Submission by Liver and Lung tells the story of young British Pakistani Sameer, who struggles to reconcile his latent homosexual identity with the traditional roots of his Muslim faith. Longlisted for Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award, the play looks at the external and internal conflicts that Muslim gay men can face, using language steeped in symbolism to ask whether a juncture between sexuality and scripture can be reached.
Part of playwright Shafeeq Shajahan’s aims as a writer was to look at the sensuality of language in the Quran. The piece is punctuated by poetic monologues that are heavy in metaphorical language (“identities in parentheses” being one particularly strong image that evokes the Othered, the excluded, and the hidden). These moments of dialogue are beautifully written, but are in danger of becoming convoluted and hard to follow when read allowed. The links between Islamic traditions and Sameer’s sexuality are stronger when made more explicitly – we can see very evidently the Satan who whispers in his victim’s ear as Daniel embraces Sameer.
This comparison between Satanic and sexual temptation is a fascinating one. It looks beyond the external stigma that the Muslim LGBTQ community endures and looks instead at the inner conflict that such a clash of identities can bring. Self-acceptance, one crucial blockade against prejudice, is impossible for Sameer whilst he believes that Daniel is the devil, that he lives in sin, and that his soul will not be saved at the Yawm al-Qiyāmah. His life is entirely void of comfort, as he becomes alienated from his family, his lover, and most of all from himself.
The imagery used by Shajahan to talk about the power imbalance between Sameer and his white boyfriend Daniel is impressive. He explores the story of Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer who raped, dismembered, and cannibalised young men in the early nineties. One of the victims was a mixed-race man named Anthony Sears, who became the first victim that Dahmer kept a body part from after disposing of the rest. The parallel with Sameer and Daniel’s relationship makes an unnerving commentary on how people of colour might experience relationships in the West. Sameer does not feel loved but objectified. Even in a postcolonial world, the coloniser continues to depersonalise and devour marginalised identities.