The confrontations, heated conversations, and disagreements between the four main actors in the play Disgraced illuminate the realities of racism and prejudice in the twenty-first century. Today, people get judged and discriminated against their religion and skin pigmentation. Racism makes other people try to conform in ways that do not make their faith evident for fear of being judged. Due to racism, the actors and actress in the play that have a different background from that of Americans feel compelled to renounce their cultural identity while in America to have a sense of acceptance in the American society.
The play introduces viewers to the main actors and actresses, and their tolerance to one another with regards to religion. Amir, the protagonist, is an American born Muslim but raised in the ways and traditions of the Muslims, yet he feels uncomfortable in his belief. He does not like people realizing that he is Muslim, and decides to change his last Islamic name Abdullah to Kapoor, which is a common Punjabi surname. Amir works in Jewish law firm even though he dislikes Jews and hides his true identity from them. Amir thinks Islam is a backward religion, and he tries his best to embrace Americanism though he finds it hard to escape the Islamic culture.
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Emily who is a white wife of Amir is not so much a racist, but she always contracts her husband when he criticizes his Islamic faith. Emily believes Islam tradition is full of wisdom and beauty. In fact, as an artist, her inspiration comes from Muslim art, as she acknowledges that they gave the world a visual perspective. Ironically, Emily’s painting does not reflect her admiration for Muslim traditions as she westernizes eastern culture in her art and profits from it.
Jory, a proud black-American woman, and Amir’s colleague show clear prejudice towards Amir, despite the fact that she also faced racial profiling in the workplace. Jory becomes a busybody and pick on Amir, trying to dig into his past, wondering where the name Kapoor came from and his connection to Abdallah. She competes unfairly with Amir in getting a promotion at the law firm as the new partner, and she proudly tells him so during dinner at Amir’s house. Jory does not get her advancement at the law firm justly since she was open to unscrupulous dealings and favoritism.
Jory’s husband Isaac is Jewish but seems to disapprove his religion in some aspects. Isaac feels embarrassed to be a Jew for the current military actions that his homeland Israel engages in among other critical issues. Isaac engages in a heated confrontation at dinner with Amir as they lush out racially discriminative words against each other about Muslim and Judaism.
Abe, the nephew of Amir is a young Muslim man in the play struggling to keep up with American looks even in his dressing for fear of victimization and prejudice. Abe keeps a self-image of a Westerner, even though his Islamic tradition overpowers his being to the point that he no longer wants to hide his Islamic identity. He feels terrible about an Imam who was arrested in America and beseeches his uncle Amir to defend him in the court of law, even if it exposed Amir.
The play depicts several cases of prejudice among the actors but Emily is safe since she is white. Most of the other actors and actress feel compelled to renounce their native culture and traditions while in America. The reason for doing so is to at least have a sense of acceptance especially in the mainstream industries. Muslims like Amir and Abe try to conform to American ways to fit in the system and appear less odd.
Most Muslims that are American citizens by birth are made easy targets of murder and terrorist attacks, and it is the reason an actor like Abe has to change his image. Amir also goes through the trouble of changing his surname to a less predictable one regarding religion. For instance, he changes his social security card and wear expensive American designer shirts. Abe’s Muslim friends get arrested for suspicions of being jihadists, which makes him speak ill of Americans for disgracing his religion and assures that one day racism will come to an end.
American-born Muslims like Aba and Amir thinks that the west still practices religious oppression by arresting an imam on the grounds of funding and harboring terrorists or jihadists in the mosque. Since the Quran teaches about Jihadism, imams in America are treated as suspects whenever attacks happen around their mosque, and it is the highest form of prejudice for them. Amir suffered public contempt and harsh judgment when he appeared in a magazine in court defending the imam, and he was also perceived to be one of the jihadists.
A bitter relationship exists between Arabs and Africans as depicted in a furious confrontation between Amir and Jory. Amir is enraged at the news that her colleague Jory got the promotion at the firm instead of him, who seemed more qualified than her. Amir called her “nigga” a term usually associated with someone who despises the blacks. Americans commonly use the word Nigga to refer to the black people in a manner suggesting they are gangsters.
Lack of tolerance among actors in the play portrays a different form of prejudice altogether. For instance, the exposure and consequences of Amir’s picture in the magazine while in court defending the imam made him to no longer put up with the western culture. He is happy when he learned that the twin tower had fallen due to the terrorist bombing. Amir also tolerates his wife Emily using him as an accessory to her paintings, which makes him think that Muslims get prejudiced with alluring white women.
Emily gives no qualms about being unfaithful to her husband. She confessed to her love affair with Isaac when they were seen almost kissing and does not apologize for act. Amir loses his temper and physically assaults his wife, who packs and leaves straight away without giving a chance for dialog or reconciliation. Isaac and Jory had an unstable marriage with both of them having questionable character, but Isaac was worse for having an extramarital affair with a married woman.
- Akhtar, Ayad. Disgraced. New York: A&C Black, 2013.
- Ali, Ragad Selim. “Loss of Identity in Ayad Akhtar’s American Dervish.” International Journal of Literature and Arts 3, no.5 (2015): 80-87.
- Asif, Saljooq. “Muslim Identity in 21st Century America: Ayad Akhtar’s Works as Autobiography.” Elements 11, no. 1 (2015): 60-7.
- Benea, Diana. “Negotiating The Quandaries Of Post-9/11 Pakistani American Identity In Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced.” Moravian Journal of Literature & Film, 6, no. 2 (2015): 51-66.