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‘Halal in the Family’ spoofs stereotypes

Web sitcom portrays American Muslim family trying to fit in

By Hanna Rahman –

“We’re not that KIND of Muslim,” Aasif Qu’osby (played by comedian Aasif Mandvi) yells at the end of the opening credits in the new web series, “Halal in the Family,” which airs on Funny or Die. “Halal” is a satirical series that challenges stereotypes and misinformation about Muslims. It is a sitcom parody about an all-American Muslim family that faces the typical biases while living in a western community.

According to Mandvi’s campaign website, after an intense effort to raise money for the production of “Halal,” Mandvi and the cast raised $39,547. The show aired its first episode in April 2015.

So far, there have been four episodes, each about five minutes long, that focus on different issues Muslims face, such as FBI surveillance, bullying and misconceptions about Shariah Law, all while the family simply tries to fit into their community as a normal American family.

In the episode “A Very Spooq’y Halloween Special,” Aasif and his kids try to compete with the neighbors in the American tradition of who does Halloween the best? While on the high of being competitive, Aasif gets carried away and tries to turn his house into a haunted terrorist training camp. “You’re a ghost in a burqa. What could scare white people more than that?” Aasif tells his daughter.

In another episode, “B’ully,” when the daughter is being bullied, Aasif decides to invite the bully over to teach her a lesson. “If you’re going to stereotype us, at least get it right,” says Aasif when learning that the bully characterized his daughter as a Sikh.

While the situations are exaggerated for comedic effect, this is just the type of satire that is needed to bring attention to issues that are all too familiar to Muslim Americans. The actors evoke strong empathy for Muslims while also incorporating sporadic laughs.

This show does a great job of exploiting the misconceptions real-life media portrays. For instance, the media constantly tries to group every Muslim as a supporter of the few extreme acts that were carried out by very few Muslims. Politicians have overtaken media conversations, where the general message is to be afraid of Muslims. In reality, American Muslims are just trying to live a normal life just like every other American. In the episode “Spies Like Us,” Aasif initially thought his son’s new white Muslim math teacher was a spy. Towards the end of the show, the issue was resolved in classic sitcom fashion. The bigger message is that American Muslims struggle with being seen as permanent foreigners.

This show is focused on creating accurate portrayals of American Muslims in the media and standing up against the misconceptions and sometimes outright lies that are being spread. I wasn’t laughing throughout the entire show, but there were parts where I cracked a smile and a chuckle. Although the acting is intentionally overstated, the episodes really make you think about how opinions are partially constructed. And maybe if people just watch it, they might be able to think differently.

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