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Compassion from Chaos

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 sparked anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment across the United States. Jamil Khoury and Malik Gillani found a creative way to respond.

The seeds of the Silk Road Theatre Project were sown within months of 9/11. Khoury and Gillani initially hoped to counter negative representations of Muslims and people from the Middle East, but their idea soon expanded to include the vast region stretching from China to Italy known historically as the "Silk Road."

America's relationship with the countries of the Silk Road had become increasingly complex, they believed, and by presenting the perspectives of these cultures through theater, they felt they could contribute something positive to the public discourse. The Silk Road Theatre Project has provided a voice for the more than 1.5 million people of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent living in the Chicago metro area, and to their kin abroad.

Since 2003, Silk Road has been based at the historic Chicago Temple. A recent $1.5 million renovation of the lower level created new offices and a theater, which opened in 2006 with Yussef El-Guindi's "Back of the Throat." The Egyptian-born playwright dramatizes a post-9/11 encounter between two FBI agents and an Arab-American man, Khalid – a seemingly innocuous visit from the government that begins as a "friendly" inquiry and soon devolves into a chilling, full-blown investigation of Khalid's presumed ties to terrorists.


Silk Road Theater Project, Historic Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington St., Chicago, IL, 60602

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Watch an excerpt from Yussef El-Guindi's play, "Back of the Throat," as performed by the Silk Road Theatre Project.

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Silk Road Theatre co-founder Jamil Khoury explains how the company started and why it's time had arrived.


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A publicity photo for Silk Road's production of "Back of the Throat."


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