Dear Muslim Brother Who Utters “Astaghfirullah” As I Walk Past Him

By Aina Khan

snapesDear Muslim Brother,

As I passed by you earlier today, you spat out astaghfirullah (I seek refuge from God) with the ferocity of a Muslamic MC, simultaneously shaking your head from side to side like the dog in that Churchill advert.

Why may I ask, did you do this?

I find your use of terminology, to put it lightly, very puzzling; puzzling like why DavidCameron won the 2015 General Election, or puzzling like why Zayn Malik left One Direction?

Are my sartorial choices that un-Islamic to you that you seek redemption from God on mybehalf?

Perhaps there was something wrong with the physical aesthetic of my hijab.

Did I violate the unofficial code of conduct for Acceptable Hijab Wrapping Standards (2015) by wrapping my hijab around my head ancient Egyptian mummy style?

Were there too many pins stuck in my head, so that I resembled a walking pin cushion, or worse, a voodoo doll?

Maybe it was the Iranian hijab style I adopt, which makes me look rather like a femalereincarnation of Elvis Presley wearing a hijab, what with my hair jutting out like a quiff at thefront?

I flatter myself, but perhaps the sight of my beauty was so spell binding, so breathtaking,that you were attempting to dispel lustful ergo totes haraam thoughts that erupted into your mind?

But a word of sisterly advice if I may, my dear Brother.

If your intention was to compliment my beauty, why on earth did you use astaghfirullah?

There are many Muslamic alternatives for you to incorporate into your vocabulary, if you want to win the heart of a lady with religious rhetoric.

Instead of astaghfirullah, why not subhanallah (glory be to God), inshallah (God willing), or better yet, mashallaaaaaaaaah (God willed it)?

It is a fact universally acknowledged that every Muslim woman has received at least one elongated mashallaaaaaah from a cat-calling Brother during her lifetime, but alas! Therehas been little evidence to suggest such interactions have blossomed into fruitfulHollywoodesque romance.

But believe me when I say that unless you want a woman to think you are a senior member of the Haraam (Forbidden) Police, mashallah is a far superior alternative to astaghfirullah.

Yes, I know. Society likes to portray us Muslims as one giant convent of medieval monks and nuns, spending our lives separated from the opposite sex as if they were the bubonic plague. The fact that Muslim’s are equally culpable of this makes you feel as if romantic eloquence of the tongue can only be acquired through what you perceive to be the ‘halal’ pickup line that is astaghfirullah.

But to quote something a wise Shaykha by the name of Taylor Swift once said, “Hatersgonna hate.”

Muslims are and certainly can be just as romantic as anyone else.Sure, we might not have Muslim equivalents of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan starring in romantic comedies such as ‘Sleepless in the Masjid’, to guide us through our tumultuous romantic lives.

But if anything, the vast number of halal pickup lines we 21st century Muslims have created,such as: “I want my children’s jannah to be under your feet”, is testament to our romantic prowess.

And if you think bestowing mashallah upon a woman is sinful, fear not. As my mother likes to say, there’s nothing wrong with admiring God’s creation, right?

You don’t have to be a Muslim Shakespeare to capture the heart of the ladies, my dear Brother. Nor do you have to be a Haraam Police, astaghfirullah-spitting individual.

Unfortunately, we can’t rely on Cupid to prick people with love arrows because (let’s face it), that would be totes haraam.

With the holy trinity of subhanallah, inshallah, and most especially, mashallaaaaaaah at your disposal, how can you possibly go wrong?

So the next time you want to drop an astaghfirullah on a sister, just remember, that won’t make you her Mister…

Best Wishes,

Elvis Presley Hijabi

Fear of a Muslim Planet: A Conversation on Islamophobia

Yesterday, I participated in a “conversation” on Islamophobia held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The panel included myself, Linda Sarsour, Bassem Youssef, Douglas Murray, Asra Nomani, Faisal Saeed al Mutar


The full audio can be heard here:

My Yoda impression is at 1:39:40

Here is a transcript of my 3 minute opening remarks.

