Film Review: The Muslims Are Coming!
If you’ve lived in this world long enough and have talked to enough people, you come to terms with the aphoristic truth that there’s a certain amount of stupidity out there that you’re just going to have to tolerate. Ignorance is everywhere, including in our national media. And this is precisely why ‘The Muslims are Coming!’, a documentary co-directed by Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah, is such an incisive, hilarious and wonderful film: it seeks to dismantle ignorance, but with humor and a hug.
'The Muslims are Coming!' is a documentary about a caravan of stand-up comedians who travel all across America’s “Red States” to tackle Islamophobia. Farsad and Obeidallah, joined by fellow comedians, partake in gimmicky stunts like “Ask a Muslim”, “Bowling with a Muslim” and “Hug a Muslim” to spread word about their (free) comedy shows. It serves a greater purpose than publicity of course---they’re engaging passers-by in discourse about Islam and their perceptions of Muslims. They’re confronted with the “1% of all Muslims are terrorists” argument and questions like “Well, how do you feel about 9/11?”, but the comedians deftly challenge these follies with wit and charm. Footage of these exchanges and stand-up shows is accompanied with commentary by the likes of Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, David Cross and Soledad O’Brien, who shed light on how the media portrays Islam and how Muslims can counter the dominating narrative.
What’s particularly refreshing about the film is that it doesn’t present Islam through rose-tinted glasses; the comedians make as much fun of Islam as they do Islamophobia. The film uses humor and a calibrated irreverence to illuminate various social, racial and gender-related issues within the Muslim community.
The film truly triumphs as it navigates through these nuances by examining the basis of religious identity and the ethnic diversity under the umbrella of Islam. Preacher Moss, a black-Muslim-American comedian talks about the racial and religious barriers he has had to overcome, while Negin Farsad discusses what it’s like to be a Muslim comedienne. Her style is raunchy and provocative, and she talks about not gaining acceptance within the very community she’s steadfastly defending. The film remains playful as it discusses intersectional identities and discrimination, but opens up the floodgates for a pertinent discussion every Muslim who bemoans discrimination needs to participate in: “How do you view the other?” This is touched upon by Cenk Uygur, of "The Young Turks" fame, who comments that there’s a barrier of exclusivity in the Islamic faith, and that Muslims don’t engage with other communities as much as they should.
‘The Muslims are Coming!’ is the sort of film that anybody can watch, and I do mean anybody. It stars celebrated media personalities, the jokes are self-effacing and trenchant, and the film keeps your attention from start to finish. It touches upon topical issues, but stays away from veering into sluggish territory by remaining light-hearted. If there’s a lesson to be learnt in this documentary, it’s this: it’s the ability to laugh at ourselves and each other that will prevent us from killing each other, so sit back and enjoy the dick joke.
You can watch the trailer for 'The Muslims are Coming!' here:
Reach Staff Reporter Aliza Noor Khan here.