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!”
— HalalintheFam (@HalalintheFam) April 11, 2015
Feature Photo courtesy of www.nbcnews.com