“I’m Nur. I’m 19. I’m an Arab, I’m a Muslim,” says a young man in a hoodie and grey sweats. “I’m a good person living in a bad area,” he pauses and looks up from his script. “Can someone listen while I speak?” Nur asks.
This is a rehearsal for Conflict of Silence, a radio play to be performed ”” and recorded ”” in Birmingham on November 17. The three stars, all unemployed, are different ages and of different ethnic backgrounds. What they share is religious faith: Derek, who reads his script straight, then in West Indian patois, is Christian. Nur and Hanna, a tall, leggy girl in a magenta hijab, are Muslim. And they could not be more different. “What I’ve learnt is the strong effect that different cultures have on Islam,” says Derek. Hanna is of Somali origin, Nur’s family are from Yemen. “We had a bit of a disagreement about women staying at home,” says Hanna lightly.
And that is the point. This is a project for InterFaith Week (which runs from tomorrow until next Satuday), and the aim is to air differences and have open debate. The audience will be invited to respond afterwards, ask questions, share thoughts. “The play is a question mark rather than a full stop,” says Steve, the Christian co-ordinating the play for Soul City Arts. The hope is to spark dialogue between polarised faith communities. He explains: “Our [faith] communities aren’t talking because we are afraid to challenge each other.” People remain polite, he adds, but, often in Muslim majority areas, community relations are perceived “as a question of them and us”.
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