I was standing with a friend on the subway platform late one evening travelling back from some much needed halal food at a Senegalese restaurant in Harlem, New York. I glanced up at an advertisement hoarding above me. A photo of one of the twin towers on fire was juxtaposed with a quotation from the Qur’an: ‘Soon We shall cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers’ with the explanation: ‘This is a paid advertisement sponsored by the AMERICAN FREEDOM DEFENSE INITIATIVE’, along with the serious-sounding web address TruthAboutQuran.Org.
After I recovered my initial shock and annoyance, I got my mobile phone out to take a snap of the advert. As evidence that I had actually seen such a thing. And then for a moment I looked around to see that no-one was watching. Why did I do that? Why did I check myself? In truth, I wanted to reach up and tear the advert off the wall. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to get arrested. I thanked God I live in London and not New York and haven’t (up to now) had to put up with that particular kind of hateful provocation.
Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, London, 2013
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar, Phoenix, London, 2012
The War Within written by Ayad Akhtar, Joseph Castelo and Tom Glynn, directed by Joseph Castelo, released 2005