Comedy Series ‘Halal in the Family’ Uses Humor to Tackle Anti-Muslim Sentiment

Recognize Aasif Mandvi? You should. Aside from a number of film and television show appearances, this Indian American actor and comedian is a regular correspondent on The Daily Show and even has a published book, “No Land’s Man.”

But if all goes well, you’ll soon know Mandvi as the man who co-created and stars in a new web series which aims to use humor as a way to tackle Anti-Muslim sentiment. Woah. Let’s rewind a bit.

The idea for Halal in the Family (yes, that is inspired by the famous 1970’s sitcom All in the Family) actually started with Katie Couric. According to Mandvi, Couric “commented that Muslims needed their own version of The Cosby Show in order to break down stereotypes about Muslims.” In response, The Daily Show created a parody sketch focused on a Muslim Cosby family.

Fast forward a few years and the one-episode parody has expanded into a four-episode web series that packs quite a punch in each six-minute episode. Mandvi used Indiegogo to explain the reason behind this web series:

Unfavorable views of Islam and its followers are at an all time high. Did you know that only 27% of Americans have positive views of Muslims? We’re barely more popular than Congress! Too often the media and politicians only make things worse, feeding increased prejudice, discriminatory policies, and hate-filled rhetoric targeting American Muslims.

Fortunately, many amazing organizations and individuals are courageously combating anti-Muslim hate. But it’s not enough. It’s time to get serious…ly funny.

For the past year I’ve been developing a new web-series to challenge stereotypes and misinformation about Muslims and communities associated with Muslims. It’s called Halal in the Family, and it’s a sitcom parody about an all-American Muslim family. It’s also a tool to support existing campaigns to combat anti-Muslim bias.

 

Mandvi and his writing partner, Miles Kahn, met with a number of Muslim organizations and advocacy groups to decide what issues would be worked into the first episodes. As a result, the series is able to hit on topics that truly resonate with the Muslim community. For instance, the teenage daughter faces cyber-bullying when her picture is photoshopped wearing a turban. Her father, played by Mandvi, humorously corrects this. “If you’re going to stereotype us at least get it right. We don’t wear turbans,” he informs the cyber-bully.

Some have reacted with confusion. How can prejudice completely disappear with comedy? Well, Mandvi would be the first to agree with the naysayers. He admits that trying to completely wipe out anti-Muslim sentiment with one show would be a “fool’s errand.” Instead, he focuses on the importance of shining light on these issues and getting people talking.

Halal in the Family will expose a broad audience to some of the realities of being Muslim in America,” He explains on the Indiegogo page. “By using satire we will encourage people to reconsider their assumptions about Muslims, while providing a balm to those experiencing anti-Muslim bias. I also hope those Uncles and Aunties out there will crack a smile!”

 


Feature Photo courtesy of www.nbcnews.com

#MuslimLivesMatter: Outrage Over the Murder of Three Muslim Students

 

On February 10, 2015, Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her younger sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were shot to death in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Police have charged Craig Hicks, a neighbor to the victims who reportedly turned himself in, with first-degree murder. Allegedly, Hicks condemned all religions on Facebook prior to the shooting. If this is indeed the reason behind his actions, then innocent Muslim students may have lost their lives due to Islamophobia.

Islamophobia, the fear and hatred of the religion of Islam, Muslims, and anyone who is perceived as Muslim, has been running rampant as evidenced by the racist tweets following American Sniper and the anti-Islam ads in San Francisco. Now, we have living proof that Islamophobic sentiment can turn deadly. Many are pointing at American media as a contributor to Islamophobia.

On the night of the shooting, #ChapelHillShooting was the the top trending hashtag on Twitter, but when we checked at 11PM PST for news on the story, we couldn’t find any coverage apart from local news media and Buzzfeed. We weren’t the only ones:

The hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter was created as a response to the American media’s lack of coverage on this incident and to show proof that there are people out there who do believe Muslim lives matter:

 

A community Facebook page called Our Three Winners has been set up to remember the lives of the victims. Needless to say, these three were all extraordinary individuals who sought to help others. Deah Barakat and his wife Yusor Abu-Salha were both focused on providing dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey. In fact, Barakat created a charity which you can still donate to. 19-year-old Razan Abu-Salha was just as dedicated to helping others. She spent her spare time supporting charities such as Global Deaf Muslim, which advocates for equal access to Islam for the deaf and hard of hearing.

If these three were able to recognize that other lives matter, surely we can all recognize that #MuslimLivesMatter.

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#MuslimVDay: Valentine’s Day Cards That Combat Islamophobia

 

The racist tweets that followed American Sniper gives us just a small taste of the Islamophobia and the anti-Muslim sentiment that is alive and well in America. According to Wikipedia, Islamophobia is “a term for prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam, Muslims, or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim.”

Well Los Angeles-based writer and activist Taz Ahmed was tired of it all and decided to use Valentine’s Day as an outlet for her frustration. The result? #MuslimVDay cards.

These “delightfully uncomfortable” Valentine’s Day cards aim to make you laugh and if you’re uncomfortable while laughing, then the cards have done their job. As Colorlines Magazine points out, these cards are Ahmed’s answer to Islamophobia and stereotypes faced by Muslim women.

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“I was tired of Muslims being put into a box — and tired of being in the box of a non-sexual Muslim woman,” Ahmed told Colorlines. “So this was my way of reappropriating Islamophobia.”

Ahmed recently released her fourth series of cards, which can be purchased on Etsy. Not sure if these cards are for you? Ahmed says they’re great for any Muslim who “finds it difficult to find that perfectly snarkily witty Valentine Day card that convey the exact emotions you feel of love in the time of a racialized, islamophobia-ridden America.”

