Laughing Together Can Help Solve Problems
By Ras H. Siddiqui

It was a unique April evening at the Muslim Community Association (MCA) facilities in Santa Clara, California as three very funny individuals presented their work in front of an enthusiastic crowd of Muslims and members of other faiths. The “Allah Made Me Funny” Comedy Tour had finally made its way to the heart of what is known as “Silicon Valley” here, and it left quite an imprint.


L to R : Azeem, Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss

The performers in order of their appearance were Azeem, Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman, two African-Americans and one South-Asian, all comedians and followers of the Islamic faith who have taken on a singularly difficult task: To make Muslims in the United States laugh and to get non-Muslims to laugh with them at a time when humor is not what their faith is known for. This is after all America post 9/11 and the Muslim experience here has not exactly been pleasant after that horrific day.
Azeem made his presence known immediately. He made a number of observations about airport security and Muslims these days. He said that with such intense scrutiny, at times he felt like just showing up at the airport wearing a bath robe and flip flops (chappals in Pakistan) to make everyone’s job easier. On a more skeptical note he asked, “I’m six foot three and 250 pounds, and you’re going to hijack me with a box cutter?” He also thanked and acknowledged all the “beautiful Muslim brothers and sisters” present.
He shared his acceptance of Islam 17 years ago with the audience and how he broke the news to his family over Thanksgiving holiday festivities. He said that he told his grandmother that he was a Muslim now. “No you ain’t. You ain’t never been to jail,” she said. Azeem added, “I went into another room to make Dua (a devotional wish made with cupped palms), and my uncle put money in my hands.” He said that true Muslims are a peaceful people and cannot be terrorists. “Mike Tyson hasn’t won a fight since he became a Muslim,” he said.


Enraptured members of the audience

Preacher Moss appeared next. He is the most senior and shortest member of this trio. In his intro he lamented the fact that there were few smiling Muslims. “We should organize a smiling Muslim march,” he said. Preacher has been a Muslim for 18 years. On the post-9/11 scenario he had some advice for American Muslims. “If you didn’t do anything, act like you didn’t do anything.” He praised the resilience of Muslims under pressure because of their belief in Allah. He also pointed to the strong voter showing amongst our community during the last Presidential elections. He explained that his wife was Indian, and added, “It sure got quiet in here.” He said that he got along very well with his wife’s grandmother. “She didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Urdu,” he said.
Other topics that the Preacher highlighted were “Ramadan breath” and “the Muslim discount” where he lamented the fact that Muslims want to pay substantially lower prices for goods while dealing with other Muslims, yet were willing to pay the full price to others.
Azhar Usman is no stranger to us. He has made his Bihari roots famous worldwide beyond “Bihari Kababs and Lalu Prasad” (an Indian political figure). Observing that the program started a bit late he added that none of the Indo-Pakistanis (known for their tardiness) were surprised. He said that he just had to tell a corny joke or two and since we were at the MCA facility,y he repeated, “Why MCA?” or “Y-MCA” His stress was more on South Asian “Desi” humor. He said that Desi Uncles often reminded him about his own law background with “Are you a lawyer or a liar?” He expressed his puzzlement at how “brother-in-law” is a bad word in India and Pakistan and also asked why it is that South Asians cannot pronounce the difference between “V’ and “W” correctly, like saying “Wolkswagon” instead of “Volkswagen.” “I love my Desi people man,” Azhar said.


Another group of the audience visibly thrilled by the performance

On the atmosphere inside American mosques he lamented the lack of facilities for women in spite of the claims made. He also commented on evening prayers during Ramadan, especially when “The guy next to you wants to review what he had for Iftari.” On flying while Muslim in America these days, Azhar Usman explained how well he is treated AFTER the plane has landed safely.
This was but a quick glimpse of these three “warriors of fun” and just a slice of the material they presented. Their DVD called “Allah Made Me Funny” is out (made during a performance they gave at the Improv in the Los Angeles area). One can visit their website at www.allahmademefunny.com for more details.
In conclusion, one has to commend Azeem, Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman for their skillful use of comedy during these continued serious times for Muslims in this country. One hopes that the message that they are sending out will be heard beyond our community groups. It needs to reach the mainstream not only in the United States but the Muslim world as well. People who can laugh together can also solve their problems in an amicable manner. War and terror are just too horrible an alternative.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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