Hope it fell on some impressionable ears and can push things forward.



“Good evening BAM and Assalam Alikum to all.

I am Wajahat Ali – a multihyphenated, left handed, consistently brown skinned son of Pakistani immigrants born and raised in California whose first language was Urdu and who knew only 3 words of English in preschool: Shutup, Idiot, and uh oh Spaghettio.

I am an American Muslim of Pakistani descent.

And Nothing – NOTHING – says popularity like those three words: American, Muslim, and Pakistani.

In America, they ask me why does Islam hate the West?

Abroad I’m asked, Why does the West hate Islam.

And as a Muslim, I’m asked to apologize for criminal actions that I’ve never committed, done by violent extremists that I’ve never met.

And all this time I’m asking myself, “Who is Islam and the West? How come I’ve never met either of them.”

See Islam doesn’t speak, Muslims do, and the overwhelming majority of them – according to the facts- reject violent extremism, love our freedoms, and are “moderate.”

Oh, you heard of moderate muslims, right? – you know these rare, mythical creatures that you can find after you bypass a “no go zone” enclave dominated by “non assimilationist muslims who carry out as much of sharia law as they can” in america and europe — that’s a direct quote by the way from Governer Bobby Jindal.

See, there are some who want you to fear me simply because I’m an American who happens to be a practicing Muslim.

Their rhetoric seeks to turn us – Muslims – your neighbors, friends, doctors, taxi cab drivers, tech support, relatives, into perpetual suspects instead of what we are – partners, neighbors and fellow Americans.

Their extremist narrative only seeks to divide Americans among religious and ethnic lines.

But apparently to some ISLAMOPHOBIA is just fiction: a manufactured ruse used to silence free speech and dissent. It apparently doesn’t exist – like Climate Change.

Awesome. This was the easiest honorarium ever. I guess we can go home now.

But –

Islamophobia exists. It’s real. It’s pervasive. It’s toxic and now it’s mainstream. Islamophobia is anti-Muslim bigotry – don’t let any verbal, semantic or pedantic gymnastics fool you otherwise. We know homophobia means anti-LGBT bigotry, we know antisemitism refers to anti-jewish hate. Islamophobia makes all of us – not just Muslims – all of us, including our troops and law enforcement, less safe and secure.

And it’s fundamentally anti-American. It’s against our American heritage, our values of pluralism and our freedoms. And it’s really nothing new – it takes its DNA and its playbook directly from hateful fear mongering campaigns that were once used against Jews, Catholics and Japanese Americans.

It’s divides the world into “Us vs them” and paints an apocalyptic, civilizational conflict – “Islam is at war with the West” and “The West is at war with Islam”

But – there’s a significant cost to such inflammatory hate.

Islamophobia overwhelmingly affects those who are innocent civilians.

It doesn’t just affect muslims, but also those who look “Muslimy.”

The first post 9/11 hate murder was of Balbir Singh Sohdi, a Sikh American, whom the murderer chose because he was “dark-skinned, bearded and wore a turban.”

Ask yourself this: WHERE WILL THIS LEAD US? How do we benefit from hysteria, fear and scapegoating? What do these Islamophobes inspire except division & hate?

This isn’t about free speech. This isn’t about Cartoons or satire. This is about extremism and hate – and it’ll take all of us to overcome it. Thank you.”


by Azhar Usman



No joke. There are many comedians of Arab background working now in the United States, Canada, Europe, and of course, the Middle East. Indeed, Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid’s “Arab-American Comedy Festival” in NYC has been operating every year for a decade. And yet, there is still not a single Arab-American comic who has released his or her very own solo, one-hour standup special. Mo Amer––universally regarded by his peers to be a truly original voice in comedy, and a total beast on stage––is doing just that. The event is undoubtedly historic in nature. Don’t miss it!


