The Stream

Striking a balance between comedy and faith

Zarqa Nawaz, Zahra Noorbakhsh and Nadia Manzoor talk Islam, feminism and humour.

When it comes to faith and community, when is it okay to laugh? When it comes to Muslim identity, what is okay to laugh at? These are just some of the dilemmas a group of creative Muslim women are grappling with, and on Thursday, they’ll share their challenges with The Stream.

Zarqa Nawaz explores what would happen to a mosque if the imam believed passionately in gender equality in her television series “Little Mosque on the Prairie”. It is the first-ever Western sitcom about Muslims that’s made her a darling of TV critics and the scorn of her community.  “Little Mosque”, which premiered on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2007 for six seasons, used Islam as a framework to challenge traditional notions of gender. The hit television series angered some in Nawaz’s own community. She was accused of insulting Islam and “selling out the Muslim community to make money”. She tackles it all in her memoir, “Laughing All the Way to the Mosque”. 

Iranian-American Zahra Noorbakhsh is a comedian and creator of the show “All Atheists are Muslim”. She is also co-host of the podcast #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, but she says her identity is a lot more complicated than that. She and her co-host talk openly about relationships, their lives and what their faith means to each of them. They don’t shy away from controversial topics and they explore the notion of being “more Muslim” and “less Muslim”.

Nadia Manzoor is creator of the web series “Shugs and Fats” and the one-woman show “Burq Off!” In her work she explores her identities, shaped by her conservative Muslim upbringing, and her life as the child of immigrants in the West. She’s been accused of airing her community’s dirty laundry as no topics have been off-limits for storytelling on stage.

We’ll take a look at the balance these women strike between comedy, storytelling and their faith. 

On today’s episode, we speak to:

Zarqa Nawaz @ZarqaNawaz
Writer, filmmaker

Zahra Noorbakhsh @ZahraComedy
Comedian, co-host, #GoodMuslimBadMuslim

Nadia Manzoor @NadiaPManzoor
Actor, writer

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