Muslim Comedian Seeks to Diffuse Tensions Through Laughter

May 2, 2004

Source: CBS News

On May 2, 2004 CBS News reported, "She's been called the world's only female Muslim stand-up comedian, which sounds like a joke in itself. But for Shazia Mirza, comedy is a serious business. In Britain, where she was born, Mirza has overcome the prejudices of both Muslims and non-Muslims to become a leading figure on the stand-up comedy circuit. And far from hiding her religion, she makes a point of emphasizing it by the clothes that she wears whenever she goes on stage. Muslim women traditionally wear the hijab or headscarf as a sign of modesty. It's supposed to make them anonymous. But for Mirza, it's become her trademark, and it's made her famous. It's what this 27-year-old unmarried Muslim wears, not just when she goes to the mosque, but also when she performs in the male-dominated, beer-swilling world of British stand-up comedy...With her dry wit and deadpan delivery, Mirza doesn't spare herself or her predominantly white audiences: 'I'm really pleased to be here tonight actually because my dad has let me out for the night. So I'm not going to stay long. Actually, he's picking me up in 10 minutes. He thinks this is a library'...Born in Birmingham, England, to first generation Pakistani immigrants, Mirza says that from a young age she knew what she wanted to do with her life. But it wasn't a career choice that went down well in the community where she was raised." The article went on to describe the mixed reactions to Mirza's career as a Muslim comedian.