We all know how crazy our world is today. We see it on the news every day. And from the ISIS hysteria, to the recurring cartoon-inspired madness, the name “Mohammed” is rarely––if ever––associated with something fun, let alone funny. The very name that all Muslims revere and love, which means “the most praised,” is mostly just derided and used to fuel controversy in the news media. Instead, here we have a guy named “Mohammed” who is regarded as not just funny, but downright hilarious. Come see for yourself! Let Mo explain to you how “Mohammed is the most popular name in the world,” and yet, he adds: “I went to Disneyland three weeks ago––not one keychain with my name on it.” (Nailed it!)


Sorry, you knew that horrible pun would be in this “Top 9” list somewhere. (You can blame Buzzfeed for inspiring this lame, hacky format, by the way. But hey, you’re reading this right now, so…yeah…blame yourself…). The other acts on the show on Sunday, May 3rd include the following:

Hasan Minhaj from The Daily Show. Check him out:
Brother Ali, the underground, indie, Albino rapper from Minneapolis, who has appeared on Conan, and has collaborated with rap legends, including Mr. Chuck D from Public Enemy, Mos Def, and Questlove. Check him out:

Ramy Youssef, who is a young but uber-talented comedian from LA. Younger fans may recognize him from “See Dad Run” on Nick at Night. Check him out:

Azhar Usman. Well, that would be awkward for there to be hype about this guy in this article, written by him. (Lots of third person, self-referential prose right there.) Check out


Jay has been making standup specials for many years. He has worked with some of the biggest names in standup comedy, including Jim Gaffigan, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, and many others. Just check out his IMDb credits, but be careful, your head might hurt afterwards:

The point is: with Jay at the helm, you know it’s going to be a top-flight, well-produced, super professional production. Again, come see for yourself!


Activism about immigrant rights, refugee rights, and the plight of the Palestinian people is all great and important work. This, however, is art that highlights many of the same, heavy, pressing, and profound political questions about social justice and the dynamics of oppression (artivism?)––but from the standpoint of a standup comic, told through funny stories and jokes. And not just any comic, the top Palestinian-American comedian in the world! Find out how Mo toured over 20 countries, WITHOUT A PASSPORT!! How he performed for US troops in Iraq and Kuwait, and had Bradley Cooper (unintentionally) rescue him from a sticky situation. How he eventually obtained his US citizenship, after nearly 20 years of getting the immigration runaround. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll experience every emotion in between. (Okay, maybe there’s some hyperbole right there, but honestly, not that much…)


Bassem has traveled to many countries and met dozens of Arab comedians all over the world. His favorite Arab-American standup? MO AMER. In fact, during his run on Middle Eastern television, as host of the instantly legendary satirical news show “El-Bernameg with Bassem Youssef,” he only invited two American comedians on the show. The first was Mo Amer. The second? Jon Stewart. Bassem will be performing comedy at the show on Sunday, May 3rd, and he will also be introducing Mo that night. It promises to be a very special and historic moment. (And in case you don’t know what a big deal Bassem Youssef is, check this out:


Everyone knows that Hollywood wants to make more entertainment content starring Arab and Muslim characters. Heck, Variety even published a piece about this recently:

This obvious opportunity has invited all sorts of creatives into the foray, from actors and screenwriters, to directors and producers. However––as everyone who actually works in the industry knows (and really everyone in general, if you think about it)––comedy is best done by real comedians. And Muslim-themed comedy is best done by actual Muslim comedians. Everyone on the bill on this show has paid their dues, toured for years, and has a legit standup act. This is not amateur hour, nor does it star the politely-worded “up-and-comers”; these are real standups who command the respect of their peers, are professional comedians, and have polished material to share, on a legendary stage. Please come out and show your love and support!


