Have you heard the one about the Muslims making a splash on the UK comedy scene?

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The Super Muslim Comedy Tour, which visited 11 cities across Britain, included three comedians with British-Arab backgrounds. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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(L-R) British comedian Guz Khan, Yousaf Razaq, Director of Partnerships, Challenges and Events at Penny Appeal, British-Moroccan Comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri and British-Kurdish Comedian Kae Kurd. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Mother-of-two, Esther Manito, was born and raised in Essex, east of London, where she said “there were absolutely no ethnic minority groups around, let alone Arab ethnic minority groups.” (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The Super Muslim Comedy Tour returned in it's fifth year running, leaving audiences across the UK in stitches with a Halal-larious comedy line-up. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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British-Kurdish Comedian Kae Kurd hosted the show that featured five Muslim comedians, three of whom had Arab backgrounds. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Updated 19 November 2019

Have you heard the one about the Muslims making a splash on the UK comedy scene?

  • New breed of comedians use their Arab origins to fuel culture-clash comedy routines and smash stereotypes
  • Super Muslim Comedy Tour visited 11 British cities to raise money to help impoverished children in crisis-hit countries

LONDON: Thanks to stars such as Billy Connolly, Eddie Izzard, Ricky Gervais, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Britain has long been a hotbed of comedy talent.
Lately, a new crop of Arab Muslim stand-up comedians have taken to the stage across the country, representing the UK’s ethnic diversity and offering a fresh alternative on the comedy scene.
Fatiha El-Ghorri, Omar Hamdi and Esther Manito were among seven Muslim comedians that toured 11 British cities as part of the Super Muslim Comedy Tour. This charity event is organized by Penny Appeal, an international humanitarian organization that works to provide poverty relief in crisis-hit countries worldwide.
In their acts, the three performers challenge the stigmas and stereotypes associated with how the British public views Muslims and Arabs, and vice versa, using their own experiences and backgrounds as inspiration for their humor.
British-Moroccan comedian El-Ghorri, for example, uses comedy to break down the barriers that she has come up against as a Muslim and as a woman.
“I think in the West in general we have a perception of Muslim women as being weak and oppressed, especially with Muslim women that wear the hijab,” she said after a performance at Porchester Hall in Bayswater, London. “It’s difficult for women in general but it’s more difficult for a woman that looks so different, as I do, because people don’t want to take a chance on you.”

British-Moroccan comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri is challenging the stigmas that not only come with being a Muslim, but also a Muslim woman. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

The comedy industry has long had a problem with female comics because promoters worry that audiences will not connect with their material, she said. At most of the events she has performed at she was the only woman on the bill, she added, and wearing a hijab makes it even harder to find a platform.
“So I like to challenge that and the perceptions people have of us as Muslims,” she said. “And also, within the Muslim community you have tribes: you have the Pakistani Muslims, the Arab Muslims, and we have traditions and cultures different to each other.”
Stepping onto the stage to the sound of a song by rapper Jay-Z, 38-year-old El-Ghorri kept the audience in stitches from the beginning to the end of her routine, as she merged eastern and western words and trends to come up with hybrid terms such as “Minder” (Muslim Tinder) and Mipster (Muslim hipster).
Despite the challenges and obstacles she has faced, she has no intention to give up her dream career.
“I’m not going to stop,” she said. “This is what I want to do and I’m gonna be here and I’m gonna do it. If one club won’t take me, another club will.”
The Super Muslim Comedy Tour, which is in its fifth year, kicked off in Aberdeen, Scotland, on Nov. 6 before heading south, stopping off in major cities before concluding in London on Nov. 17. Arab News caught up with the performers in the capital on the penultimate night of the tour.
Welsh-Egyptian comedian Omar Hamdi said one of the interesting things about stand up is that it takes him to places he would normally never go.
“This tour started in Aberdeen, which is like the northeast corner of Scotland — it’s practically Norway,” he said, adding that the “vibe there was different” to what he experienced in Bayswater, for example, a posh area in central London. “Even a distance of a few miles makes such a difference in the energy of the audience and what they’re into,” he explained.
This is the third time the 29-year-old has been part of the Super Muslim tour.

This is the third year Welsh-Egyptian comedian Omar Hamdi has joined Penny Appeal’s Super Muslim Comedy Tour. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“Every year it’s different but it’s always fun,” he said. “I think because it’s been going a few years it’s become a bit of a brand. People come along more excited about the show, they have more expectations and it just gets bigger and better.
“The interesting thing is that wherever you go, people are there to laugh but they’re also there to support an amazing charity.”
Hamdi has also performed at Dubai Opera and the Royal Albert Hall in London. He is a presenter on the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) Award-winning BBC Wales consumer-affairs show “X-Ray,” and has a comedy special, “Omar Hamdi: British Dream,” on Amazon Prime in the UK.
During his routine on the Super Muslim tour, Hamdi, who was born in Cardiff, jokes about how his parents ended up living in Wales, which is not the most obvious destination for Egyptian immigrants.
Esther Manito, meanwhile, was born and raised in Essex, east of London.
“There were absolutely no ethnic minority groups around, let alone Arab ethnic minority groups,” she said. With a Lebanese father and a mother from Newcastle, in the northeast of England, her parents’ cultural differences, in particular their very different ways of speaking, provide a rich source of inspiration for her comedy.
“My style of comedy is very much observational,” said Manito. “It’s about family life, family dynamics and identity, and growing up with dual heritage, so all of that comes into play when I’m doing stand-up. My surroundings have given me so much comedy material.”

