Film Review – The Muslims Are Coming!
The Muslims Are Coming!
The Muslims Are Coming! documents a tour of Muslim stand-up comedians doing free tour dates at various venues throughout the southern United States. Headed by comedienne Negin Farsad, the tour is meant to put a face on a group that in American discourse is largely misunderstood. It opens with a montage of various TV pundits fueling fear mongering aimed at those sneaky Muslims. A major point of this film is how all of the fear-based hostility focused on this group in our post-9/11 world is rooted largely in ignorance. And comedy can broach uncomfortable subjects better than just about anything. If people are laughing, you can create understanding without anger. At least that’s the hope.
It’s a noble goal that is sometimes met with mixed success. The comics’ first gig in Florida is met with a minimal crowd and limited enthusiasm. All admit that it was one tough show. Things get better as they head to Mississippi and Georgia, and some of the stunts they pull are kind of funny. At one point, they have an outdoor table for “Ask a Muslim a Question.” In Utah, they hold signs up to offer free hugs. That stunt in particular is met with friendly warmth.
In between the stand-up footage, we get edited-together montages on how the media likes to demonize Muslims in America. The documentary is also peppered with many famous modern comic luminaries as talking heads. The likes of Jon Stewart, Janeane Garofolo, David Cross, Colin Quinn, and Lewis Black periodically weigh in on how difficult it must be for this group of Muslim comics. Other notable faces include Rachel Maddow, Soledad O’Brien, and Russell Simmons, who also try to provide context for this issue.
The political point is strong in this film, but there may be a bit of preaching to the choir going on. Anyone who is attracted to watching some Borat–like moments of making Southerners feel uncomfortable is probably already pretty liberal in their thinking. The idea of changing hearts and minds through comedy is a noble one, but there is still the problem of getting people to listen. There are some light examples of enlightening people. When the comics conduct a quiz about whether a quote is from the Old Testament, New Testament, or the Koran, everyone quizzed answers incorrectly. Yes, this bit is probably edited for maximum comedic effect, but as an illustration that bigotry doesn’t stem from knowledge, it is quite pointed.
Most of these comics are relatively unknown and pretty funny. Fasad is fearless in her willingness to be a strong Muslim woman on stage. Preacher Moss is there to represent the African-American Muslim population. Kareem Omary has some quite funny bits. They are all funny people, though some may still be developing their comedic voice. The old pros that are used for opinions throughout are effortlessly funny. When rating which minority group is the most hated in America, with answers including gay people, mimes, and so on, everyone involved gets to crack wise.
The Muslims are Coming! is a solid comedy concert movie. It should find a good home on Comedy Central alongside reruns of The Comedians of Comedy or installments of Jon Oliver’s stand-up shows. Maybe it’s not as groundbreaking as it hopes to be, but it’s worth watching.