September 12, 2013
Oy! ‘The Muslims Are Coming’ to your town
The Muslims Are Coming to your town, led by two stand-up comedians wielding the traditional weapons of America’s ethnic minorities.
The two Muslim-American comics tell jokes, play off their negative stereotypes and parade around with signs asking passersby to “Hug a Muslim.”
Given 9/11, the massacres in Syria and Egypt, Iranian threats and all that, it’s no easy job to portray Muslims as jolly, regular folks, but Negin Farsad and Dean Obeidallah give it the old college try in their 84-minute film “The Muslims Are Coming!” (credited to A Vaguely Qualified Production) and score a respectable number of points.
Shrewdly, the film enlists the (liberal) viewer’s sympathy from the start by screening clips from such professional loudmouths as Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Herman Cain, Glenn Beck, Donald Trump, etc., all warning that a Muslim takeover of the United States is nigh, to be followed by the imposition of Sharia law.
With enemies like that, the two American-born Muslims and fellow comics (who refer to themselves as Muzzies, or, in singular, Muz) come across as pretty normal – if sharp-witted – folks.
Farsad, of Iranian descent, is an Ivy League grad and was a policy advisor for the City of New York before morphing into a “social-justice” comedian.
She and a fellow actress whack the image of burka-clad Muslim womanhood by showing a bit of cleavage, occasionally using four-letter words and sparring verbally with the boys.
Obeidallah, Farsad’s fellow co-director/producer, is the son of a Palestinian father and an Italian mother and, like his partner, has a long career in movies, television and stand-up comedy, and their professionalism shows.
In the movie’s production notes, they acknowledge their debt to other ethnic minorities who also battled prejudice in American society.
“Starting with Jewish-American comedians in the 1940s and ‘50s, to the African-American comedians in the ’60s and ‘70s, to the Latino-American comedians today – they have all used stand-up comedy to humanize themselves and maybe subtlety educate Americans about their people, their annoying moms, their insane holiday gatherings, you know, normal human stuff.”
The band of jolly Muzzies does not make its task easier for itself as it embarks on its national tour. The itinerary avoids cities like New York, Detroit and Los Angeles, whose large Muslim populations might fill seats and lend moral support.
Instead, the troupe hits small towns in the Bible Belt of the Deep South, such as Columbus, Georgia and Tupelo, Mississippi, before moving on to Tucson, Arizona and the Mormon capital of Salt Lake City.
Besides meeting the locals at bowling alleys and shooting ranges, the entertainers set up tables at meeting halls, with such come-on signs as “Ask a Muslim” and inviting questions from the audience.
Yes, answer the Muzzies, you can take a Jew to the local Muslim Center, and they invite a woman who objects to the Muslim prohibition of alcohol to come to a speakeasy and “drink like it’s 1320.”
The format works less effectively, and the answers seem forced, when questioners repeatedly ask why moderate Muslims do not speak out more emphatically against the terrorist acts of some of their co-religionists.
Lending an occasional hand as the film progresses are fellow comedians Jon Stewart, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo and Lewis Black.
“The Muslims Are Coming!” opens Sept. 13 at the Downtown Independent theater, 251 S. Main St., in the Little Tokyo area, and plays for one week. For information, call (213) 617-1033.