Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton April 1, 2016

“The Muslims are coming”: The enactment of morality in activist Muslim comedy

Fadi Hirzalla and Liesbet van Zoonen
From the journal HUMOR

Abstract

In the context of the many and persistent Islam controversies, we investigate how activist Muslim comedy aims to unite Muslims and non-Muslims. To this purpose and to further current research and theory on humor functions, we develop a morality-based analytic framework that demonstrates the social potentials of humor. We propose to approach humor as engendering moral appeals that function as sign posts, indicating to audiences whom they ought to support based on their shared virtues, and which people ought to be defied for their vices. Our case study focuses on the documentary The Muslims are Coming! Based on a semiotic analysis, we find that this movie invites non-Muslims to unite with Muslims based on their shared normality, modernity and peacefulness. Furthermore, the unified in-group is invited to oppose three out-groups: conservative Muslims, terrorists, and ignorant media. These appeals can be properly understood in the context of the general and official aim of the documentary, which is “combating Islamophobia”, but they also produce particular limitations, for instance with respect to gender, and tend to smoothen legitimate difference.

References

Aarts, Paul & Carolien Roelants. 2015. Saudi Arabia: A kingdom in peril. London: Hurst C & Co Publishers Ltd.Search in Google Scholar

Amarasingam, Amarnath. 2010. Laughter the best medicine: Muslim comedians and social criticism in post 9/11 America. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 30(4). 463–477.10.1080/13602004.2010.533444Search in Google Scholar

Bahrampour, Tara. 2011. Muslim American comics’ tour and documentary. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com (accessed 18 March 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Bilici, Mucahit. 2010. Muslim ethnic comedy: Inversions of Islamophobia. In Andrew Shryock (ed.), Islamophobia / Islamophilia: Beyond the politics of enemy and friend, 195–208. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Booth, William. 2014. Gaza comedy troupe seeks laughs without offending Hamas government. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com (accessed 25 January 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Copp, David. 2001. Morality, normativity and society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Dauvergne, Peter & Kate J. Neville. 2011. Mindbombs of right and wrong: Cycles of contention in the activist campaign to stop Canada’s seal hunt. Environmental Politics 20(2). 192–209.10.1080/09644016.2011.551024Search in Google Scholar

Duits, Linda & Liesbet van Zoonen. 2006. Headscarves and porno-chic disciplining girls’ bodies in the European multicultural society. European Journal of Women’s Studies 13(2). 103–117.10.1177/1350506806062750Search in Google Scholar

Duits, Linda & Liesbet van Zoonen. 2011. Coming to terms with sexualization. European Journal of Cultural Studies 14(5). 491–506.10.1177/1367549411412201Search in Google Scholar

Franks, Andres & Kyle Scherr. 2015. Using moral foundations to predict voting behavior: Regression models from the 2012 US presidential election. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 15(1). 213–232. DOI: 10.1111/asap.12074.Search in Google Scholar

Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck & Nazir Nader Harb. 2014. Post-9/11: Making Islam an American religion. Religions 5(2). 477–501.10.3390/rel5020477Search in Google Scholar

Hirzalla, Fadi, Liesbet van Zoonen & Floris Müller. 2013. How funny can Islam controversies be? Comedians defending their faiths on YouTube. Television and New Media 14(1). 46–61.10.1177/1527476412453948Search in Google Scholar

Jaggar, Alison. 2000. Multicultural democracy. In Simone Chambers & Anne Costain (eds.), Deliberation, democracy and the media, 27–46. Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield.Search in Google Scholar

Johnson, James. 1998. Arguing for deliberation: Some skeptical considerations. In Jon Elster (ed.), Deliberative democracy, 161–184. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9781139175005.009Search in Google Scholar

King, Sallie. 2010. Interreligious dialogue. In Chad Meister (ed.), The Oxford handbook of religious diversity, 101–114. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195340136.003.0008Search in Google Scholar

Kuipers, Giselinde. 2011. The politics of humor in the public sphere: Cartoons, power and modernity in the first transnational humour scandal. European Journal of Cultural Studies 14(1). 63–80.10.1177/1367549410370072Search in Google Scholar

