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To Change People's Minds, First Make Them Laugh

In this week's "For the Record," NPR's Rachel Martin spoke with three Muslim comics — Ahmed Ahmed, Negin Farsad and Adil Ray — about the motivations and challenges of using humor to change perceptions about their religion.

To hear the full piece, and their thoughts on a wide range of topics, listen to the audio link above.

Jason Davis / Getty Images for Bud Light
Getty Images for Bud Light

Ahmed Ahmed

"I always talked about [Islam in my comedy], because I wanted to point out the elephant in the room. My name's Ahmed Ahmed. So there is always this little hesitance when I go up on stage, where people are like, 'Well, what's he gonna talk about?' So oftentimes, I'll say, 'Hey, everybody, I was raised Muslim,' and there's this kind of awkward silence. And I go, 'Boo!'

"I just do it to lighten the mood, and it always gets a big laugh because people don't see that coming. It's like I'm playing on the stereotype, but I'm doing it on purpose because I think that people need to let their guard down."

Jordan Matter / Courtesy of Negin Farsad
Courtesy of Negin Farsad

Negin Farsad

"I don't censor myself. And that sometimes means I don't censor my dating or sexual life, and that is very difficult, I think, for some conservative members of the Muslim community, conservative members of the Iranian-American community — people who are just like, 'What are you doing? We're supposed to be model minorities! Stop talking about that!' "

Adil Ray

"I think it's essential that we have a counternarrative to what's going on at the moment. A lot of people are getting into spats with me on Twitter, and they'll say, 'All Muslims aren't like what you're portraying on [your sitcom] Citizen Khan.' And I say, you know what, go and write your own! You really must. We must hear what you want to put out there."

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