Comedy is one of the many means by which people deal with stereotypes. Muslim Americans have used comedy for some time to break down the negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. The idea is that if people can laugh together then barriers break down. In other words, it is a constructive way to have people reflect on what they think about Muslims. We have addressed the topic of Muslim American comedians before here on Inside Islam through both blog posts and radio programs. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming comedic film The Muslims Are Coming!
This film documents a comedy tour that took place throughout 2011. Dean Obeidallah, Negin Farsad, Maysoon Zayid, as well as other well-known comedians traveled across America, targeting areas that have been known for controversy over Islam. For example, they went to Gainesville, Florida, where Terry Jones burned copies of the Qur’an and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where there was a big controversy over the building of a mosque in 2011. The performances were free and each focused on a particular issue. After the performances, the comedians answered questions about Islam from the audience.
Not only does the film document the stand up performances, it also includes commentary from other comedians (e.g. Jon Stewart), journalists (e.g. Soledad O’Brien), and politicians (Rep. Keith Ellison) on the issue of Islamophobia and the challenges of the Muslim American community.
The goal of the tour and the upcoming film is to dismantle the numerous stereotypes of Islam and Muslims generated by increased Islamophobia. Moreover, the comedians set out to demonstrate that they are just as American as the audience members. This film, while not the first of its kind, is another contribution to the effort to counter Islamophobia and to address the concerns of both non-Muslim Americans and Muslim Americans. Sometimes laughing together is the most constructive way to break down barriers and build bridges.
What do you think of the upcoming film? Did you see any of the performances? If so, do you think they helped to break down stereotypes about Muslims? Do you think comedy can be a way to build bridges? Please share your comments below.