We were so lucky to have Professor Hussein Rashid join us for a performance of The Sarah Play and participate in a panel following the show. The conversation that night explored ways that interfaith communities can continue to gather around art and story. The following is a blog post that he wrote in response to that conversation.
There are several themes that emerged from our conversation following The Sarah Play at the Genesis Plays Festival at the 14th Street Y. We talked about repetition in the play and in the source materials. In a quote attributed to JM Barrie, “All of this has happened before, and will all happen again.” It reminds of the refrain from the reboot of the Battlestar Galactica TV series, which offered a story of the genesis of the human race.
But perhaps the idea that resonated the most with me was one of offense. The play deals with questions of representation and offense, and could the creation of the play offend certain viewers or communities. During our discussion, Jon revealed that because he was concerned about causing offense, he neutered a scene he was using to demonstrate what the play was about.
The community he was working with responded with a challenge to him to allow them the right to decide what was offensive to them, rather than having it imposed. I think his story, and the reflection of it in the play, are instructive as to how we approach conversations across community lines.
These conversations should not be difficult conversations, unless we choose to make them difficult. By limiting who we are, we cannot enter in honest, truthful conversation. By limiting ourselves because of who we think we are engaging, limits them and their ability to enter into honest, truthful conversations. Theses honest, truthful conversations rely on trust: trust that we are being true to ourselves, trust that we are approaching each other with the best of intentions, trust that we want to build a common good.
When we come with that trust and those intentions, we can build something grand. Honest conversation has to come from respect of self and respect of others. To be pithy, don’t be a jerk.
It’s only in knowing each other that we truly know ourselves. The Qur’an tells us that we were created to know each other (49:13), so there is no reason to avoid that knowledge. Come, let us have conversations that require care and attention, but that should not be difficult.