Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Blog

By Emily Jabareen

2012 Fall Intern

Watch out, “the Muslims are coming!” The intriguing and slightly sarcastic title of a new reality TV-style documentary humorously captures the hyperbolic and much overblown antagonism lately demonstrated against Muslims in US political discourse. Intentionally playing into the nonsensical fear-mongering directed at Muslims, the film is in tune with a popular trend increasing among Arab Americans and American Muslims to combat Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment through organized comedy.

Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, both notable Arab/Muslim comedians and the producers of the film, bring Islam to unsuspecting American citizens through multiple comedy stand-up tours that span the country, and reintroduce the religion through the voices of some the most well-known Arab and Muslim comedic figures in America.

The film is a compilation of memorable stand-up moments that occur during the tours as the comedians share awkward childhood memories, funny encounters on airplanes and buses post 9/11, and the occasional references to lamb, tarab, and bars. They engage their audiences with stories that transcend cultural and religious boundaries and intimately highlight the strength of shared human experiences. The Tours reached Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, as we previously reported, and won the Arab American Institute’s Special Recognition Award for “breaking boundaries through comedy” at the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards Gala.  

In addition to the entourage of star comedians, the film is interspersed with notable guest appearances of comedic and TV backgrounds from all walks of life, including the nationally-acclaimed Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) and others, making it a unified effort to quell divisiveness, spread laughter, and defend the inclusive character of the country.  

Obeidallah and Farsad attempt through the film to dispel misconceptions about Islam in a low-key way that is both light-hearted and educational. Stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims are explored, repeatedly poked, dissected, and exposed through personal twists and self-deprecating humor. Alongside the stand-up comedy skits, a cameraman follows the comedians through the rural streets of America, in town squares and at city vendors as they ask locals questions, solicit hugs, and engage in chit-chat.   

In the trailer, Negin Farsad is seen walking around providing people with free tickets to watch “a lot of Muslims on stage.” Some eye her apprehensively; others hesitantly take the tickets and hastily walk away.  Much of the footage included in the film is raw and edgy, providing an inside view into the complicated and confusing dynamics that animate Arab American and American Muslim existence.


 

The film is Obeidallah’s latest comedy campaign to bridge the gap between Muslims and the rest of America. A Palestinian Italian from New Jersey, He is known for his regular thoughtful and funny contributions on CNN, and Comedy Central gems such as the “Watch List” and “Axis of Evil.” The self-proclaimed “Dean of Comedy” admits that there is much to be done, but asserts comedy’s positive and vital role in stopping violence and hatred. Though the film has not been officially released, screenings are just around the corner, so be sure to check them out at a location near you.

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