Is coffee okay with Allah? What did Baywatch mean to millions of Muslims worldwide when it came out on cable TV in the early noughties? Are there really ‘virgins’ awaiting suicide bombers in the afterlife, or had there been a mistranslation of the Koran? These and other stereotypes are flipped and examined by national comedian, Sami Shah, in his standup show ‘Islamofarcist‘. Yes — he’s a farcist, not a fascist or political extremist. Spry in his black glasses, orange runners and denim pants, Shah gets straight into myth-busting.
Pakistani-born and bred, Shah didn’t know what type of Muslim he was when his best friend at school asked him. After all, he tells us, there were many kinds in the 1.6 billion worldwide. From the ‘Normal Muslim’, to the ‘Metro Muslim’, to the’ Frightening Muslim’. Then there was the ‘DRC Muslim’ — Down Right Crazy — which he almost became after 9/11. He gives us the details on the factional splits in Islam of Sunni and Shia, and which Muslims are gluten-free. He also gives us his interpretation of many misquoted tracts from the Koran, all in deliriously cloud-capped memes.
Told with projection slide and pointer in hand, in his trip down memory lane and forward into modern day Australia, Shah enlightens his audience as he recounts his own path in the much-maligned culture and faith. As far as religions go, Shah is now an apostate — a non-believer who gives up their faith — which can be a dangerous position to be in. Just not as scary as a blasphemer, because then Muslims are instructed to ‘take them and slay them wherever you find them’. He’s not sure why he’s still alive after so many have seen his show! He chose comedy as his weapon of choice, a tool this journalist uses to enlighten as well as enrage.
This fabulously light one-on-one is told with candour and verve. Shah makes fun of his own family, culture, other Muslims, and even defends the right of parties such as ‘Reclaim Australia’ to free speech. (He just thinks they should think of reclaiming their teeth first.) Reversing stereotypes, this guy truly is a 21st century modern man of the world. Like all preconceptions, most aren’t even partially accurate. Picking up on Australia’s international reputation as ‘racists’, Shah declaims, ‘but it’s not true!’. He loves working in a culture where free speech does not = execution.
Shah delivers his inquiry into cultural stereotypes cleverly. He tackles the big subjects: are ‘all women are crazy’ or ‘all men lazy’?, ‘things only a white guy can say’, and the things he doesn’t want his own daughter to say. You will laugh with the refreshing cheek of this very welcome addition to our national stage. Get down for some pointed laughs where no one is off-territory.
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold, and non-traditional performance platforms. On-the-street or in the box seat, she is always looking for quality works that push the envelope!
‘Islamofarcist’ runs 16 September to 1 October, 8pm (60mins) at Fringe Hub, the Ballroom, Lithuanian Club.
The venue is wheelchair accessible.