Since 9/11 the number of American Muslim comedians seems to have grown exponentially. One of the best and brightest is Hasan Minhaj. As well as being an accomplished stand up, his main claim to fame are his many appearances on The Daily Show as their Senior Muslim Correspondent. Here is a classic clip from back in the days of Jon Stewart as host:
Hasan is able to use his God given comedy gift to tell the truth in ways more honestly and directly than most, mainly because he understands the potential power humour possesses:
As satirists we get to stand on the sidelines of life and comment on what’s happening. And because we’re not telling any political, corporate, or religious lines, we’re able to honestly say things how they really are. – Hasan Minhaj
This honesty was on full display in June 2016 when Hasan was the guest entertainer at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington DC. This slot was hilariously filled by Aasif Mandvi the year before (himself a former Daily Show Senior Muslim Correspondent), as mentioned in a previous blog.
Apologies, I should have blogged about this at the time because some of the speech maybe a little outdated in parts (sorry Hasan, Hillary will not be president). Having said that, Hasan’s 22 minute speech is still well worth watching in its entirety. He covers many topics including the usual ones of race, politics, Congress, the election, the media, and religion, but he also manages to squeeze in pizza, wrestling, halal chicken, Home Alone 2, and Back To The Future.
Below is the speech in full, followed by a transcript from the final part where Hasan makes a disturbingly passionate cry for better gun control from Congress after the Orlando shooting massacre. As best as one can, enjoy…
What we saw in Orlando was one of the ugliest cocktails of the problems that we still see here in America. A cocktail of homophobia, xenophobia, lack of access to mental healthcare, and sheer lack of political will. And all of us satirists, we’ve all been yelling out, crying out, for change. But the sad reality is that we are all complicit in what happened. Every day in our workplaces, in our homes, in our religious institutions, there is covert or overt discrimination or phobia towards people of different religious, racial, or sexual walks of life. And we just sit there and we let it happen because it doesn’t affect our bottom line.
“I didn’t say it Hasan. I don’t think it that’s way. They said it, okay. It’s not that simple Hasan.”
And we just go on with our lives because it did not affect our status quo. And the sad reality is that stuff like this is going to continue to happen unless we recognise that civil liberties are an all or nothing game. A rising tide lifts all boats, it’s not pick or choose. So whether you like it or not we all have to step up and fight for each other, otherwise the whole thing is a sham. And until we do that, hijabis are going to get harassed in the streets, members from the trans community are going to be demonised for using the bathroom. And my brothers and sisters in the African American community, their spines are going to continue to get shattered in the backs of paddy wagons until we stand up and say something.
And the thing that hurts me the most is I wished I would have done more. To my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community and every marginalised community, I am sorry I did not do more. And the same goes for Congress. We look to you guys as our leaders. You make almost $200,000 a year to write rules, to make our society better. Not tweet, not tell us about your thoughts and prayers. To write rules to make our society better. And ultimately it comes down to money and influence. And right now, since 1998 the NRA has given $3.7 million to Congress. There are 294 sitting members of Congress that have accepted contributions from the NRA, and that doesn’t even include the millions of dollars from outside lobbying.
So before I get up here in my liberal bubble and I ask for gun control and universal background checks and banning assault rifles, we’ve got to be able to have the conversation, and right now, specifically Congress, has blocked legislation for the CDC to study gun-related violence. We can’t even talk about the issue with real statistics and facts. So I don’t know if this is, like, a Kickstarter thing, but if $3.7 million can buy political influence to take lives, if we raise $4 million would you guys take that to save lives? I don’t know.
Ultimately, I just gotta ask you this. Look, when I got into comedy, and when you guys got into media, and when you guys got into politics, we wanted to do the best work we could possibly do. Is this what you want your legacy to be? That you were a could-have-done-something Congress, but you didn’t because of outside lobbying? That you were complicit in the deaths of thousands of Americans?
And look, I know being a member of Congress is hard — you’ve got to placate your base, you’ve got to look out for re-election, you’ve got to answer to lobbyists. But please persevere, because our thoughts and prayers are with you. Good night.
– Hasan Minhaj, Jun 2015, speaking at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington DC