Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Funny Business: Muslim Women in Comedy

Here’s a brief news story about an Iranian-American Muslim comedian Tissa Hami. In it, Hami describes her comedy as her way of helping combat stereotypes against Muslims. “‘Why aren't we speaking out for ourselves?’ she said she would ask herself. ‘Why aren't we doing something? To me this is something I could do. I know it’s comedy. I know it's this much. But, if we all do this much, it's something.’”

Hami’s comedy is meant to encourage viewers to look beyond appearances. She dresses in all black, from her shoes to her hejab, and then comes out with lines like: “I'll be honest with you. I should have worn a long coat, but I was feeling kind of slutty tonight.”

Female Muslim comedians are few and far between, but slowly, they’re becoming more visible. Hami’s comedy reminds me of Shazia Mirza (pictured here), a Pakistani-British Muslim woman who has gained a fair amount of popularity ever since she appeared at a comedy club dressed in hejab and said, “My name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that's what it says on my pilot's license.” Since then, Mirza has been on tours in both Britain and the U.S., and won several awards for her comedy.

Unfortunately, there are a fair amount of people who disagree with this comedy, many of them Muslims. However, in my view, laughter is a good way to break boundaries. Obviously, it can’t be the only thing; we run the risk of becoming the stereotypes we poke fun at. But laughter is a great place to start, and though there are fewer female Muslim comedians than there are male Muslim comedians, enshallah all our funny sisters out there will stand up sooner or later.

Personally, I love a good laugh. There is a saying attributed to both the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet (pbuh), even though I can’t find the location: “Blessed is [she] who makes [her] companions laugh.” And if we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re taking ourselves too seriously.

P.S. Remember to wear a pink scarf on Friday, Oct. 26th to create awareness for breast cancer!