The Muslims are coming! And they’d like to chat
by Dean Obeidallah
I want to assign everyone in America a Muslim friend — starting right here in New York City. It will be kinda of like the “Adopt a Highway” program but instead you can “adopt” a Muslim. Maybe we can even turn it into a reality show called, “Hanging with a Muslim.”
Why do I want to do this? Only two percent of our country is Muslim, so most Americans don’t personally know any — that means people are only learning about Muslims from seeing us on the news, and that’s not good.
That was a motivation for a new comedy documentary, “The Muslims Are Coming!” which I co-directed with my friend and fellow comedian Negin Farsad. Our film follows a group of American-Muslim comedians — and, yes, there are funny Muslims — as we went to the Deep South and West to perform free stand-up comedy shows. We wanted to meet as many of our fellow Americans of different faiths as possible.
Did we do the tour in the South and West because we think that is the only place bigotry exists? No. In fact, one of the primary reasons for the project was something that happened right here in New York City. I’m talking about the opposition to the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in 2010, where we saw people in the streets of our city holding up horrific signs demonizing Muslims. As The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart stated in our film, people responded to the proposed Islamic Community Center like an “apocalyptic invasion was coming. ”
While traveling the country for our comedy tour, we did more than just free stand-up shows. We tried to meet as many people as possible. We visited gun shows, cafes, bowling alleys and more.
We even played a game on the streets of Alabama called “name that religion,” where we read people quotes from the New Testament, Old Testament and the Koran and asked them to guess which holy book it was from. If the person answered correctly, they won some “great” prizes like a shot glass with the Alabama flag on it or slightly used salt and peppershakers.
What did we learn? A few things. One, people really want to win used salt and pepper shakers. Second, it’s not easy to tell which quote is from which Holy Scripture. We even had an ordained Christian minister guess wrong.
But we also discovered some preconceptions. Any time you read a quote that sounded violent or sexist, people guessed it was from the Koran. Most of those quotes were from the Bible.
We also set up an “ask a Muslim a question” booth on the streets of a few states. We know people have questions about Muslims, and we are tired of letting Fox News answer those questions with their so-called Muslim “experts.” (Full disclosure: I watch Fox News often, not to learn about the news but because those people are hilarious, unintentionally, of course.)
The number one question we got in state after state: Why don’t we see Muslims denounce the terrorists more often? We heard that everywhere — and not in a hateful way, but as an honest, if ill-informed, question.
Despite the fact that Muslim-American leaders and organizations consistently denounce terror attacks involving Muslims, that message is clearly not getting out there. We in the American-Muslim community will have to do a better job making our beliefs clear to our fellow Americans.
So let me be very clear: I despise the Muslims who commit terrorism and kill innocent people with every fiber of being. They are despicable, immoral people. To be honest, I don’t view them as Muslims, but as murderers with a political agenda.
Okay, back to our comedy tour. What was my takeaway from travelling across the country? That New York City isn’t the only place with progressive, open-minded people. They are all over the Deep South and West.
Sure, there are some who truly hate Muslims, but those people are the exception. Just like Anti-Semites, racists, homophobes and other bigots, haters will always be with us, but hopefully they will be relegated to the fringes of our society where they can all hang out together and compete in the hate Olympics.
As more people get to know Muslims, the horrible misconceptions that many hold about us will fade. Instead, they will likely be replaced with more accurate stereotypes, such as that many of us Muslims are late for everything — we call it being on “Muslim time.”
And, hey, if you don’t have a Muslim friend, I will be that friend, and so will my co-director, Negin Farsad. We aren’t the type of friend who will help you move, but we are happy to answer your questions and follow you on Twitter.
You can follow Dean Obeidallah, on Twitter @deanofcomedy Originally published on New York Daily News and reprinted on TAM with permission of author.
Check out the very funny, award winning comedy documentary “The Muslims Are Coming!” featuring The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, Russell Simmons, Lewis Black, plus other celebs together with hilarious Muslim comedians countering Islamaphobia with laughter. USA Today called the film: “Thoughtful and funny.” The Chicago Tribune said the film, “packs a funny but trenchant punch.” Seattle’s The Stranger called it: “Funny as poop…makes its point with charm.”
Film’s Website: http://themuslimsarecoming.com
You can rent or buy the film on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-muslims-are-coming!/id689131789 or Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FEBLFHW