The Super Muslim Comedy Tour was held at Porchester Hall in Bayswater, London, after touring 10 other cities across the UK. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

Kae Kurd, from south London, is the host of the show. The 29 year-old, who hosts a YouTube show called “Kurd Your Enthusiasm,” was six months old when his parents moved to the UK in 1990. They were part of the resistance that fought against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
He said the response from audiences has been very positive throughout the tour, even if it occasionally takes a little time for them to warm up.
“Sometimes, I think people are nervous to laugh because they’ve probably never been to a comedy show before, so they don’t understand that they can laugh out loud,” he said. “But it’s been fun and everybody’s really enjoyed it.”
The proceeds from this year’s tour will help the Forgotten Children campaign, which aims to get young people in places such as Lebanon, Senegal, Pakistan and Bangladesh off the streets and into safer environments.
Sisters Ripa and Nazifa Hannan, from Hackney said it was the first time they attended a Muslim comedy show.
Ripa, 34, particularly liked El-Ghorri set and was able to relate to all her jokes, especially as they are from the same are in London.

British-Moroccan comedian Fatiha El-Ghorri (C) with fans Ripa Hannan (L) and her sister Nazifa (R). (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“You know when women can kind of relate to another woman especially when, we come from Hackney too, so we got every single joke of hers and so it resonates for us,” she said.
Nazifa, 27, said they often attend comedy shows but tend to see acts like Trevor Noah or Russell Howard.
“This is the first Muslim comedy show and it was fantastic, hilarious and the fact they spoke (for a) very good cause,” she added.

Art Dubai 2020: Why the Mideast’s leading art fair is turning to Africa 

An example of work by Kenyan artist Longinos Nagila, whose art will be at Art Dubai 2020. (Supplied) 
Updated 10 min 8 sec ago

Art Dubai 2020: Why the Mideast’s leading art fair is turning to Africa 

  • The artworks feature a selection of 55 galleries that aim to further the fair’s focus on expanding conversations beyond traditional art production centers
  • The 2020 edition will include 21 first-time exhibitors from Nigeria, Sudan and Vietnam

DUBAI: Art Dubai returns for its 14th edition in from March 25-28, 2020, with a fair that continues to build off Dubai’s pivotal location between South Asia, East Africa, and the Gulf, bringing together global perspectives from geographies often overlooked in the realm of international contemporary art. Next year’s edition presents 90 galleries from 38 countries, including 21 first-time exhibitors from Nigeria, Sudan and Vietnam.

Artist Hamra Abbas will present her work at the gallery. (Supplied) 

Artworks will be displayed across four gallery sections, including Art Dubai Contemporary, featuring a selection of 55 galleries that aim to further the fair’s focus on expanding conversations beyond traditional art production centers; Residents, curated by Johannesburg-based Kabelo Malatsie, which will focus on the African continent; Art Dubai Modern, curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath presenting solo presentations by modern masters from the MENASA region; and Bawwaba, which means “gateway” in Arabic and is curated by Mumbai-based curator Nancy Adajania and showcases solo presentations by artists from, based in, and or focused on projects about the Middle East, Africa, Central, South and Southeast Asia and Latin America.

All eyes are on contemporary art from Africa and Art Dubai’s new focus for its Residents section, which showcases solo presentations from invited galleries whose artists have partaken in a UAE-based art residency, further affirms this statement. “The curatorial intervention in this year’s Residents will be looking at geometry and pattern,” Malatsie told Arab News. “Our perception of the world follows a logic that is learnt through various institutional and societal norms. The curatorial intervention will use institutional and individual norms to make biases and learnt perceptions visible to those coming to the exhibition.”

Grosvenor Gallery will be at Art Dubai. (Supplied)

This year, Residents will feature presentations of African Masters positioned alongside emerging artists from across the continent, including Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, South Africa and Sudan. The section will include London and Addis Ababa-based Addis Fine Art, exhibiting the work of Ethiopian artist Daniela Yohannes, Circle Art Gallery from Nairobi featuring the work of Kenyan artist Longinos Nagila, Accra-based Gallery 1957 presenting the work of Ghanaian artist Gideon Appah and SMAC with branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Stellenbosch, featuring the work of Wallen Mapondera from Zimbabwe amongst others.

“There is a natural progression in representation of art from the African continent at Art Dubai,” said Pablo del Val, the fair’s artistic director, to Arab News. “There are cultural and aesthetic connections that reflect in local social sensibilities and ideas and a significant community of African collectors based in Dubai. These relationships ensure that the art is contextualized, making it more powerful than if art from Africa were treated as an exception.”