 

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Intrigued? Check out some the cards from the previous years below:

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All photos courtesy of Tazzy Star Shop.

Ms. Marvel Steps Into the Real World to Combat Anti-Islam Ads

 

It looks like Marvel superheroes can exist in the real world after all. Citizens of San Francisco can now see Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani American Muslim teen named Kamala Khan, fighting against racism. How exactly is she doing this? By fighting back against Anti-Islam bus ads.

It all began when the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group that is sometimes classified as an extremist anti-Muslim hate group, purchased some offensive bus ads which correlated Muslims to Nazis.

You may be wondering why these ads weren’t taken down immediately. Apparently, despite countless complaints from the public, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) could not take the ads down because of freedom of speech. In fact, Muni is even running it’s own campaign against the ads.

In the meantime, are citizens supposed to sit around patiently and just put up with the racist ads? Absolutely not. San Francisco street artists responded to these ads with none other other Ms. Marvel. The ads have been blocked with strong pictures of Ms. Marvel as well as statements such as “Calling All Bigotry Busters,” “Free Speech Isn’t a License to Spread Hate” and “Stamp Out Racism.” This brilliant response even caught the attention of G. Willow Wilson, the creator of Ms. Marvel.   


So who says superheroes can’t exist in the real world? Ms. Marvel is certainly doing a good job with it.

 

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Photos courtesy of http://www.pastemagazine.com/

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Marvel’s New Pakistani Superhero

Lets face it– the presence of Asians in American media is not as prominent as we’d like. In fact, this number gets even smaller when we look at specific categories like the comicbook world. Luckily, this seems to be slowly, but surely changing.

We had put together a list of Asians in Comics to celebrate the Asian creators and characters who are making strides in the comicbook world and it looks like we have another big addition to make on this list.

Recently, Marvel Comics has revealed their reimagined version of the character, Ms. Marvel. Much to our delight, this hero’s alter ego is not a white, male millionaire. The new Ms. Marvel is 16-year-old Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager.

Comics writer G. Willow Wilson says that Kahn “struggles to reconcile being an American teenager with the conservative customs of her Pakistani Muslim family. Like a lot of children of immigrants, she feels torn between two worlds: the family she loves, but which drives her crazy, and her peers, who don’t really understand what her home life is like.”

Creators say they will stray away from the “token minority” character and instead deal with some very deep personal struggles.

Of course, creators recognize the risks that accompany Khan’s character. Will others be against her ethnic background and religious beliefs? Will Pakistani or Muslim individuals feel a misrepresentation with this character?

The comic’s editor Sana Amanat admits, “I do expect some negativity, not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light.”

But creators have decided to be brave and go through with the character. In fact, they claim they will address the various labels that society places on Kahn and show how such labels affect her sense of self.

Kahn is the first Muslim character to headline a book at Marvel. Ms. Marvel will launch in February 2014 and we simply cannot wait.

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(source)

One Direction’s Zayn Malik May Have A Muslim Wedding

Last month, hearts were heard breaking worldwide when popular One Direction member, Zayn Malik, proposed to his longtime girlfriend Perrie Edwards.

Although it has only been about a month since the engagement, the 20-year-old Pakistani Brit heartthrob and his bride-to-be have apparently already begun to plan their wedding.

Rumors have been spreading left and right. Some insist that the pair have decided on a summer wedding. It is also said that Malik plans to spend more than £1 million, and the wedding will be held in either Luttrellstown Castle in Dublin or in Skibo Castle in Scotland.

Heat reports that Edwards has been in discussion with Chinese American designer, Vera Wang, for her wedding dress.

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To add to the excitement, the couple are looking to incorporate both religions (Christian and Muslim) into their wedding.

“Zayn’s mom Patricia converted to Islam when she married Yaser [Zayn’s dad], so Perrie’s been asking about what this involves. She’s hoping to talk over her plans with a priest and a Muslim officiant,” a source told Look. “She loves the idea of coming down the aisle to traditional Muslim music. Flowers blessed with rosewater play a big part in Islamic weddings and Perrie thinks she could work this into their day, too.”

 

(source)

DISCRIMINATION ALERT: Muslim Teen Fired From Abercrombie & Fitch for Religious Head Scarf

Abercrombie & Fitch has done it yet again.

Employee Hani Khan, 18, was fired from her job at the popular retail store after refusing to remove her hijab while working. The hijab is a head scarf worn by Muslim women to show modesty, but to Abercrombie & Fitch, the hijab simply does not fit their look.

After four months of working with the company, Khan was approached about her head scarf. Naturally she felt uncomfortable having to explain the cultural background behind the tradition. When she refused to take it off, she was terminated from her job. Abercrombie & Fitch offered to re-hire her 11 days later, but with a catch — she could only return if she no longer wore her hijab. Khan turned down the offer.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on Khan’s behalf in 2011. Although the company claims that it does not discriminate based on religion, Abercrombie & Fitch commented that they believed the hijab would negatively affect sales.

Of course, the company was not able to provide any proof of a decline in sales while Khan wore the head scarf while working.

It is important to note that this is not the first time Abercrombie & Fitch has been publicly scorned for discrimination. The company received quite the amount of backlash when chief executive Mark Jeffries openly commented that Abercrombie and Fitch is made for the “cool kids” and plus-sized women were not part of that group.

Many believe that the company’s reputation has been tarnished since those statements and unfortunately, Abercrombie & Fitch seems to continue digging its own grave.