Stereotypes and preconceptions die hard. I try not to engage them, but it's difficult not to label people. When it comes to Muslims, the picture that many have in mind are Al-Qaeda militants or Taliban types. These exponents of a fanatical puritanical version of Islam seem intent on erasing any sense of diversity of cultural expression within Islam -- witness the attempts to destroy the cultural treasures of Timbuktu (Islamic treasures I might add).
If your image of a Muslim is a Taliban type, you will answer the title question with a fairly resounding NO! But what if there are other images of Islam -- lighter ones?
Last night at our monthly meeting of the Troy-area Interfaith Group, which I serve as Convener, we watched and then discussed a movie that shares with the broader public the story of a three person comedy troop called "Allah Made Me Funny." These are skilled comedians, and true to Islamic principles -- it's very clean and family friendly.
The thesis of the film and the comedy tour is simple: the three comics -- one Palestinian American, one Indian-American, and the third African American -- wish to "deconstruct" our notions of Islam and of Allah. Through humor (and we all laughed) they helped us understand that Muslims are just like everyone else. They wrestle with the same family, economic, and social issues. At the same time they remind us that Muslims living in America face scrutiny, prejudice, and discrimination.
As Azhar Usman, an Indian-American Muslim, points out -- a person who looks like him faces a lot of scrutiny -- especially at airports -- do you think he gets extra-screening -- and even on the flights, with passengers not sure what to make of him.
Does Allah make you funny? At least when it comes to Usman, Preacher Moss, and Mohammed Amer, the answer is a very enthusiastic yes!!
What does this say to us? Well, maybe we should check our stereotypes once in a while, they likely are not correct!!
And just for fun -- here's a taste of the comedy: