An Interview with the Author, CHRISTOPHER VENED
-What inspired you to write the play “Infidel”?
Each time I hear on the news about yet another terrorist attack, I feel outraged by the senseless killing of innocent people. It is inconceivable why one would commit such atrocious crimes and how one could feel justified. But those terrorists do feel justified. They strap explosives on their bodies and detonate them in public places killing passersby whom they’ve never met and themselves while shouting, “Allah Akbar.”
-What is it about?
Those terrorists kill in the name of God. It puzzles me because I see in it, as most people do, a deed of pure evil.
-Why do they do it then?
Well, I might say they hate life. They probably do, but this only explains the suicide, not the killing of others, particularly innocent bystanders. It seems more likely that they hate humanity. They choose death over life. It is unnatural.
-How have they gotten that way?
Terrorists are indoctrinated by religion, in particular, by radical versions of Islam. They are brainwashed and by that dehumanized, unable to make a moral judgment anymore.
-Why would they believe such bloody nonsense?
Mind you, these terrorists usually are young boys and girls. They are not conscious players. They got duped, manipulated, and sent to death by some unscrupulous clerics. Those clerics turn them into monsters, but we have to remember that they are also victims.
Do you have compassion for the terrorists?
Yes, I do. And I would like to save them from eternal damnation by preventing them from becoming terrorists in the first place, before it is too late.
-How would you do that, by writing a play?
Yes, it was the idea. I wanted to write a play that would liberate people from religious fanaticism and by that to humanize them.
As a dramatist, I feel obligated to resolve human conflicts. Terrorism is a modern plague. And terrorists are the monsters that oppress people. Having in mind the model of ancient Greek drama, I thought that the task of the dramatist is to check the plague and to resolve the monster’s puzzle to save humanity from evil.
However, I did not know how to do it. To condemn terrorism is not enough to write a play; it does not resolve the conflict but merely preaches to the choir. I didn’t want to write just a didactic play. Perhaps it would be right, but boring. There are already many plays and films made about terrorisms but it seems people are growing tired of watching them.
It doesn’t change anything. Terrorism does not stop. And people get use to it as if it were normal. But it is not normal. It is a crime against humanity. I wanted to get to the root of this evil. And change it.
-What was the moment that made you start to write Infidel?
I saw a video on the Internet in which masked terrorists were destroying ancient sculptures with huge hammers on the religious ground that those sculptures were blasphemous idols. At the same time, they were videotaping it to show it on the Internet. It was a surreal spectacle. It was so absurd it didn’t seem real. But it was real.
Those barbarians were destroying art. It deeply offended my liberal sensibility. It shocked me. I always am when people are not able to appreciate great art, but to destroy it? How superstitious they are, I thought. If you let religious fanatics take over, as they do in Islam countries, they will destroy culture. And I felt personally attacked because religious fanaticism is not only in Islam, but is also on the rise in the West. These fanatics also want to destroy culture.
Watching that video I realized that there is an incongruity between religion and culture that leads to conflict. I wondered how this incongruity happened in the first place. When did culture and religion separate?
I intuitively felt that I had found the theme for my play. In addition, the theatricality of that video helped me to come up with the initial setup of the play and the predicament.
-What is the predicament of the play?
“Islamic terrorists kidnap John Norton, an American anthropologist, from the Bagdad Museum. They hold him in a remote mountain cave for ransom. If no one pays, the kidnappers will behead him.”I started from there and then imagined the play.
– How did you imagine it?
I imagined it as the Western man’s nightmare about being kidnapped by radical Islamic terrorists.
-Do you want to scare the audience?
We all fear it now. It can happen to anybody.
-How would you define the genre of the play?
On one hand I would define it as a thriller and on the other, as a discussion play.
–How did you combine these two, seemingly mutually exclusive genres?
“Infidel” is a discussion play with a blade of the knife at your throat.
–What is the message of the play?
“Infidel” has an idealistic message to save humanity from religious superstition and barbaric terror in the name of Islam on the one hand, and from unscrupulous Western imperialism and warmongers, on the other.