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Muslim Comic Takes Aim At Stereotypes

April 9, 2009 — Stereotypes of what "all Muslims" are like, how they behave and what they think took a blow Thursday night, undergoing repeated shots to the funny bone administered by "Baba Ali," a Muslim comic and popular star of Internet videos.
Ali, whose actual name is Ali Ardekani, performed Thursday at the Great Hall on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands. The event was sponsored by the school's Muslim Students Association.
More than 200 people jammed the hall for the appearance, and while the audience was primarily Muslim, there was a heavy mixing of non-believers as well.
It is that mix of an audience that Baba Ali plays off of. By joking about stereotypes, about, for example, the things a Muslim should not do or risk getting thrown off of airplanes, he gets the audience laughing — the non-Muslims because they recognize it, the Muslims because they live it.
"All Muslims at the airport are Mohammed," he said. Airport security will pick people for random screening, but there's nothing random about it.
"Here's how they randomly select. 'Eenie, meenie, minie, mo, eenie, meenie, minie, Mohammed.' Then they show you into a room where they do the screening, and there's a bunch of other guys there, and they all look exactly like you.
"I took some math classes in college. That's not random."
Ali went to college at UCLA and knew of only one other practicing Muslim on the Westwood campus. This was his first trip to the Virgin Islands, and he was surprised by the big turnout.
"I'm amazed to see so many Muslims here," he said. "How did you get here?"
In the mainstream media Muslims are usually portrayed as terrorists or chanting religious zealots. In fact, they're just normal people with a particular set of beliefs, Ali said.
"There are 8 million Muslims in this country," he said. "If we're all supposed to be terrorists we're pretty bad at it, because there isn't a lot going on."
After about 40 minutes of humor, Baba Ali took a break as the last rays of sunlight left the sky so the Muslims in the hall could offer their evening prayer. When the audience reassembled, the tone took a more serious mood as he described how he became Muslim.
Born in Iran, his wealthy family moved to the United States when he was four, and he was raised in a secular culture. His parents did not practice their religion. At the age of about 20, a close friend was arrested and sent to jail for credit card fraud. He was surprised to learn that the friend was Muslim.
In the next few years other friends ran into trouble, and Ali realized, "I'll either be dead or in prison by the time I'm 25." So he went in search of a better lifestyle, and truth.
Ironically, he tried almost every religion, even Wicca, before turning to the faith he'd been born into. And it was there that he found what he'd been looking for. His parents were shocked. In the Iran they had known, religion was for the poor. They put it to him that he could continue to live the opulent lifestyle he was accustomed to, or he could be a Muslim. But not both.
Ali soon found himself in a small apartment in a dangerous neighborhood with little in the way of life skills. He'd never done laundry or washed dishes, for instance, and had negative 10 cents in his bank account. But he's never looked back.
His parents had money and education (his mother graduated from Yale) but they lacked the spiritual bond that faith creates and their marriage was "a disaster," he said. Ali lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife and two children, but feels he has something more important than money.
While he lives in Los Angeles during the week, almost any weekend is likely to find Baba Ali performing somewhere around the globe, from Saudi Arabia or Australia, from Cleveland to San Francisco. His online videos are a big hit on youtube. Readers can find more information on Baba Ali by visiting his website.
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April 9, 2009 -- Stereotypes of what "all Muslims" are like, how they behave and what they think took a blow Thursday night, undergoing repeated shots to the funny bone administered by "Baba Ali," a Muslim comic and popular star of Internet videos.
Ali, whose actual name is Ali Ardekani, performed Thursday at the Great Hall on the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands. The event was sponsored by the school's Muslim Students Association.
More than 200 people jammed the hall for the appearance, and while the audience was primarily Muslim, there was a heavy mixing of non-believers as well.
It is that mix of an audience that Baba Ali plays off of. By joking about stereotypes, about, for example, the things a Muslim should not do or risk getting thrown off of airplanes, he gets the audience laughing -- the non-Muslims because they recognize it, the Muslims because they live it.
"All Muslims at the airport are Mohammed," he said. Airport security will pick people for random screening, but there's nothing random about it.
"Here's how they randomly select. 'Eenie, meenie, minie, mo, eenie, meenie, minie, Mohammed.' Then they show you into a room where they do the screening, and there's a bunch of other guys there, and they all look exactly like you.
"I took some math classes in college. That's not random."
Ali went to college at UCLA and knew of only one other practicing Muslim on the Westwood campus. This was his first trip to the Virgin Islands, and he was surprised by the big turnout.
"I'm amazed to see so many Muslims here," he said. "How did you get here?"
In the mainstream media Muslims are usually portrayed as terrorists or chanting religious zealots. In fact, they're just normal people with a particular set of beliefs, Ali said.
"There are 8 million Muslims in this country," he said. "If we're all supposed to be terrorists we're pretty bad at it, because there isn't a lot going on."
After about 40 minutes of humor, Baba Ali took a break as the last rays of sunlight left the sky so the Muslims in the hall could offer their evening prayer. When the audience reassembled, the tone took a more serious mood as he described how he became Muslim.
Born in Iran, his wealthy family moved to the United States when he was four, and he was raised in a secular culture. His parents did not practice their religion. At the age of about 20, a close friend was arrested and sent to jail for credit card fraud. He was surprised to learn that the friend was Muslim.
In the next few years other friends ran into trouble, and Ali realized, "I'll either be dead or in prison by the time I'm 25." So he went in search of a better lifestyle, and truth.
Ironically, he tried almost every religion, even Wicca, before turning to the faith he'd been born into. And it was there that he found what he'd been looking for. His parents were shocked. In the Iran they had known, religion was for the poor. They put it to him that he could continue to live the opulent lifestyle he was accustomed to, or he could be a Muslim. But not both.
Ali soon found himself in a small apartment in a dangerous neighborhood with little in the way of life skills. He'd never done laundry or washed dishes, for instance, and had negative 10 cents in his bank account. But he's never looked back.
His parents had money and education (his mother graduated from Yale) but they lacked the spiritual bond that faith creates and their marriage was "a disaster," he said. Ali lives in a two-bedroom apartment with his wife and two children, but feels he has something more important than money.
While he lives in Los Angeles during the week, almost any weekend is likely to find Baba Ali performing somewhere around the globe, from Saudi Arabia or Australia, from Cleveland to San Francisco. His online videos are a big hit on youtube. Readers can find more information on Baba Ali by visiting his website.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.