The diversity office of a Maryland county planned to commemorate 9/11 by hosting a play that it said “explores themes like Islamophobia” and “expose[s] the racial and ethnic prejudices” against Muslims — in which the main Arab-American character admits he was “proud” when the Twin Towers fell, and another says America “deserved what it got.”
Howard County was set to host the play on Saturday, the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 Americans. “County Executive Calvin Ball will provide opening remarks,” an announcement from the county executive and the Office of Human Rights & Equity said. It advertised the play as exposing “the racial and ethnic prejudices that ‘secretly persist in even the most progressive cultural circles’ in a post-9/11 America.”
They then deleted the announcement and “postponed” the play — “Disgraced” by Ayad Akhtar — due to “unforeseen circumstances.” They did not explain those circumstances, but if anyone in the Equity office had gotten around to reading the play, they would have found out that it actually mocks white liberals as naive.
In it, a white liberal woman named Emily lectures her Muslim-raised husband Amir that Islam does not actually encourage men to beat their wives, as he says it does. She also disagrees with a black woman for being conservative, then sleeps with her husband. When Amir finds out about the affair, he beats her with “uncontrolled,” “brutal” violence.
The play tells the story of Amir, a New York lawyer who says that his first crush was a Jewish girl and that his mother spit in his face when she found out. Then he spit in the face of the girl. Amir later marries Emily, a housewife in the Upper East Side who fashions herself an aspiring artist who is enthralled with Islamic art.
Amir says he can understand why airports would search Arabs before they get on a plane, while Emily says, “I disagree. The next attack is coming from some white guy who’s got a gun he shouldn’t have.”
They are joined for dinner by Jory, a black lawyer, and her husband Isaac, a Jewish art buyer. Jory says the full veil that some Muslim women wear is “evil” because “you erase a face, you erase individuality,” and says she’s more interested in “order” than “justice,” saying when “you pull yourself out of the ghetto, you realize real soon order is where it’s at.”
Emily argues, “Me. Justice. Always.”
In a conversation with Issac, Amir says he was proud when 9/11 happened, while Emily tries to convince herself it is not true:
ISAAC: Did you feel pride on September Eleventh?
AMIR (With hesitation): If I’m honest, yes.
EMILY: You don’t really mean that, Amir.
AMIR: I was horrified by it, okay? Absolutely horrified.
JORY: Pride about what? About the towers coming down? About people getting killed?
AMIR: That we were finally winning.
The law firm eventually makes Jory partner, a position Amir wanted, and Amir tells Jory, “You think you’re the n—er here? I’m the n—er!! Me!!”
After Amir discovers that Emily slept with Isaac, he beats her, then is joined by his Islamic fundamentalist nephew, Abe.
Abe has been questioned by the FBI after his friend berates a Starbucks barista and tells her America created al-Qaeda — an assertion Abe agrees with — and that America “deserved what it got and what it was going to get.”
Abe says when the FBI asked about his immigration status, he laughed at them, saying they’re “going into our community and looking for people whose immigration status is vulnerable.”
He says if he gets deported, it “wouldn’t be the worst thing” and that “maybe we never should have left. Maybe we never should have come to this one.”
“They’ve conquered the world. We’re gonna get it back. That’s our destiny. It’s in the Quran,” he said. “For three hundred years they’ve been taking our land, drawing new borders, replacing our laws, making us want to be like them. Look like them. Marry their women. They disgraced us. They disgraced us. And then they pretend they don’t understand the rage we’ve got?”
Near the end of the play, Emily says she was “naïve.”
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