New play explores mosque building in America

Art Midwest

The fictional proposed mosque in the Jamil Khoury play, Mosque Alert. (Courtesy Silk Road Rising)

A new play, based on fictional events set in a Chicago suburb, explores the tension around building Mosques in the United States.

Mosque Alert - Landscape

Mosque Alert Poster (Courtesy Silk Road Rising)

Mosque Alert started out as a reaction to the debate surrounding the mosque planned, but never built, near the World Trade Center, New York City. The play revolves around three families in Naperville, IL, just outside of Chicago, as a mosque is planned to be built on a beloved historic site in their neighborhood.

Written by Jamil Khoury, Mosque Alert was originally conceived as an online civic engagement project. In that spirit, the play was developed through community based workshops, with over 2,500 Muslims and non-Muslims participated over the last five years. As such, the characters of the play represent a broad demographic and set of ideologies around the topic.


(Courtesy Silk Road Rising)

“I should thank Donald Trump,” playwright Jamil Khoury said in a press release. “If Mosque Alert was relevant when I first started, that relevance has since exploded. Today the play exists within a cultural zeitgeist animated by fears of immigrants, fears of Muslims, demographic anxiety attacks, and calls to erect walls and impose bans—a more optimistic read is that of one big messy America struggling to work it out for the better.”

Director and Chicago native Edward Torres recently directed Macbeth for the Public Theater. He reflected on the themes of the play in a press release, saying “Mosque Alert gives voice to multiple American perspectives and exposes the fears at the heart of intolerance.”

Silk Road Rising, the playhouse producing the play describes the production as “the intersections of zoning and Islamophobia with humor.”

Park51, the mosque and community center planned for Lower Manhattan, and inspiration for the play, was controversially dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque” due to its relation to the World Trade Center Site. The original name of the project, designed by Michel Abboud in 2010, was “Cordoba House.” The reference was meant to evoke the peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians in the 8th Century Córdoba, Spain. After much debate, the project was eventually suspended and new plans were made for the site. Currently the owner is planning to build a Luxury condominium tower at the location.

Mosque Alert will show from March 24th – May 1st, Thursdays through Sundays at the Historic Chicago Temple Building in downtown Chicago.

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