Maysoon Zayid & The First Ever Muslim Stand-Up Comedy Festival

Maysoon Zayid

Pictured: Maysoon Zayid; Photo Credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Too often, when people hear the word “Muslim” they have one-dimensional images pop into their mind. Women wearing all black and covered, so only their faces – or just their eyes – can be seen. Bearded men carrying weapons. Terrorism.

Such associations stereotype 1.6 billion people. And fabulous comedians will make that point. Take a look and even go and laugh with them at America’s first ever Muslim stand-up comedy festival, The Muslim Funny Fest. From July 21 to July 23 in New York, the not-for-profit festival features top Muslim American comedians from the United States, Canada and Dubai.

Co-organizers of the festival, Dean Obeidallahand and Maysoon Zayid, are mainstays in the comedy circuit. “We’re not censoring any of the comics,” Ms. Zayid said to The New York Times. “They can talk about whatever they want. We’re not telling anyone, ‘Oh, this is a Muslim comedy festival, so you can’t talk about the fact that you love bacon sandwiches.’ ”  Zayid can also boast having the most viewed TED Talks session of last year, in which she found humor in growing up in New Jersey as a Palestinian American with cerebral palsy.

In addition to stand-up, Zayid tries to battle discrimination with humor via Twitter. In one tweet she jokes, “A lot folks don’t realize you can be Muslim and American. They’re all, “Go back to your own country!” and I’m like, “You mean NJ?”

But there is a serious issue that underlies the festival. “We didn’t start doing the ethnic comedy and Muslim comedy until we felt our community was under siege and that we could no longer just step onstage and be treated as an equal,” Ms. Zayid said in a phone interview with the New York Times.

Whether Muslim or not, we all love to laugh. Humor is a universal joy that binds us all and one we all can support

For details about the festival visit

Santorum Ill Over JFK’s Speech on Religion: News Roundup


In the news this week: Santorum sick over JFK speech, a report in the UK claims religious illiteracy in Parliament, the number of mosques in the U.S. has grown tremendously, and other stories.
Rick Santorum said Sunday that John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on the separation of church and state made him want to "throw up." On Tuesday, he said he wished he "had that particular line back."
When conservative radio host Laura Ingraham challenged him on the apparently off-message comments that have provoked considerable controversy, the GOP presidential candidate said, "I would agree with you on that. I wish I had that particular line back."
Yet Santorum went on to defend his criticism of Kennedy's speech and launched an attack on President Barack Obama. Huffington Post
Rick Santorum's political good fortune in the Republican presidential primaries has come about in large part because of his appeal to evangelicals. A Roman Catholic, he is a beneficiary of more than two decades of cooperation between conservative Protestants and Catholics who set aside theological differences for the common cause of the culture war. San Francisco Chronicle
(United Kingdom) A report from a cross-party parliamentary group will this week warn that there is a widespread lack of “religious literacy” among the country’s judges, politicians and officials.
It also claims that the rights of homosexuals take precedence over those of Christians.
The study, by the Christians in Parliament group, follows a series of rulings by judges against Christians who had claimed that following their faith brought them into conflict with the law or with their employer. The Telegraph
Recent video games have begun depicting religion as a violent, problematic force, according to research from a new University of Missouri study.
Greg Perreault, a doctoral student at University of Missouri's School of Journalism, studied five extremely popular games from the last few years that incorporate religion heavily into their storylines: "Mass Effect 2," "Final Fantasy XIII," "Assassin's Creed," "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow," and "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion."
In each case, Perreault found that religion became equated with violence within the video games' narratives. Christian Post
A measure to ban the use of foreign laws in domestic courtrooms is progressing in Florida's statehouse, one of dozens of similar efforts across the country that critics call an unwarranted campaign driven by fear of Muslims.
Forty such bills are being pursued in 24 states, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a movement backers say is a response to a glaring hole in legal protections for Americans. Opponents say the bills simply address a made-up threat and could threaten agreements made under Jewish or other religious law.
The Florida measure passed the House on Thursday 92-24. It awaits a full vote in the Senate. The Detroit News
In the decade since 9/11, American Muslims and mosques have come under a close lens, from congressional hearings on radicalization to campaigns against mosque construction projects and anti-Sharia legislation proposals in dozens of states.
Despite such difficulties, a comprehensive survey of American mosque leaders released Wednesday reveals that the number of mosques in the country has grown tremendously, with more than 900 new centers being established since 2000. Another finding from the survey reveals that compared to the turn of the millennium, fewer Muslims see America as "hostile" to Islam today. Huffington Post


Religion and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Employees

Mr. McFarlane, of Bristol (UK), was employed as a relationship counselor by the Avon branch of Relate, a charity that provides relationship support including counseling for couples, families, sex therapy, mediation and training courses. Upon joining the organization in 2003, McFarlane signed the companies Equal Opportunities policy, which ensured that no people would receive less favorable treatment on the basis of characteristics such as sexual orientation.

McFarlane successfully counseled same-sex couples, as long as sexual issues were not involved. But McFarlane was clear that if sexual issues were involved, he would not be able to carry out counseling due to his religious beliefs. In 2008, McFarlane was dismissed from his post after he once again indicated that he would continue to refuse to counsel same-sex couples on sexual issues.  McFarlane then brought the case to the Employment Tribunal for wrongful dismissal and discrimination on the ground of religion or belief. After a series of dismissals, appeals, and some high profile media attention, the case has now been brought to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which was established in 2007 to promote and enforce equality and non-discrimination laws in England, Scotland and Wales.
Lobby group Christian Concern has backed McFarlane, along with three other cases including a Christian nurse who was moved to a paperwork role after refusing to remove a necklace bearing a crucifix. Christian Concern is dedicated to putting a stop to discrimination against Christians in the workplace.
However, there are other sides of the story to consider in McFarlane’s case. A spokesman for a gay and lesbian charity condemned the news that McFarlane was taking his case to European court. The spokesman was disturbed that the EHRC might suggest that any public servant “might have the right to pick and choose who they provide services to.” In addition, the Spokesman added that “gay taxpayers currently contribute more than 40 billion euros a year to the cost of Britain’s public services and no member of Britain’s 3.7 million lesbian, gay and bisexual population should be deprived of exactly the same access to them as other.”
We’ve seen cases like this in the United States as well. In Bruff v. No. Mississippi Health Services (2001), an employee objected to counseling homosexual individuals on religious grounds and requested that she be excused from that duty. The courts found for the employer, citing that the accommodation requested would have created an undue hardship. How an undue hardship is defined is fact-specific, and depends on the case at hand. However, in the United States, if a workplace has the resources to excuse someone from a duty for religious reasons – their request should be accommodated.
In an inclusive workplace, how does an employer deal with conflicting identities – identities that they’re working to support? Although conflict between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees and those who identify as religious can be common in some workplaces, it’s important to remember that these identities are not always at odds. In fact, a Barna Group study found that 60% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals describe faith as being “very important” in their lives.  The important thing to remember is that although you cannot change what an employee believes, you can direct and mandate respectful behavior.  Carefully written discrimination policies and Diversity and Inclusion goals can help avoid these conflicts in the workplace.
Coming up, Tanenbaum will be discussing these issues in more detail at the 2011 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Dallas. This year, we’re going to dig a bit deeper. We’ve invited attendees to come prepared with their company policies. The practicum will allow participants to work together, find gaps in their policies, and share better practices around accommodations, legal obligations, and successful diversity and inclusion efforts. We hope to see you there!