• Thursday, June 30, 2022

Arts and Culture

Why writer Asif Khan wants to change perceptions of Muslims in new play

By: Lauren Codling


AN ASIAN playwright has revealed he wanted his latest production to humanise British Muslims, as it makes its debut next month.

Asif Khan’s comic drama Imaam Imraan will premiere on July 1 as part of the Bradford Literature Festival. The production follows a young actor who returns to his Bradford roots to rediscover his Muslim identity.

Presented by the National Youth Theatre (NYT), the narrative explores the trials and tribulations of a modern-day Muslim in Britain.

A practising Muslim himself, Khan admitted he did not feel Muslim voices were well represented in the media. In working on Imaam Imraan, the writer hoped to show that British Muslims lived similar lives to every other person in the UK.

“British Muslims go to work, do normal everyday things like choosing to have pizza for dinner or watching TV, but unfortunately, maybe some think those aren’t good enough characters to create a dramatic story,” he said.

“But it is about time that Muslims were seen as normal human beings and that is what I want to do with this play.”

The cast of NYT’s Imaam Imraan in rehearsal

He hopes British Muslims can relate to aspects of Imraan’s story – and that non-Muslim audience members are able to see a new, refreshing and authentic Muslim voice.

Although he believes that Muslim voices are becoming more visible in the creative arts industry, Khan said progress is still needed.

“In theatre, there are some really great playwrights coming through, such as The Funeral Director’s Iman Qureshi, but in television, we (are lacking representation),” he said.

Admitting his local community is “not a theatre going audience”, the Bradford-born playwright stressed that he strived to bring his work to his hometown. He hoped the representation of ethnic stories would entice more people to engage with the arts.

“Bringing a play like this where (ethnic minority) characters and experiences are represented, I hope they will get the theatre buzz and come back for more,” Khan said.

Although he now resides in London, Khan admitted he still misses his local community in the north of England. Bradford has a slower pace of life, he said.

And, even though he has relocated to the capital, all of his immediate family still live in West Yorkshire.

“I do love coming back home and getting spoilt by my mum… that’s the best,” he laughed.

Khan, who won the award for Best Production at the Eastern Eye Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards (ACTAs) for his debut play, Combustion, last June, initially got into the arts while at university.

Asif Khan attending the 2018 ACTAs, where he won an award for his production Combustion

Having only experienced theatre at a later age, he was unaware of the NYT and the work they do to encourage young people in the creative industry.

He only became exposed to the initiative while studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

“Had I known about NYT, I would have definitely wanted to be involved,” he said. “It is vital that people are aware of initiatives such as these.”

For the current production, the youth theatre has gathered a young, diverse cast together for Imaam Imraan.

“There is so much talent and I’m so impressed with their passion,” he said. “I hope that any other young aspiring actors who may be afraid to take that first step see these actors and think they can do it too…that is important. It is underestimated how important diverse representation is.”

Imaam Imraan runs at Kala Sangam at the Bradford Literature Festival from July 1-4.

Feature image by Helen Murray
Eastern Eye

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