The last month has seen an array of humor to counter the wave of Islamophobia that has been growing in the United States and other western countries with significant Muslim populations. A week ago, Comedy Central hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear that drew an estimated 200,000 people, and featured many jokes poking fun at the ridiculousness of Islamophobia within the United States.
Milwaukee-born writer Ayad Akhtar’s debut novel, American Dervish, is a coming-of-age tale with a twist. As he tells the story of Pakistani-American teenager, Hayat Shah, Akhtar presents a complex and deeply personal portrayal of what it means to grow up Muslim in America.
In 2010, journalist-actress-writer-director Feo Aladag released When We Leave (Die Fremde in German), an award-winning film that explores the hardships that characterize one young Turkish-German woman’s transition from a suffocating marriage in Istanbul back to a new life in her native Berlin. Despite her intentions of running from her abusive relationship, she endures further physical abuse from her husband, and is unsupported by her family in her decision to run away with her son. When We Leave blends a number of issues into one story–from Germany’s struggles with multiculturalism to the concept of honor in many Turkish families.
Aladag, of Austrian origin and married to a Turkish-German TV producer, spent a considerable amount of time understanding domestic abuse by living in women’s shelters as part of a human rights group’s domestic violence awareness campaign. When We Leave received press coverage from around the world (some thought it was robbed of an Oscar by The Academy) and gained further attention from the lead actress’ controversial past as an adult film star. Debates over the film’s merit will continue, but there is an issue of much greater importance that has received little attention: Does the film really help prevent honor killings, domestic violence, and other abuse among segments of Germany’s Turkish populations? Continue reading