So here’s the story behind how this event came about. Mo Amer was touring with Dave Chappelle back in December 2014, as his feature act. Backstage in Dallas one night, Dave approached Mo and suggested that he consider taping one of his standup bits as a sketch. Mo replied: “Here’s the thing, Dave, I have been thinking about doing that, but not just that one bit, maybe a larger piece, like a movie or a short film…” Dave’s imagination sparked an idea, which he shared, in that magical way that only he can: “Short film! Here’s what you do: Put together a one-hour special. It opens with a short film, maybe 5-7 minutes, based on your standup bits, and that basically gives the audience your backstory and tells people who you are. Then you have roughly 50 minutes of live standup, a few minutes of closing credits, and there ya go––that’s your first solo one-hour special!” Mo was captivated. Chappelle added, as a deliberated afterthought: “Man, if you do this right, this special could win an Emmy.” Mo Amer (with yours truly) has basically been working on making this vision a reality everyday since. On Sunday, May 3rd, we will be filming the standup portion. So, there ya go. Now you know…“and knowing is half the battle…G.I. Joe…” (Sorry if you didn’t get that reference. It’s really not worth Googling. Ok, if you’re THAT curious, go for it…


The point has already been made above, but this standup special has effectively been years in the making. Every Arab-American, American Muslim, and decent, fair-minded, American liberal in general (of all backgrounds!) has been secretly (and subconsciously?) waiting for a break-out comedy star to appear on the scene. Someone who is likable, and funny, and refreshingly honest…to offer a fresh perspective and contribute an insightful voice into the public discourse. Global pop culture is missing this voice. This incredibly important perspective. And finally, at long last, the lightning is about to strike. Once this standup special drops, everyone will be wondering: “Who is this guy? How come I never heard of him before?” Decades from now, after the copycats, and the second and third and fourth generations of Arab-American comics have carried the torch forward, all of those people who attended the actual live show where “LEGALLY HOMELESS” was taped, inside the Warner Theater, on Sunday, May 3rd, will be telling their friends and family: “I was there.” Be there. Buy your tickets and please join us for what promises to be a super fun night, and an inspiring act of courage and artistry. We hope and pray that we can count on you for your continued support.




WHEN: SUNDAY MAY 3RD, 2015 (Doors 6pm)


513 13th STREET NW






First, I begin by quoting the greatest Sufi Shaikh of all time, Yoda, who said: “Do or Do Not. There Is No Try.”


1. Do Diversify your portfolio of token Muslims. Different Muslim superheroes have different superpowers.

2. Do not assume Arabs = Muslims and Muslims = Arabs. Do not use them interchangeably.

3. Do seek out Muslims who are black and/or white and or other colors. They exist, not all are brown.

4. Do not assume bearded men or covered women are religious Muslims.

5. Do not assume clean shaven men or uncovered women are not religious Muslims.

6. Do talk to more women, who are the majority of Muslim populations.

7. Do more stories about Muslim women not involving hijab or the burqa or honor killing or FGM.

8. Do not use the words “unveil” in your title.


9. Do not assume just because a person claims to represent Muslim communities, he/she does.

10. Do not use fringe Muslims as representatives for diverse Muslim communities. For example, Graeme Wood relied on Anjem Choudary for his infamous “What is ISIS” Atlantic article. Anjem is like the Pastor Jones of Muslim communities.

Terry Jones submit

11. Do not assume all Muslims can talk about Islam.

12. Do have some Muslims talking about Islam. Just like you should have African Americans talking about racism and women talking about feminism and South Asians talking about Bollywood.

(NOTE: If your panel on Islam has no Muslims, that is a problem.)

13. Do not assume practicing Muslims support ISIS or Al Qaeda. Unlike Don Lemon, do not ask “Do you support ISIS ..or AQAP or… Taliban?”


14. Do not ask or frame a conversation around the question: “Where are Moderate Muslims? Do they exist? Are they bearded unicorns?”

15. Do use “Moderate Muslim” in your title if you’re intentionally disrupting that simplistic narrative and showing the nuances.


16. Do appreciate Muslims are the most diverse religious communities in America – based on ethnicity, education, ideology and so forth.

