Sunday, April 13, 2014
This is the trailer to the movie that was shown to me and others at the community college I work at. This movie is attempt by some Muslim comedians to ease tensions between conservatives and the Muslim community. The vehicle to achieve that is comedy. The thought goes "If we can get people to laugh with us then we can start seeing how alike we are." The "power of comedy" can help overcome any barrier that we erect in the name of religion or politics. After all, if we can laugh it then we can accept it.
If that was the case, why didn't I find it funny? Others did but I couldn't laugh at much of this fun. In some cases, it was just too vulgar. At other points, it was just foolish in it's setup (same jokes could apply to city people going to the country). But on the whole, I didn't find the movie funny because it was misrepresenting Islam because it was devoid of talking about the core of Islam.
Even though I'm a Christian and I believe Islam to be wrong, it should be represented properly. The best way to combat Islamophobia is to provide people with facts. Do Christians attempt to proof text from the Koran? Yes (in the same way they proof text from the Bible). Do Christians/Conservatives take a little bit of misinformation and run with it? Yes. Is this film accurate on diagnosing the problem(s)? Yes. Do they accurately suggest solutions based out of the Muslim Worldview? Not even close.
This is was confirmed by the film maker, Negin Farsad, in the Q&A after the film. I ask if this was to combat Arab-American/Persian American hatred more than promote Islam. She said that was correct. She wasn't a scholar and couldn't speak to the religious issues (even though she felt confident enough to state that all religions are basically the same and imply as much in the film when pointing out the hypocrisy of Bible-believing Christians). The film was blatantly about ethnic hatred and not religious hatred. The very flippant attitude the filmmakers had about Islam shows they don't respect Allah like a true Muslim would. That is perhaps why many Muslims don't joke about their faith (like many Christians would).
I also asked if there were divisions in local mosques between Sunni and Shiite and/or between Asian/African Muslims (since there are more Asian/African Muslims in the world that in the Middle East). She responded about immigration in general. This was the perfect time to highlight and educate some differences, especially since the film highlighted some racism that some Middle Eastern Muslims have towards Jews/African Americans. The best we got was an anecdote about a rum cake and Jewish neighbors.
Finally, I asked a simple question if the film maker knew some good resources on Islam. After all, if I just google Islam, I'm not sure what I would find. Granted, getting advice from a "secular Muslim" on who is a good representative of "religious Islam" may be like asking a vegan for a good steakhouse. I assumed that if I'm doing research I should know who agrees with me and who doesn't. I could produce the names of people that are fair representatives of the "other" side. In this case, I was told email her because she didn't know or I could just go to PBS (which again may not be an accurate representation).
All in all, the movie director and many of the contributors in the movie are advocating a secular state and not the Islamic religion. There was an Iman in the film that explained things like Sharia Law and at least comic that thought Negin wasn't a Muslim because she drank/dressed risque but these things were more of afterthoughts. Those are both vital aspects that deserved more but that would take away from the "Coexist" theme. Too bad no one pointed out that these "Secular" Muslims are as close to "real" Islam as the "jihadist" Al-Qaeda (like Liberal Christians are as close to Historic Christianity as Westbro Baptist). There was no talk of the role of a Mosque, Halal diets, Mohammed (and drawing his likeness) or the Koran itself. I know "The Middle Eastern-Americans are Coming" doesn't have as nice of ring as "The Muslims are Coming" but this would be more accurate.
It is at least nice to know that Christians aren't the only ones being misrepresented by secular comedians.