Aasif Mandvi speaks to 600 people at the ISPU Banquet and Fundraiser in Livonia, Michigan. Photo by Adil James
Last weekend, the Institute for Social Policy & Understanding (ISPU) held their annual banquet, themed “Reshaping the Muslim American Narrative.” Among the keynote speakers was Aasif Mandvi, an actor and correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. TMO sat down with with Aasif to discuss his new Qu’osby Show project, why Muslim Americans need to be more honest with themselves, and who inspires him.
What can the Muslim community do to better improve its image?
Self-reflection and honesty about oneself. It is about us being honest about our own communities, and our own selves, and what we do. I am not critical of Islam, but I am critical of Muslims. I think there are issues within our own communities that we need to address, and engage in a dialogue amongst ourselves about, rather than just sort of always trying to counter the negative propaganda with “positive” propaganda doesn’t really lead to a dialogue.
You are currently raising funds to complete a webseries you are producing called the “Qu’osby Show”. What do you hope to achieve with this series?
To put a voice out there that’s fighting Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. In some ways, we’re trying use comedy – via parody of an 80’s sitcom – to fight a big problem, which is the perception of Muslims.
What’s your advice to young Muslim Americans who aspire down a path of entertainment like you?
Just keep telling stories, keep telling your story.
In your book you describe yourself as the “Jihadist of irony,” the “terrorist of comedy,” but what do what do really want to be known for?
At the end of the day I’m a performer and actor and storyteller and that’s what I would like to be known for.
Who inspires you?
I don’t know, honestly that’s a tough question. I don’t have a person that is the most inspiring person… I guess I would say I would love to meet Muhammad Ali. I think that would be a bucket-list kind of moment for me to meet him.