Film tackles Islamophobia with humor
By PATRICK GAVIN, Politico.com
Two comedians are tackling the sensitive topic of Islamophobia in the way they know best: laughter.
Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah are the co-directors of “The Muslims Are Coming!” which tracks a group of Muslim-American stand-ups as they perform across the country and tackle people’s stereotypes.
“Around the election of Barack Obama and the controversy regarding a mosque near the World Trade Center, we were both kind of struck to the extent to which being Muslim was such an accusation,” Farsad said. “And I think that it continues for some people five years later.”
Obeidallah said they want to “counter those who are preaching hate and those who don’t know about Muslims.”
The two have some powerful friends in their corner; the film features cameos from such notables as Jon Stewart, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, Colin Quinn, Lewis Black and Aasif Mandvi. Negin was named “One of the Fifty Funniest Women” by The Huffington Post, and Obeidallah has appeared on Comedy Central’s “Axis of Evil Comedy Tour” and is a weekly contributor to CNN.com.
“I think comedy is a great vehicle to reach out to people,” Obeidallah said. “I think comedy has been used since the 1960s — with people like Lenny Bruce, Chris Rock, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and, today, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert — using stand-up comedy to entertain and educate people.”
“It just disarms people,” Farsad said. “It stops them in their tracks.”
The two are keenly aware, however, of the thin line they walk in their comedy.
“I think there’s always this kind of battle with comedians between poking fun at our societal tendency to stereotype and perpetuating stereotypes,” Farsad said. “You have to be careful that you’re not perpetuating the stereotype and that, instead, you’re trying to undo the stereotype.”
The film begins opening in theaters on Sept. 12, and the two say they’re working with Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, on getting a screening on Capitol Hill. The two say Congress needs more people like Ellison on Capitol Hill.
“From my point of view, we had comments that were completely irresponsible from Michele Bachmann to Louie Gohmert to Joe Walsh to Allen West,” Obeidallah said.
“I believe overwhelmingly that people are open-minded in this country and tolerant and want to learn about other cultures. Yet, some, for their own political agenda, both demonize Muslims, like they demonized Jews in the past or Catholics, and fear monger for political points to make it a political wedge issue.”
Cable news doesn’t always help, either.
“We wanted to reach people that were like, ‘I read, I heard on Fox News that Muslims are totally violent!’” Farsad said. “And so we wanted to reach that person because that person is a reasonable person, they just don’t have that much access to information. They’re flooded with negative images of Muslims walking in the desert with crusty faces. … They’re not given any other information, and so those are the people we want to reach.”
Original post: Film tackles Islamophobia with humor