WHEN Asif Khan was commissioned to write a play for the National Youth Theatre, he wanted it to be “something that matters to me, to my friends and family”.

“I’m not a spokesperson for Muslims,” adds the award-winning Bradford-born writer and actor. “But I can write a play that will break down misconceptions and put an alternative Muslim voice on the stage - one you don’t hear very often.”

That play is Imaam Imraan, which has its world premiere at Bradford Literature Festival next week.

Directed by Iqbal Khan, who has previously directed for the RSC and Shakespeare’s Globe, the comedy drama is about a successful television actor who gives up fame and his career to return to his roots in Bradford, where he sets out to rediscover his identity.

The play explores challenges faced by British Muslims today, as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, Imraan, who seeks to bridge the gap between disparate religious communities.

“This character starts out from a completely different world to where he ends up,” says Asif. “He’s a successful young man; he went to private school and university, he moves to London and his acting career takes off. He becomes a well known face on a TV soap, with a famous girlfriend.

“He’s got everything going for him, then something happens that changes everything. It changes his relationship with his family, his girlfriend, his job. He makes a big decision to change his life, and re-discovers who he is.”

Imraan sets about trying to address fractures in his community, and bring people together. “I liked the idea of writing about a young, modern-thinking imaam. Without spoiling the plot too much, it’s kind of ambiguous at the end as to whether he becomes an imaam or not,” says Asif. “I’ll leave that to the audience to decide.”

The play looks at the ways British Muslims are represented, and the issues they face.

“It explores how Muslims are represented in the media and on TV, and the impace of Islamaphobia. Imraan also looks at as divisive issues within his own community,” says Asif, who spoke to the leader of a Bradford mosque as part of his research.

“There are a lot of issues in the play that are real. Imraan identifies a problem in his community, and in himself as well. He doesn’t have all the answers, he makes mistakes and wrong decisions. He’s not perfect - nobody is. We’re all human.

“There aren’t many honest representations of Muslims in dramas, especially on TV. I wanted to show Muslims living and working. We don’t always agree, we have different opinions, we follow different football teams, and we come from from all over the world. My aim was to bring more nuance to the way Muslims are represented.”

Asif’s parents came to Bradford from Pakistan as teenagers. He grew up in Shipley and went to what was Salt Grammar School, then the University of Bradford and drama school in London. “I still work as an actor, but as an artist you have a lot more power if you use your own voice. I find it really rewarding to write, and it’s something I can do anywhere,” he says. “I’ve had those auditions when you know they want you for certain roles. For Asian actors, there’s a difference between how they represent you and how you want to represent yourself. It often feels like an obstacle, coming from an Asian background.

“It’s getting better - companies like the National Theatre and the RSC have diverse castings - but there’s still a long way to go, particularly in TV.”

Asif was recognised in the BBC New Talent Hotlist 2017 for new writers, won the Channel 4 Playwright’s Scheme, celebrating emerging British playwriting talent, and is a member of the Tamasha Playwrights Group. His 2017 debut, Combustion, was nominated for OffWestEnd’s Best New Play award and Best Writer in the Stage Debut awards.

He would like to write for film and TV: “Vinay Patel’s Doctor Who episode set in India during the Partition gave the show a whole new perspective. I want to tell stories that represent people from Asian backgrounds; their experience, their history and their place in this country today.”

* The National Youth Theatre presents Imaam Imraan at Kala Sangam, St Peter’s House, Bradford, from July 1-4.

The production is part of the festival’s B-Lit programme,which means those aged 18 and under are eligible for free tickets, made possible by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Tickets for all Bradford Literature Festival events are on (01274) 238525 and bradfordlitfest.co.uk