Profile of Azhar Usman, a Muslim Comedian

September 15, 2006

Source: Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly

On September 15, 2006 Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly reported, "KIM LAWTON, guest anchor: American Muslims have developed a variety of strategies to combat ignorance and prejudice against their community, from grassroots political pressure to high-profile media campaigns. But Azhar Usman has chosen a more unorthodox route -- standup comedy. The 30-year-old Muslim comedian doesn't pick easy targets for his jokes. In fact, he often ventures into areas where most comics would fear to tread. How does he pull it off? Judy Valente reports. VALENTE: Before an audience of college students in Illinois, Azhar Usman jokes about being a Muslim at a U.S. airport. AZHAR USMAN (at performance): ' walking into the airport. Heads turn simultaneously. Security guys are, like, 'Oh, my God, we've got a Muhammad at four o'clock. Ten-four. Muhammad at four. Over and out. You get the smelly one. I got the hairy one.' There's a fair amount of political material, and then there's a lot of silly stuff. I mean, I'm a silly guy, and I've always, you know, been the class clown, and so I'm sure that comes through in my act as well. (At performance): 'Of course everybody's real nice to me once the plane safely lands. They just lean over and smile, and they're like, "Ha, ha, ha, ha (waves hi)." I'm just waiting for a real honest passenger at the end of the flight, like, "Excuse me, sir, I thought you were going to kill us. Sorry about that."' There is definitely an intent to show Americans a face of Islam, a face of Muslims that they've just never seen. He's, you know, a regular guy, he's laughing, he's telling jokes. JUDY VALENTE: When Azhar Usman is on stage, he says he's doing more than just telling jokes. He's waging peace by promoting a better understanding of Muslims, using humor as his vehicle."