MOUNT LAWLEY playwright Doreshawar Khan was partway through her latest work about three Muslim siblings when news broke of the Christchurch Mosque shooting.
She says it was a fearful time for Muslims in Perth as they faced prejudice in the aftermath.
“I’ve had friends who’ve stopped wearing the hijab after this, because they were abused in Forrest Chase days after the attack happened. They were told; ‘I hope someone shoots up your mosque’.
“We had a vigil in Forrest Chase, and there were people yelling at other human beings who were just standing there with candles in silence.
“They just walk by and yell horrible obscenities.”
Khan says seeing the attack in a place like New Zealand, with its progressive prime minister, made her fear what could happen in Australia given Parliament’s lineup.
“If places like New Zealand aren’t safe, then how do you survive in a country that’s starting to get more right wing day-by-day?
“It makes you feel really unsafe.
“The fact it happened in a mosque, on a holy day … to have that defiled in such a way, it made me question; ’if there is a God, why is this happening?’”
Her play Sharbat deals with three migrant Australian siblings with differing levels of faith (housewife-turned-influencer Shaz, punk medical student Batty and anxiety-ridden middle child Roo) struggling to find the right mix of religious and cultural makeup.
Sharbat is a sweet cordial diluted according to personal tastes which is popular in many Islamic countries.
“Just like every person thinks their ratio of cordial to water is the correct way, there’s a lot of opinion as to how you be a proper Muslim, or how you be Australian,” Khan says.
Coming from a family of three kids, Sharbat was already a personal story, but Khan’s experiences in the aftermath of Christchurch were woven in to give it added poignancy.
In the living room dramedy, three estranged sisters reunite when the Muslim holiday Eid coincidentally falls on Christmas Day. They debate racism, Australian identify and Islamic feminism.
Khan says she wanted “to showcase the diversity within a very misunderstood and typecast community and also to normalise the Muslim Australian experience.
“I’m hoping [audiences] see their own families reflected in our space. They’ll see the meddling sibling, the bratty sibling, they’ll see their anxious selves in the middle child,” she says.
Sharbat runs to November 2 at Blue Room Theatre, tickets $20-$30 via blueroom.org.au
by DAVID BELL