Friday, October 27, 2006


'Irreverent' comedian India bound
By Alastair Lawson BBC News.

Shazia Mirza has performed in the US and Europe (pictures by Steve Ullathorne)
"I'm Shazia Mirza," she once famously said soon after the World Trade Centre attacks of 2001. "At least that's what it says on my pilot's licence."
Now this self-declared rarity - a young British Muslim female comedian - is about to take her highly acclaimed stand-up act to India.
And no-one need be in any doubt that the gags will flow thick and fast.
She will perform in the states of Maharashtra and Goa - promising to be "irreverent but not offensive".
Next month's tour is part of a programme funded by the UK's worldwide cultural body, the British Council, aimed at young people in India.
Parental myths
"My show is entitled 'Fun in Paradise'," Ms Mirza told the BBC News website.
"One of the aims is to dispel one of my mother's maxims when I was a child growing up in Birmingham.
"She said that life was not about having fun - you can have fun in paradise."

I feel that I'm making a difference just by standing on that stage as a young British Muslim woman - Shazia Mirza.
Ms Mirza, 30, says that the show also dispels other parental myths such as:

holidays are only for white people
all white women are whores
women should not drink or listen to rock music
it is wrong to wear make-up and low tops
her Uncle Latif wears high heels because he is ashamed of being short.

Ms Mirza says that she and her parents enjoy a warm relationship, even if they did have one or two "misconceptions" about life in the UK in general and Uncle Latif's choice of footwear in particular.
Her show does not just poke fun at her parents "somewhat conservative" values, though.
It also contains an entertaining description of a meeting with the queen and the joys of attending her first rock concert.
"It was given by UB40 and they were brilliant - but I didn't tell my parents that," she says.
'My religion'
Simon Gammell, director of the British Council's West India branch, said that the comedian was invited as part of a wider programme of work to reach out to young Indian people using a variety of art forms including stand-up comedy, music and film.
"Her visit is designed to foster greater mutual understanding between the two countries and to present the UK as a contemporary, fun-loving country which is prepared to debate the issues of the day in an open and civilised environment," he said.

I think if I were a practising Muslim and a stripper, then there would be a problem - but there isn't a problem with me being a practising Muslim and a stand-up comic
Shazia Mirza
Mr Gammell said the question of Muslim women wearing the veil - a contentious issue in Britain at the moment - would not feature among the comedian's jokes.
Although she has never travelled to India before, Ms Mirza does have family connections in South Asia - her mother was from Punjab in India and her father was from Rawalpindi in Pakistan.
"I am looking forward to going to the beauty salons there," she jokes, "because I am told they are brilliant at moving unwanted bodily hair."
Does she worry that her show may offend some in India?
"I try not to tell jokes about my religion," she says. "My aim is to make people laugh and think at the same time.
"I have often had men come up to me after my shows and ask: 'Is it true that [Muslim] women have to walk behind their husband, is that true?' - I say 'Yes, they look better from behind'."
But Ms Mirza insists her work is not just for laughs. She sometimes performs wearing a head scarf and describes herself as a "devout Muslim".
But she is keen to challenge the view held by some in the West that "all Muslim women are oppressed, all Asian women have arranged marriages and women are not funny".
"I feel that I'm making a difference just by standing on that stage as a young British Muslim woman.
"It shows that we Muslims can laugh and have fun just as much as anybody else."


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