9/11 through the eyes of a Middle East comedian
By Sherif Hedayat
I have been a stand up comedian for the better part of 11 years. I quit several times. I was fed up with doors getting slammed in my face because I was “Middle Eastern”. Club owners, bookers and even other stand up comedians didn’t think audiences would find jokes and stories about the Middle East funny. In 2007 everything changed with the debut of Comedy Central’s Axis Of Evil Comedy Tour. This marked the first time an all Middle Eastern comedy show aired on national television. This meant the public had spoken. There is now a demand for our stand up comedy.
I tell you this because it directly relates to America’s War On Terror. More and more Americans are becoming educated about Middle Eastern culture through humor. This doesn’t solve the problem though. The problem remains because Middle Eastern people are not gaining any more knowledge about America because they have poor educational systems. Ignorance and hate are fed by a lack of education.
We can fight all we want but what is that going to teach people in the Middle East? It will teach them that fighting and killing will resolve conflict. If we stop killing and spend more time educating maybe terrorism will be greatly reduced.
I remember waking up the morning of 9/11 to about 30 instant messages on my AOL account. “Sherif are you ok?”, “Sherif are your parents ok?”, “Sherif did you hear what happened?”. Why did everyone ask me these questions? Did they think because I was Middle Eastern I may have ties with the terrorists? Did they think the government or other ignorant people would come after me because of the attack? Were they worried about me? It could have been any or all of those things.
I lived in Egypt for five years and then moved to American where I have lived for the last 20 years. I was fortunate enough to receive a great college education. Because of these two things I was able to realize why the attacks occurred. I don’t know the exact reason, but I do have a strong belief it was caused by educated and manipulative terrorists brain washing the less educated. How many people do you know would consciously kill themselves for their religion? It’s not a logical choice.
Terrorists brainwash the youth of their culture with promises of receiving things they think they could never have through their own efforts. If we help improve the educational system in the Middle East then maybe they can fight their own battles against the terrorists in an intelligent and logical manner.
It seems that America has it backwards. On one hand we’re teaching our children to be more passive by eliminating sports like dodgeball and implementing no contact rules in school. On the other hand, we’re sending our soldiers overseas to fight.
Maybe if we focused on educating our children and the children of the Middle East we would allow them to think for themselves and learn from their mistakes. America is a great country because we have the ability to learn through expressing ourselves and watching those around us doing the same without fear of backlash from the government or any other organization.
Let’s take America’s knowledge and share it with the world. The American way may not be perfect, but you don’t see many people killing themselves because someone told them it was the answer to their problem.
(Sherif is a widely acclaimed standup comedian and satirist whose topics include family, education, religion, careers, dating, television, stereotypes, racism and growing up in the Middle East. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, http://www.ArabWritersGroup.com )