Lyrics and Laughter to Eliminate Muslim Stereotype

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Wright Illuminates a Muslim Approach to War that may Surprise some Americans

It started off as a solemn mention of bombs and deceased personal friends. Robin Wright, foreign affairs correspondent and author took the stage last night to inform a packed McCrary Theater of the situation in the Islamic world.

Wright has been reporting in Syria since the fourth Middle East war in 1973. She has witnessed the current uprising of people bringing a turning point in this region and documented the peaceful demonstrations like rebellious graffiti and protests frequenting Syrian streets. The people that are bringing about this change are not a distinct group; they are martyred shop owners, women’s rights bloggers, and 13-year-old protest marchers. The focus on peaceful protesting has been key in establishing the new Muslim voice and promoting that voice to the world.

Cassie McClellan, an Elon Student in attendance, expressed her surprise about the Muslims’ use of culture and music to bring about change. These peaceful protests have indeed taken on the face of goofy rap stars and comedians who use their art to separate themselves and their followers from the stereotypical Muslim terrorist image. Rap music is strictly banned in most Middle Eastern countries but Wright calls it “the rhythm of resistance”. Other mediums have been used as well such as comic book heroes illustrating what it means to live a respectable life and comedians joking about an attempted terrorist attack in which the would be bomber of the northwest flight to Detroit in 2009 hid a bomb in his underpants. Maz Jobrani, a popular Iranian comedian, jokes, “If the reward for this bombing is 72 virgins in heaven, can we put the bomb somewhere else?”

It is this negative image and other specific issues in Muslim life that these peaceful protestors are fighting. Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian activist, organized film festivals and campaigns to fight female circumcision practices and other sexist behaviors. Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire to protest the confiscation of his food by the government and their unwillingness to help him find work again. As these stories of protest leak out to other Middle Eastern citizens, more join this new revolution.

Comedy and movies that make light of terrorist actions and condemn their drastic measures are small steps in establishing the new Muslim identity. A major theme of Wright’s talk was the power of one to change the world, and these actors, comedians, and everyday people are working behind the scenes to do just that. Bombs will continue to fall and citizens will continue to be beaten as long as the military maintains their hold on Syrian society, but as long as people are still setting themselves on fire for their cause and women are experimenting with new, progressive ways to wear their religious shawls or hijabs, change will come to the Middle East.

Lizzie Harkey

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