Friday, November 29, 2013

Allah Made Me Funny and Other Muslim Stand-Up Comedians



I love watching stand-up comedies. Most of the stand-up comics I knew were from Philippines like Pokwang, Vice Ganda, K Brosas and Pooh. When I came to New York I watched all stand-up comedy shows on Netflix. I love Russel Peters, Aziz Ansari, and Kevin Hart.

Then one day, I was just randomly searching for stand-up comedy shows on Youtube and.....Bam! It opens up a line-up of Muslim comedians. There’s actually a New York Arab American Comedy Festival. I didn't know about it before. Even my friends who were born here are not familiar with Muslim Stand-Up Comedians. Comedy become their medium to tell a story of being a Muslim in America. I believe that it is also a positive way to deal with stereotypes and racism.  To tell you more about the growing population of Muslim comedians here’s my list.

 The New York Arab-American Comedy Festival celebrated their 10th annual anniversary last October 24-27, 2013. It was founded by comedians Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayid. You can also check out their documentary "The Muslims are Coming" and their comedy tour "Axis of Evil". The New York Arab-American Comedy Festival has discovered a lot of new comedians and made a positive impact on society. I wasn't able to watch one of their show but next year I will surely come. 


It was a comedy tour started 10 years ago by  Preacher Moss, Mohammed Amer and Azhar Usman. They aim to educate Muslim and non-Muslim about tolerance and acceptance through comedy.In Octover 2005, "Allah Made Me Funny" were honored at the Annual Media Awards dinner of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council.
                                     
He is a comedian, movie/ TV actor, movie producer. He recently made the movie/documentary "Just Like Us". He also worked with Dean Obeidellah in the comedy tour "Axis of Evil". Ahmed Ahmed also worked with a Jewish Rabbi Rob Alper on a comedy show "One Arab, One Jew, One Stage" for interfaith harmony. 

“We can’t define who we are on a serious note because nobody will listen.
The only way to do it is to be funny about it.”
– Ahmed Ahmed


Public Broadcasting Station made a film about America at a Crossroads STAND-UP: Muslim American Comics Come of Age. They featured the lives of  stand-up comedians that I mentioned above. If you noticed they are Americans who happened to be Muslim but they have different backgrounds and cultures. 
                 
              "Breaking down stereotypes one joke at a time" - PBS.org


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Finding Allah in NYC: My Conversion Story

   I was born and raised as a Roman Catholic in Philippines. My parents are very religious people. My mother used to be a President of Parish Pastoral Council and my father is Lay Minister. When I was in high school I joined youth groups in church. I was a member of a church choir. I love singing gospel songs despite being tone deaf (sintunado). I have nothing negative with my Roman Catholic faith before. Being Christian mold me to become a good person. I can say that I have personal relationship with God. 

   During the lowest point of my life I know that God is there. I called it grace under pressure because I realized how strong I was when I struggle in life. When I was studying, I barely had enough money to go to school. I remember my prayer was "God if it is your will that I will finish this degree You will guide me in finding a way to pay my tuition fee". True enough, I was able to finish my Masters Degree in Special Education.

  
 When my mother had brain surgery to remove the brain tumor few weeks before I move to NYC was the most stressful event in my life. I prayed like I never prayed before. Our family is really blessed to find superb neurosurgeon in PGH. If I could nominate someone to be our hero it would be Dr. Gap Legazpi. Even before the operation he made us feel that brain surgery is just like a small operation. Now my mother is doing good even with other health concerns.  
  

 The process of getting a job in NYC was like leap of faith. You need to spend a huge amount of money for something that you do not have any assurance.  I prayed that if God would give me this teaching job in NYC I promise that I will help my family and feed poor kids in Philippines.Then God answered my prayers that why I am here. Even I convert to Islam I am still keeping that promise until now. 

   Like other people I don't know anything good about Islam before. In Philippines, Muslims are minority group. Oftentimes, media presented Muslim with terrorist, wife beater, polygamy relationship. My husband introduced me to Islam. At first I was hesitant. In my mind I was thinking I am not going to be a Muslim. Then he was trying to explain to me what Islam is. I also did my little research=google about Islam still I was not convinced. We watched videos of Dr. Zakir Naik on youtube and makes me realize that it makes sense. Then my husband bought me my first Quran. He told me that my hands should be clean if I want to read it. I started reading it. Slowy, most of the negative things that I heard about Islam was like negative publicity in show business terms. I watched movies about the life of Muslim and pilgrimage to Mecca on Netflix. I feel like in need to learn more. So, I was looking for a place where non-Muslim can ask question about Islam.


   I found out about the Islamic Cultural Center of New York at 96th St in Manhattan. I asked my husband to visit the place after our 5k run at Central Park. I was wearing my running gear going to the mosque. I asked the secretary if they have a program for non-Muslim. She asked me to wait for the Imam who was at the meeting. I waited for about 10 minutes. Then, this odd looking guy came and talk to me. He told me about the basic principles of Islam. He asked me if I believe that there is one God, about Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him and I said yes. Then after about 5 minutes of conversation he asked me. "So, are you ready to take your Shahada? How do you want to say it in English or in Arabic?" And I just got emotional. He asked me to call my husband to be a witness. The secretary gave me my first abaya and hijab. When I was saying my Shahada tears just flow in my eyes. I couldn't believe that saying "La Ilaha Ilala, Mohamadur Rasululah" (I believe in Allah as the only God and the Prophet Mohammed is the Messenger of God) would change my life. The sisters hugged me and the Imam gave me study materials. 






   Now I am attending a New Muslim Program at M.E.C.C.A. (Muslim Education and Converts Center of America) . Converting to Islam is only 1 minute but being a good Muslim is life long journey to get closer to Allah. I am thankful for my family and friends who accepted and supported my decision. 

About

   I've been thinking about writing a blog few years ago but too skeptical about it. Honestly, I am not good in expressing myself in English language but since I moved to NYC last April 2012 I gained a little confidence. I am also worried that nobody would like to read my blog. So, why am I doing this. This is a little story why I finally decided to start writing a blog.
   I am Cherry Ann Montehermoso. I am a Special Education Teacher from Philippines. I moved to NYC when my company sponsored me for a job. I met my husband, a Bangladeshi accountant and we got married August 2013. That makes my life pretty exciting. Even though we are both working we feel like our salaries are just enough to pay our bills and send money back home. 
  One day my husband told me about the idea of starting up a clothing business. At first he wanted to have a children's clothing business but I told him I wanted women's clothing. I was a recent convert to Islam and as a Muslim women I need to dress modestly. I have to choose clothes that I can wear for work and for praying but does not compromise my belief. I thought about Farah Fashions NYC because Farah is my Muslim name. We have been talking to our family and our friends about this business ideas and hopefully we can start with our on-line business on the first quarter of 2014. 
   Farah Fashions NYC would be focus on selling women's clothes that are modern, modest, and multi-function. It is not just only for Muslim women but for all women who believes that we can still be fashionable even if we don't show our skin. I would also promote Filipino and Bangladeshi culture and show our support to hand weavers. Later, we would love to design clothes that promotes all ethnic cultures from different parts of the world. 
   From time to time I would also discuss other topics that I feel relevant to me as a Muslim convert, as a woman, a wife, a special education teacher, a sister/daughter, an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), a dreamer, a traveller, fitness enthusiast, living in NYC, and Philippines. 

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