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What Fatima Did...

What Fatima Did...

Issue 63 December 2009

A Play by Atiha Sen Gupta

Review by Alyaa Ebbiary

Fatima, aged 17, drinks, smokes and parties. Before her 18th birthday she dons the hijab suddenly, without explanation. Fatima’s friends and family struggle to understand her behaviour: her boyfriend

is distraught at being dumped, her brother troubled by his sister’s withdrawal from their circle of friends. With a fiery, militantly secular Asian Mum and a hijabi who wears it assertively, the play tries not to pander to stereotypes.

Nearly the entire plot revolves around Fatima’s choice, yet it does not make full use of the myriad of different interpretations on scripture, or concepts of modesty. The longest soliloquy is by Fatima’s

female, Muslim ex-drinking buddy who launches into a diatribe against hijab as a practice ‘stained in blood’.

Hijab, rather than a multifaceted religio-cultural practice, is reduced to an act of teenage rebellion and a cause of social discord. Fatima wears hijab simply because she wants to: it’s a free country! The play purports to explore the meanings of hijab, and invited school groups to utilise it as an educational tool.

A non-Muslim Asian writer, Gupta has been lauded as a promising playwright, commissioned while still a student. Though the play is named after her, Fatima never appears on stage. As an expedition into the complexities of hijab in modern Britain, the play misses the chance to hear from a Muslim woman– as usual spoken for but not speaking.

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