We all know the stereotype. Muslims can’t laugh at themselves. We don’t have a sense of humour. Well, this Muslim definitely does have a sense of humour and she is enjoying the progression of Monsoon House. With humour and jokes Monsoon House is addressing not only the stereotypes and misinformation surrounding Muslims, but also some of the realities of being a Muslim. Monsoon House is tackling issues of terrorism and fear of Muslims in a comical way.
In this episode, the most notable twist was the consistently annoying Milton’s becoming a Muslim. Milton is the irritating and supposedly talentless poet whose poems have offended the local Muslim community. See here and here for background and context. Well, in this episode we find out that, in an effort to appease the angered Muslim community, Milton decided to “kill off” the part of himself which angered the Muslim community. Therefore, he goes to the mosque and there he finds the people to be “really nice” and end up enjoying himself. As a result, he decides to become Muslim, partly I suspect, to please the local Muslim community.
The interaction between a skeptical Kesh and an excited Milton in which Milton explains his new found religion is quite humourous and amusing as well as surprisingly educational about Islam. It also provides a comical view of someone coming to Islam. Personally, I was born a Muslim therefore I cannot speak for the experiences of coming to Islam. However, Milton’s experience probably parallels at least a few people. His explanation parallels the excitement of someone who has made a new discovery about him/herself or who has is looking forward to new experiences in life.
First off, Milton is supposedly dressed as a mufti and has changed his name to Muhammad Islam, perhaps the most “Islamic” name ever, demonstrating his zealousness about the change in his life. Muhammad and Islam and wearing a thobe I’m assuming. Although completely unnecessary I have seen many who come to Islam become just as zealous. Of course, if this is the way they choose to express their new found faith its not at all problematic. However, I would hate for anyone to think that this is a necessary part of becoming a Muslim. One can keep their birth name, wear whatever they feel comfortable and modest in, and maintain many if not most aspects of their pre-Islam life. I am hoping that Kesh’s critical responses and irritation will translate into a message that there is no need to make the drastic changes Milton has.
Next Milton explains how he took the shahada (explaining it in English). He then mentions how Arabic is the “official” language of Islam. Now, although the Qur’an is in Arabic and Arabic is indeed central to Islamic scholarship, “official” is probably not the word I would have used to describe it. But that’s just me.
Milton then speaks of the concepts of halal (allowed) and haram (prohibited) and reveals how he has found it difficult, or rather a struggle, to adhere to some of the rules. A jihad as he calls it. Yes, he refers to his struggle as a jihad explaining how “struggle” is the actual meaning of the word. Thank you Monsoon House. I’ve come to realize that Muslims can say it as much as we want, but it will be opportunities such as the ones in this show, that will begin to clarify commonly held mis-beliefs about Muslims and Islam.
So what is the jihad Milton speaks of? He is having trouble doing all his five prayers, not drinking and avoiding porn. But then eating goat is halal and that has also been a struggle for Milton. The discussion on what is halal and haram brought up a really interesting point – negotiating what is or isn’t haram and trying to figure it all out. I couldn’t help but laugh at Milton’s confusion as well as irritation with how “hard” it was to follow all the rules. On the one hand I interpreted this struggle as an indication of how much Milton enjoyed things like alcohol and porn, to a comical level in fact. On the other hand this seemed like a realistic reflection of the struggles many Muslims do face in adhering to certain aspects of their religion, especially when they embrace Islam and may be required to let go of certain aspects of their life. (And I’m not talking just about Milton’s indulgences.) Every religion has aspects of it which can seem difficult to follow. I believe its fine for us to acknowledge this and laugh at it.
Kesh is able to though, at some point, take advantage of Milton’s confusion over halal and haram by telling him, that the Family Guy giant doll he just won in a carnival game is haram, because Family Guy is haram, just so that he can give the toy to his son Russell, who loves Family Guy.
Milton also complains about how being a Muslim is “really, really boring” as well. More boring than Catholic mass in fact. Its true actually. Being a Muslim is not about burning flags, sending death threats, stoning women, hearing our imams tell us to kill people, or all those other “exciting” things the media and fear-mongers assume we do in our free time. It is actually quite mundane and boring stuff. However, if Milton was referring to the no-alcohol, no-porn rules being boring, well, then I guess they can be if much of the fun one had was from those sources.
Overall, an entertaining episode which does appear to be aiding in the process of normalizing Muslims in Canada.
Russell notes how since he has written a $50,000 cheque to, what he thought, was a Islamic charity which has now been implicated in a terrorist plot, CSIS is keeping an eye on him. However, we find out later in the show that it wasn’t an Islamic charity nor was he funding a terrorist organization by accident. The money was given to B.P. Patel, Kesh’s nemesis, who then gave it to a money laundering ring, which Patel describes as just like the Swiss bank but less sleazy, in Pakistan which funds people all the way from the mob to Bollywood. That the terrorist plot was uncovered was simply a coincidence and has nothing to do with Russell’s money.