x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Comedians explore the Islamic experience

A movement begun in the United States brings together groups of American Muslims who are sporadically at odds - and soon it will spread its message in the UAE.

The Muslim comedian 'Preacher' Moss poses for a portrait at Emirates Palace.
The Muslim comedian 'Preacher' Moss poses for a portrait at Emirates Palace.

ABU DHABI // A movement begun in the United States brings together groups of American Muslims who are sporadically at odds - and soon it will spread its message in the UAE. Immigrant Muslims, African- American Muslims and converts to the faith are uniting to laugh. The butt of their jokes? Themselves. Nothing is sacred: beards, polygamy, the dramas of going through airport security and being named Osama. All are subjects of pointed, sometimes political humour.

The movement is Muslim comedy, originating after the September 11 attacks, when Muslims and Muslim-looking non-Muslims in America who have different histories discovered they were fused together as one in the American psyche. A movie produced by the comedian Preacher Moss, who says he is one of the first practising Muslim comedians open about his faith, captures the common ground that Muslims occupy in America.

Allah Made Me Funny: the Movie is a series of stand-up comedy performances by Moss and his partners, Mohammed Amer and Azhar Usman. They started their collaboration in 2004 and since have toured Europe. They were particularly successful in Britain, where the show appealed both to Muslims and non-Muslims. Preacher Moss, 41, is an African-American man born as Bryant Moss before he converted to Islam at 20. In his comedy shows, he fuses recent world events that are significant to Muslims with American stereotypes.

At the Middle East International Film Festival (MEIFF) in Abu Dhabi, Moss said: "The worst thing a Muslim can do after 9/11 is apologise for something you didn't do." He was in the UAE for the first time, and it was an opportunity to scope "the lay of the land". The UAE is well placed to help shape the image of Muslims worldwide, he said. "Unfortunately, the Muslim image is being manufactured in the US by Hollywood and exported to the rest of the world. We would love to connect with Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Media and whomever is in the business. There is opportunity to make business and develop partnerships with elements in the US."

Moss consulted with imams and Islamic scholars in the US, including the prominent and prolific scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, who is affiliated with Zaytuna Institute in Berkeley, California. The film was submitted to the Dubai International Film Festival, which runs from Dec 11 to 18, but the producers found out too late about the MEIFF in Abu Dhabi. They will submit it for next year. The movie was released this month in the US.

relass@thenational.ae