PAC event focuses on Islam in U.S.

A documentary about the negative portrayal of Muslims in America called “The Muslims Are Coming!” played in the Lion’s Pause on Monday, April 21. The documentary was put on by the Political Awareness Committee PAC and the Diversity Celebration Committee DCC. Dean Obeidallah, the documentary’s co-producer and co-director, appeared at the end of the showing to answer questions. Obeidallah is a writer who has published stories with high-profile news outlets, including CNN, PBS, Al Jazeera and the Daily Beast.

“The Muslims Are Coming!” is both a documentary and a comedy. A Muslim stand-up comedy group travels around the southern United States giving free comedy shows on Muslim culture in the U.S. to increase awareness. According to one comedian, the group was using comedy to give the U.S. “one big Muslim hug.”

The documentary begins with a slew of news clips highlighting anti-Muslim propaganda, including one that states, “All Butterball turkeys in America were sacrificed to Allah.” These clips helped pointout the ridiculousness of statements made against Muslims.

The comedians hoped that through their work, laughter could bring about a catharsis for this painful topic. They toured in states without much exposure to Muslim culture, including Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arizona and Utah.

The documentary also discussed some current examples of mass Muslim protests. Recently, people turned out full force in New York City to protest the building of a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. The protesters claimed that it would encourage Islamic supremacy. Project planners said that it would in fact be the opposite, creating a place for Muslims to give back to the community.

The comedians also talked about false representation of Sharia law. News reporters announced worry that Sharia law would become law in the U.S. Muslim leaders, however, talked about how it is against Sharia law to establish the law in a place that is primarily not Sharia, so this would not be coming the U.S. any time soon.

To promote their tour, the comedians often took to the streets. One day they had an “Ask a Muslim” activity, and some people asked why Muslims have not come together to openly denounce the 9/11 attacks.

Soledad O’Brien, a guest star, was quoted saying, “If you are constantly trying to prove you are the model minority, it is exhausting.”

The comedians also put on “Hug a Muslim,” bowling with Muslims and a trivia game. In the trivia game, people had to guess if quotations came from the New Testament, the Old Testament or the Quran. Many people guessed the Quran when a quotation was really from the Old Testament, showing that many religious books contain violent phrases. It comes down to interpretation rather than content.

The group hoped to bring new insights to people in the U.S. by breaking down stereotypes. One comedian, Negin Farsad, who was one of the few female Muslims in the group, often had sexual sets with expletives, making her especially controversial. During one performance, a group of Muslim women wearing the hijab walked out on her set.

In the question-and-answer portion, Obeidallah wanted to highlight that “while Islam is the center of the film, what it is really about is freedom of religion for all religions in America.”

He stressed that “malevolence is really just ignorance.” The U.S. has an evolving face, and what is offensive one day becomes common the next. There is always a minority, but that the group changes.

“They will move past and find others to hate,” Obeidallah said.

A student in the audience asked how Obeidallah was able to be both Christian and Muslim, since his parents identified with these two religions. He answered that he found it hard to separate the religions since they were ideologically very similar. He didn’t like having to pick and felt he could be both.

“It is all about the path to God,” he said. “How you get there is not important.”

dipietro@stolaf.edu

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