information about Islam from reliable sources. This is seen through the character Susie whose only source of knowledge on Islam is a mysterious man on Twitter – he even tells her not to seek out more info about Islam from a mosque (a legitimate source of knowledge about Islam). Also, according to a 2017 survey done by PEW Research, only 45% of U.S. adults know a Muslim. Three: groups like ISIS aim to manipulate people to think that they represent a religion when in reality they represent no religion.
The part of the play that I enjoyed most was the open discussion afterwards. People expressed their opinions about the court case and talked about issues they felt were prevalent in society. One thing that struck me was one attendee asked us to ponder how the case would have played out if Susie wasn’t white, sadly most of the crowd immediately agreed that alternate Susie would be convicted immediately. I also enjoyed hearing my friend, who is an atheist, discuss how he thought it was important to have appreciation for religious minorities. I think events like this are essential to promote a better understanding of misunderstood minorities. After this event, I also attended an interfaith event organized by Muslims, Jews, and Christians at St. Matthew United Church of Christ . Additionally I attended an open mosque in which Mecca Mosque of Naperville opened its doors to all for a discussion about inclusion and equality.
Inspired by this event and others, Chris English and I formed the Meet Muslims Initiative. The mission of The Meet Muslims Initiative is to allow Muslims to show who they really are and answer questions of others. We hope to host events in which people unaware of Islam are able to interact with those who follow the faith. We believe it is important to establish a community where differences are celebrated rather than rejected. April 13th, the MMI will be working with the Muslim Student Association of Glenbard West to host an Q and A session about Islam. The event is 100% student organized and will not be school sponsored. Questions can be asked to a panel of informed and educated leaders of local mosque. Pizza and ice cream will also be available. We hope to see you there! Come to room 105!