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US comedian tells tales from the Mosque

Published: 12 Apr 2012 16:30 GMT+02:00

Aman Ali, a New Yorker of Indian heritage, said stopping at a different Mosque on each day of 2010’s holy month of Ramadan had given him a broad outlook on how Muslims were living in America.

His current tour – he has just performed in Copenhagen and is heading for Germany next week – was showing him interesting things about the differences between Muslim life on either side of the Atlantic.

“The big difference is that the American culture is one of immigration, it is very easy to immigrate and integrate,” he told The Local ahead of bringing his show "30 Mosques in 30 Days" to Germany.

“In Europe national identity is different. You go to parts of Europe and identity is more defined, like in Germany, Denmark, Sweden or Norway.

“Although, I was in the UK recently, and people are very open - and the favourite national dish is chicken tikka masala.”

He said the biggest eye-opener was that the idea that people were against or scared of Muslims was mostly simply not true.

“There is this illusion that there is opposition to Muslims, and Muslims think that everyone hates us. But in reality most people don’t care,” he said.

“I see people living peacefully and working closely together with their neighbours. In Europe perhaps not so much, but this is not necessarily due to racism. I think it is more to do with ignorance – if everyone comes from the same kind of background, they can end up ignorant of other backgrounds.”

This can lead to Muslims not making much of an effort to integrate, he said. “They then want to create a mini Somalia or Morocco or something,” he said.

“There is no problem with holding onto your own culture, but why not build Mosques that are Muslim and German in style? It is frustrating, these cultural bubbles, that is what generates a lot of the tension.

“We have our share of problems too, there is a lot cynicism, the feeling that things are getting worse and everyone hates us.”

He is happy to describe his show as stand-up story-telling – emphatically not a lecture.

“I want to create an honest dialogue. I just tell stories that I have heard along the way.”

Berlin, where his show is scheduled for Monday, is a particular treat for him.

“One of the reasons I am excited about coming to Germany is the vibrant Muslim arts culture here. It is very refreshing to see such a vibrant Muslim art scene.”

Aman Ali’s show in Berlin is on Monday at the Babylon Theatre, and in Magdeburg at the einewelt haus.

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

18:20 April 12, 2012 by Jibzy
¦quot;There is this illusion that there is opposition to Muslims, and Muslims think that everyone hates us. But in reality most people don¦#39;t care,¦quot; he said.

As a Pakistani, I have to say that this needs to be told more to the people in Muslim countries than in Europe. There is a whole industry based on the assumption that Muslims are hated and that the white people want to take away Islam from us.

But i think what Ali said above is true. No one gives a damn about people who have nothing.

Also about the integration. People in Germany are relatively "cold". I dont mean it as a negative thing but just that they dont care about the person living next door. Most Muslim countries have a culture of involving themselves TOO much in other people's lives. Both of these are extremes and when they meet, there will be friction.
19:42 April 12, 2012 by Whipmanager
Chango: I want to say that the UK is pretty much as you say, but if it weren't for those guys that are exported, the skin heads and punkers, the UK would have less of an intimidation factor. Living in Rome (i have heard it said when in Rome, do as the Romans do) as the Romans, that means begging, stealing, pick pocketing, and changing governments every years...yeah, why not, right?
20:33 April 12, 2012 by wxman
Jibsy, that's probably the most succinct and easily understood explanation of the cultural clash I've ever read! Kudos to you.
05:28 April 13, 2012 by rfwilson
Jibsy..... Excellent explanation! Good on you!!!
11:22 April 13, 2012 by Kim Berlin
One thing that constantly worries me is that people who have a negative opinion of any religion are always considered to be racist. My understanding is that religion is separate from race. A person of any race can become a member of any religion - so why would a negative comment of any religion be racist?
14:12 April 14, 2012 by GolfAlphaYankee
@Kim Berlin: well you certainly have the right to oppose or dislike any religion you want but if you extend the dislike to "all" people who consider themselves part of that religion, or in other words if you judge people based on what you think they hold in their harts and minds and not their actions then I would say you are racist even though no race in particular is the object of your bigotry.

@Jibzy: while I kind of agree with you (being my self of a Muslim background but not in a traditional sense) that average people are generally not interested in religion and much less in religion conflicts, policy makers do have a particular interest in the arab/islamic world. not because of religion but because of oil .... and because of their policy (at least partially) that many oppressive and non democratic regimes were able to survive for so long ,,,, and lets not forget that Alqaida was a CIA creation that went horribly wrong for the West AND for the people of the middle east.
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