arts and pop culture | October 02, 2013

How To Fight Stereotypes With Comedy: Social Justice Speaker Negin Farsad

"Something we could learn from the gay community's leaps and bounds in civil rights in the last twenty years was just don't hide it, tell people," Negin Farsad tells NPR. The social justice comic and speaker recently released a documentary film, The Muslims Are Coming!, aimed at doing just that. She and her co-creator Dean Obeidallah toured around the country performing stand-up comedy and organizing events like "Ask a Muslim" and "Hug a Muslim"—catching the results on film. "We really just wanted to chat with people . . . we wanted people to come up to us and ask us questions," she explains on CBC Radio. What were the results? As NPR writes: "The Muslims Are Coming! leaves its audience with a pretty simple take-away: Muslim Americans are not that different from other Americans. Except maybe . . . funnier."

The comics in the film represent the diverse picture of what being an American Muslim means; that there is a spectrum. Farsad said Islam can be expressed by followers in many ways. Some comics were very conservative on stage, for example, while Farsad (who considers herself more "culturally Muslim" than others) is on the more outgoing side. That diversity is important to show that you can't paint everyone of the same faith, ethic group, etc., with the same brush. However, Farsad admits that promoting this idea through social justice comedy can have its difficulties. "It's a very fine line between reinforcing stereotypes and turning them on their head," Farsad tells the CBC. "We want to show people these stereotype exists and this is why they're ridiculous."

This isn't just a flash in the pan for Farsad, either. Rather, the film is part of a larger social justice project she's completing over time (she was worked in health care reform, offshore banking reform, for Citizens United, and for a host of other social justice causes throughout her career). While the film sparks important public discourse about Islamophobia, it's also a fun film. Mary Hynes, the CBC host, says she laughed throughout the entire thing, for example. Check out the trailer, or, refer to this list to find out when The Muslims Are Coming! is being screened in a city near you.

Negin Farsad uses social justice comedy to address issues with Islamophobia, immigrant rights, bigotry, and any general lameness foisted on people because of race, religion, socio-economic class, sex, gender, etc. She relays what she's learned along the way in hilarious, but informative, keynotes. To book Negin Farsad for an event, contact The Lavin Agency.

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arts and pop culture | October 01, 2013