Ali Hassan’s comedy show, Muslim, Interrupted, has been very successful, but the election of U.S. President Donald Trump has inspired Hassan to rework some of the show’s content.
“My goal is to write an entertaining show, but then people pointed out the importance of the backdrop of Islamophobia … I’m adding a new voice to that narrative— one that not a lot of people will hear.”
Currently, Hassan is touring his show Canada-wide, including stops in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina.
Hassan’s show took place in Calgary on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of President Trump’s inauguration.
“I came to the show in protest of the inauguration today,” said audience member Steven McNettle.
Hassan also chose to protest by simply not watching Trump’s inauguration.
“Donald Trump’s kryptonite is attention, he thrives on attention…If I have any role in giving him a sense of insecurity, it would come from intentionally not watching the inauguration,” said Hassan.
Since President Trump formally announced his campaign for presidency in June 2015, he made no secret of his distaste for refugees — his social media accounts are ridden with comments attacking Muslims and other minorities.
A tweet made by Donald Trump on Nov. 17, 2015, stated, “Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our President insane?”
“Whether I want to be Muslim or not, I am…I do believe in God, but my belief is that God will turn a blind eye to those bacon bits in my Caesar salad.” – Ali Hassan
After hearing these comments, Hassan came to the realization some of his jokes could be, in fact, feeding the racist fire aimed at his community by Trump.
“When Trump talks about not knowing what we’re doing, and wanting to make a registry and give out special IDs, I came to the realization that I shouldn’t make all of the jokes — so some of them have been subbed out,” Hassan said.
Despite being born in New Brunswick and not actively following the practices of Islam, Hassan knows the general public identifies him as a Muslim and therefore, places the same racial stereotypes upon him.
“Just on an everyday basis, I’m treated as though I’m a Muslim. Nobody cares whether you have that connection or not to your religion.”
Hassan is very conscious of what he says while on stage and, for that reason, chooses to tell humorous personal stories rather than poking fun at others.
“My show is very, very personal and that’s intentional — it’s all my own experiences. If anyone gets offended over it, I can’t help them. Because these are my experiences. You can’t be offended by what I went through,” Hassan explains.
Hassan recalls a time when a Pakistani woman approached him after a show to tell him she found his jokes demeaning to her as an individual, and to her culture.
Although he understands everyone is entitled to their own opinion, Hassan refuses to apologize for his comedy.
“When you’re in comedy, you realize fairly quickly that you just can’t please everybody. Everybody has a different way of thinking about stuff, and if you try to you’ll be displeased yourself.”
Hassan’s first priority is to entertain his audiences, but he hopes that people who come to Muslim, Interrupted walk away with a more positive view of his culture, especially in the Trump era.
“This religion is not all extremist; you have to know that this is a tiny percentage and the majority of Muslims are worried about the extremism as much as anybody else.”
Audiences seem to be positively responding to this message of cultural positivity. Hassan had the audience roaring with laughter at Arts Commons during his Calgary show.
“I’m jazzed that he’s a Muslim comedian and there aren’t really any others that I can think of,” said Megan Kelln, another audience member.
Sandy Gordon, also came to the show in hopes of having a good laugh. “Everybody’s human and I like to support that,” she said.
Despite the fact that Hassan does not practice Islam perfectly, he still cares very much for his Muslim community and wants his comedy to reflect positively on them.
“Whether I want to be Muslim or not, I am…I do believe in God, but my belief is that God will turn a blind eye to those bacon bits in my caesar salad.”firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com The editor responsible for this article is Aysha Zafar and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org