We Are Abdellah (life-in-progress) [working title]

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We Are Abdellah is an ongoing context for new collaborative works by Whitfield and
a diverse group of artists and activists in an environment that explores confronting and exploring French culture and the daily dissonant realities of exile, assimilation and difference for queer immigrants in Paris.
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gay-muslim
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We Are Abdellah is conceived as a creative community that comes together around the process of making, making to save one’s life. The first project of this segment of This Dancerie will be:
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Gone, a play in seven lines.

by Tony Whitfield

 

In Bangladesh, Ajeet’s brothers see Mashiur kissing the boy he loves.

 

The brothers expel Ajeet from his home, his town, and Ajeet hears them end the life of his love.

 

Ajeet makes his way to Paris where he is taken in by five homophobic men of differing ages from different Muslim backgrounds.

 

Ajeet fears they will kill him.

 

Ajeet meets Ajeet a Syrian dancer, alternately gay and not gay, who has survived Daesh and a disaster at sea to get to Europe.

 

They connect deeply but question if they are, can be in love in their worlds of fear and threat.

 

The play takes place on Paris rooftops where images from Ajeet and Waled’s life are projected onto screens against various skies over several days.

 

Gone, a pantoum

 

My sky is on fire.

Don’t tell me everything

I ever wanted is here.

You are my lie, my fear.

 

Don’t tell me everything

You feel, you live through

You are my lie, my fear

Is dying, a burning love is real, anew.

 

You feel, you live through

Chances of this world. My world

Is dying, a burning love reel, anew.

And I am left, am leaving, am gone.

 

Am gone.

I might be, gone.

Am left. Am leaving.

Left. Robbed. Gone.

 

 

 

Autumn, on a large flat rooftop with panoramic view of the Paris running from dusk into and hour of darkness; round tables seating six

 

Act 1.

 

15 minute kissing scene between Ajeet and his love; simultaneous silent, subtitled video documentary on being gay in Bangladesh followed be three minute scene in which Mashiur is discovered, driven off and the murder (perhaps) takes place.

 

15 minute intermission

 

Act 2.

 

10-15 minute dance/movement piece tracing Waled’s escape from Syria and passage by water to Berlin with video of Syria, the sea, refugees in Europe

 

15 minute intermission: tea served

 

Act 3.

 

Ajeet and Waled meet. Their accidental meeting, interactions online and one on one. Projections of on line interactions and the documentation of their existence and passage from their homelands to potential asylum.

 

15 minute intermission: tea served, interaction about asylum issues through online platforms

 

Act 4.

 

Collaboratively developed 15 minute version of Yosiko Chuma’s ongoing piece, π=3.14, everything or nothing involving members of the audience.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/06/arts/dance/review-yoshiko-chuma-in-a-journey-across-borders.html

 

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BACKGROUND:
Gay mosque opening in Paris to promote traditional Arab boy-love culture
« on: November 29, 2012, 02:06:58 PM »

Yikes.  Gay and Muslim.  I don’t think even a lifetime of therapy would help.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/gay-mosque-open-paris-address-secret/story?id=17821887#.ULdohWfNkzc

Ludovic Mohammed Zahed is braced for controversy, maybe even worse. A gay Muslim and an expert on the Koran, Zahed plans to open Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque in Paris at the end of this month. He calls it a place of shelter as well as a place of worship.

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“We need to have a safe space for people who do not feel comfortable and at ease in normal mosques,” Zahed told ABC News. “There are transgender people who fear aggression, women who do not want to wear head scarf or sit in the back of the mosque. This project gives hope back to many believers in my community.”

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“Common prayer, practiced in an egalitarian setting and without any form of gender-based discrimination, is one of the pillars supporting the proposed reforms of our progressive representation of Islam,” he said.

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“The Unity” mosque will initially operate in a Buddhist temple in a neighborhood in eastern Paris, and will emphasize “accepting everyone as equally God’s creation….I hope straight men will pray together with gay men and women, everyone,” said Zahed who declines to make public the address of the venue, due to security concerns.

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Zahed’s mosque will honor some Islamic traditions, like Friday prayers (Jumu’ah), and the Muslim marriage contract (Nikah) to bless same-sex marriage. It will also perform funeral rites (Janazah) for those who have been denied a traditional Islamic funeral based on Sharia law because of their sexual orientation.

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“It is a safe place to worship,” said Zahed, where no religious questions will go unaddressed. “Our imams will talk on any taboo topic.” Zahed will be one of three prayer leaders, along with a female French convert to Islam and another man who is being trained.

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“Current Islamic ethics may condemn this sexual orientation,” Zahed said, “but in fact nothing in Islam or the Koran forbids homosexuality. Indeed, for centuries, Muslims did not consider homosexuality to be the supreme abomination that they do today.”

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According to Zahed, renowned Muslim poets wrote odes glorifying handsome boys. Some were interpreted as metaphors for loving God, but some also seem to reference gay intimate relations. Zahed argues that homosexuality became criminalized only under European colonialism.

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“From the 10th to the 14th century, Muslim society used to be a far richer mix of the legal, the rational and the mystic,” said Zahed. “They looked at sexuality as one aspect of life’s many possibilities, and they saw in it the hope for spiritual insight.”

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“Even if this mosque is newfound freedom,” said Nasser, an openly-gay Parisian, “gays will remain in a closet, worried about being ostracized at their local schwarma stand.”

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While it would be the first gay mosque in Paris, there are believed to be 21 other gay mosques sprinkled through the U.S., Canada and South Africa.

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In countries where traditional Islam is dominant, like Egypt and Iran, punishment against homosexual activity, not to mention advocacy for gay rights, is very severe.

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Zahed’s Parisian mosque will be inspired by the work of Muslims for Progressive Values in North America, who practice common prayer, in an egalitarian setting and without any form of gender-based discrimination.

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“We are already working very closely with them. The idea for our Paris mosque comes as a result of our conversations,” says Zahed, whose future plans include “a progressive mosque in the UK and then another one in Denmark will follow.”

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Zahed believes, if the Prophet Mohamad was alive today, he would marry gay couples. He himself is the first gay man to marry partner in a Muslim ceremony in France. He is an Algerian PhD student writing his thesis on Islam and homosexuality, a subject he also addressed in a book “The Koran and the Flesh.”

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He has experienced anti-gay discrimination from Islamic groups, and Islamophobia from members of the French gay community.

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Meanwhile there is a lot of controversy in France regarding both same-sex marriages and Islamic influence and practices. Ten days ago, tens of thousands protesters took to the streets against government’s plan to legalize same-sex marriage, while several weeks ago, right wing protesters stormed an unfinished mosque to show disapproval of France’s large community of Muslim immigrants.

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