This article is in response to an opinion piece on the MSA Comedy Show that was published in the April 20th issue of The Creightonian. This article is unedited from its original format.
As the moderator of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Creighton University, as the President of MSA, and as the ex-President of MSA, we do sincerely regret that some in the audience and the Creighton Community were offended by some of the content in the Comedy Show entitled: “Opening Hearts & Minds” that we organized on Friday, April 13.
We do recognize that there is a fine line that comedians tread when they do their comedy. They certainly work hard to develop their own act. The most important question is: are the comedians trying to sensitize, educate, make people uncomfortable to deal with their own biases or just make them laugh to forget their worries, or are they being malicious, cruel or demonizing! We do hope people, who attended agreed that the two comedians of Arab Heritage (one Christian and one Muslim) were in no way trying to do the latter nor that we as MSA intentionally misrepresented what the comedy show is about in our advertisement. Certainly, the “remarks/jokes” made by any comedian can be taken in different ways. Many factors can play into that. One is the fact that comedy is subjective. Other factors could be the diversity of the experience of the audience and the sad history in this country of comedians from all groups having to poke fun at their own stereotypes or others to become part of mainstream America. Whatever it is, it seems that the first comedian mainly did recognize that two of his “jokes” did not go well during the show and after the show when we approached him. We are sure that he became sensitized to them and will strive to do better, so that he is more “careful” with such material in the future.
MSA again regrets at what happened in the Comedy Show, but we are also very concerned with the publication of the opinion piece about the event in the Creightonian on April 19th organized by the MSA and co-sponsored by several groups on campus and off campus. While we strongly believe that everyone has the right to express her/his opinion in the Creightonian, and we certainly regret that this was prompted by an event we organized, we felt it is irresponsible for the Creightonian to address this very sensitive issue which affects the members of MSA, the work of MSA, the co-sponsors of MSA events and overall racial harmony on campus in this manner. Our concern stems from the following:
1. No attempt to reach out to MSA before the article was published.
2. No attempt to reach out to other audience members to see how they felt about the show.
3. The perception left from the article that the whole show was about Arabs/Muslims getting together and laughing at the expense of stereotyping other racial groups.
As Muslims, we have heard it, felt it and seen it all when it comes to stereotyping our race, culture, nationality and religion. Many of us were uncomfortable when we heard the comments about some of the other ethnic groups including the unfortunate two “jokes” about African Americans. We all sought out colleagues, friends and attendees after the show to inquire about how they perceived the show. While some did indicate feeling uncomfortable with some of the jokes including jokes about Arabs and Muslims (which were the majority of the jokes), they shared that they appreciated the overall message from the event to “Open Hearts & Minds.”
We think that there is an opportunity here for all of us to reflect and learn from this experience and certainly to help our student body to address sensitive and important issues like this on campus and in the real world in a productive way. MSA have organized several events over the last three years on the Creighton campus. We have been fortunate and appreciative to receive support from different organizations on campus and off campus. Our goal has always been to build bridges of respect and understanding, to sensitize and to educate each other. These are the values and goals of Creighton University. We will continue to strive to do better in our future events and learn from this unfortunate experience. We stand ready to reach out to any person or group on the Creighton campus or the larger Omaha Community in order to promote the values and goals of Creighton University and MSA.
Naser Z. Alsharif, Pharm. PhD (MSA Moderator)
Saad Malik (MSA President)
Jamal Jamil (MSA ex-President)