Lang, George. 2013. Deadcentre Film Festival review: The Muslims are Coming. NewsOK. http://newsok.com/deadcenter-film-festival-review-the-muslims-are-coming/article/3843349 (accessed 7 March 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Lockyer, Sharon, Brett Mills & Louise Peacock. 2011. Analysing stand-up comedy. Comedy Studies 2(2). 99–100.10.1386/cost.2.2.99_2Search in Google Scholar

Lynch, Owen. 2002. Humorous communication: Finding a place for humor in communication research. Communication Theory 12(4). 423–445.10.1111/j.1468-2885.2002.tb00277.xSearch in Google Scholar

Mamdani, Mahmood. 2004. Good Muslim, bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the roots of terror. New York: Pantheon.Search in Google Scholar

Mansson McGinty, Anne. 2012. The “mainstream Muslim” opposing Islamophobia: Self-representations of American Muslims. Environment and Planning A 44(12). 2957–2873.10.1068/a4556Search in Google Scholar

Meyer, John. 2000. Humor as a double-edged sword: Four functions of humor in communication. Communication Theory 10(3). 310–331.10.1111/j.1468-2885.2000.tb00194.xSearch in Google Scholar

Michael, Jaclyn. 2013. American Muslims stand up and speak out: Trajectories of humor in Muslim American stand-up comedy. Cont Islam 7(2). 129–153.10.1007/s11562-011-0183-6Search in Google Scholar

Mills, Brett. 2014. “A pleasure working with you”: Humour theory and Joan Rivers. Comedy Studies 2(2). 151–160.10.4324/9780429057526-27Search in Google Scholar

Miller, Gale & Kathrine Vitus. 2009. Social problems work: The cases of children and youth. Sociology Compass 3(5). 737–753.10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00228.xSearch in Google Scholar

Modood, Tariq & Fauzia Ahmad. 2007. British Muslim perspectives on multiculturalism. Theory, Culture & Society 24(2). 187–213.10.1177/0263276407075005Search in Google Scholar

Obeidallah, Dean. 2014. Middle East goes Monty Python on ISIS. The Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com (accessed 25 January 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Peacock, Louise. 2011. Joan Rivers: Reading the meaning. Comedy Studies 2(2). 125–137.10.4324/9780429057526-26Search in Google Scholar

Sachs, Ben. 2013. The Muslims are coming. Chicago Reader. http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/the-muslims-are-coming/Film?oid=10927323 (accessed 7 March 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Shaheen, Jack. 2000. Hollywood’s Muslim Arabs. The Muslim World 90(1/2). 22–42.10.1111/j.1478-1913.2000.tb03680.xSearch in Google Scholar

Shaheen, Jack. 2001. Reel bad Arabs: How Hollywood vilifies a people. New York: Olive Branch Press.Search in Google Scholar

Shogan, Colleen. 2007. The moral rhetoric of American presidents. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Short synopsis. n.d. http://themuslimsarecoming.com/about/synopsis/ (accessed 25 January 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Tamura, Yuichi. 2007. Human rights accusation and the school rule controversies in Japan: Moral discourse, social problems work, and social problem solution. Sociological Spectrum 27(1). 81–102.10.1080/02732170601001201Search in Google Scholar

Tsakona, Villy & Diana Elena Popa. 2013. Confronting power with laughter. European Journal of Humor Research 1(2). 1–9.10.7592/EJHR2013.1.2.tsakonaSearch in Google Scholar

Volf, Miroslav. 1996. Exclusion and embrace: A theological exploration of identity, otherness and reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Weaver, Simon. 2010. The ‘Other’ laughs back: Humour and resistance in anti-racist comedy. Sociology 44(1). 31–48.10.1177/0038038509351624Search in Google Scholar

Zaino, III, Nick A. 2013. The Muslims are Coming delivers a surprising punch line. The Boston Globe. http://www.bostonglobe.com (accessed 18 March 2015).Search in Google Scholar

Zimbardo, Zara. 2014. Cultural politics of humor in (de)normalizing Islamophobic stereotypes. Islamophobia Studies Journal 2(1). 59–81.10.13169/islastudj.2.1.0059Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2016-4-1
Published in Print: 2016-5-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

Scroll Up Arrow