17. Do not say “The Moslems.”

18. Do not say “The Muslim world” – there is no Muslim world.

19. Do not say “The Muslim community” – there are many Muslim communities.

20. Do not ask “What does Islam say?” – Islam doesn’t say anything, Muslims do.

21. Do appreciate the unique differences between Shiism and Sunnism and the many different communities within them.

22. Do not lump Islamist with Jihadist with Salafist with Traditionalist.


23. Do not use religiously laden terms to describe groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda as “Islamic extremist” or “Islamic terrorist” – just use terrorist, criminals or violent extremists.

24. Do reach out to local, national and international Muslims using social media or whatever means at your disposal: be proactive and establish a relationship. Reach across the aisle in good faith, and you will generally see reciprocity. Muslims are still young and evolving in certain arenas – including media, philanthropy, and institution building.

25. Do attend a local or national community event: an iftar, a jumaa, college event, a local presentation, etc.

26. Do focus on interesting stories done by Americans who just happen to be Muslims.

27. Do write on American Muslim stories that are not framed around national security or terrorism or extremism.

Muslim Ms Marvel

28. Do find utility and value in American Muslim experiences and contributions other than helping national security or fighting terrorism and countering violent extremism.

29. Do not compare Zayn Malik to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

30. Do more stories on Zayn Malik. Teenage girls love Zayn Malik.


***BONUS: Do projects, stories, events with American Muslims around shared values, rather than just “Muslim” issues. Lets create a superhero Justice League comprised of the coalition of the willing

***BONUS BONUS: Don’t have double standards



Things I learned About ‘Merica By Watching The Super Bowl


– In ‘Merica, “North America” means “World Champions”

– New Jersey is where Broncos go to die.

– A hijabi is drinking a Coke somewhere in America, most likely with biryani or kebobs. #AmericaIsBeautiful

– God bless Amreeka, where all ethnicities succumb to the sugary, carbonated, fatty goodness of the marketing Unicron known as Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

– That #AmericaIsBeautiful @CocaCola commercial is probably the worst nightmare for some pockets of America.

– Silly online backlash to Coca-Cola’s America the Beautiful ad also reveals some of the nation’s lingering ugliness.

– English is the only language that’s American, tu comprendes, Coke?! Naam? Acha, theek? Bueno. America the Beautiful.

– Foreign Languages. Hijab. Black President. Immigrants. Geography. Now officially adding Coke to this august list of things “un-American”

– Bruno Mars can sing, dance, jump and play drums for 15 minutes without moving a single strand of his luscious, finely combed hair. Meanwhile, all Desi men above the age of 30 send evil eye to Bruno Mars. 

– A Flea + A Legion of “Thugs” + a man named Bruno can make a Crappy Bowl intermittently Super.

– The dude who brings out the Lombardi Trophy must look like an extra from The Sopranos or The Godfather. He just left the gun, but brought the canoli…and the trophy. 

– Roger Goodell should never be allowed to say “shout out” ever again.

– Horse + Dog + Passenger song is enough for a teetotaling Muslim to temporarily root for Budweiser. 

– Electro in AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 look like Mr. Freeze from BATMAN AND ROBIN: proof that humanity is doomed and never learns from its tragic mistakes.

– Scientology commercial during Super Bowl = Xenu is pleased.

– It takes Matrix + Opera + Laurence Fishburne + Agents eating a fancy dinner to finally make KIA’s cool.

– Apparently, if you give China, North Korea, Iran AXE deodorant, then they’ll embrace peace. Question the rest of the world is asking: “What deodorant will it take for America to change?”

– Super Bowl Commercials reveal all about ‘Merica’s obsessions: “Cars. Beer. Chips. Hollywood Movies. Armed Forces. Trucks. Animals selling beer. Blondes. Celebs selling soda, movies, cars, beer. Animals + Celebs selling beer.”

– The NFL is part of the American trinity that includes the Armed Forces and God. The Declaration of Independence makes an appearance once in a while. However, the Founding Fathers would probably be appalled black men are allowed to play a sport alongside white men. Just saying.