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If You Write A Play About A Muslim Woman People Assume It's About Syria Or Violence Against Women

12/03/2017 19:36 GMT | Updated 13/03/2017 08:36 GMT
David Cheskin/PA Archive

all women everywhere

A Hounslow Girl is a name given to a young British Muslim Girl who wears a hijab and seeks to balance the two co-existing worlds of traditional cultural values alongside her own British identity. Torn between wanting to please her elders by upholding the Islamic ideals she has been taught but also longing to assimilate into the fast City life she has inevitably been born into.

When I heard the term ″Hounslow Girl″ the first thing I thought was that I had better get to it before reality TV does. I wanted to write a story about a unique, inquisitive and confident young British Muslim Girl. I wanted her to take the stage and be at the centre of her own story, sharing her immediate feelings and anxieties with the audience. Growing up I had seen so many representations of young British Muslim girls on television but until Bend it Like Beckham I had never seen one at the forefront of a story. Instead, they were often shown as second class citizens or oppressed in either a mild or massive way, none of which mirrored the girls that I went to school with who were just as inquisitive and experimental as every other teenage girl. Although they had a firm grip on their cultural values, there is no denying that they were going through the same hormonal changes as every other girl in school.

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Ambreen Razia in The Diary of a Hounslow Girl (Photographer credit: Talula Shepphard)

Another major reason for writing the show was to challenge perceptions and break the stereotype of what a story about a young British Muslim girl could be about in this current climate. It's always interesting hearing feedback from the audience about the assumptions they've made about the play as it unfolds. For example, the character rushes on stage wearing a hijab with what appears to be a bruised eye - I had one audience member who said that they thought it was going to be a play about violence against women. Later in the play, the character proceeds in leaving her family a number of video messages stating that she wants to flee, and I had another audience member admit that they thought she was off to Syria; I had a few shocked faces when she ended up pregnant and stuck in her Hounslow bedroom.

So before telling stories about 'Jihadi brides' I wanted to present a raw tale of a girl simply searching for her own identity. A teenager who is seeking what every young person seeks at that age, love and affirmation. As I read the final draft back to myself before going into rehearsals, it was only then I realised what the play was about, I realised that the biggest tragedy was in the breakdown of the loving bonds between Mother and Daughter which often occurs when a child becomes a teenager - and how this experience can be so challenging for not only the daughters of first generation immigrants but also their parents who feel a great distant from their children's British lives.

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Ambreen Razia in The Diary of a Hounslow Girl (Photographer credit: Talula Shepphard)

It's a universal tale: the universality comes in her relation to every other teenage girl in the world as the play unravels and we realise that it's simply about her lack of understanding of what her own expectations of love are.

It's real pleasure to be taking the show on tour again - you can find full details of the upcoming tour here.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com