If you feel that some Australians are downright racists, watching SBS will single-handedly swat that notion away with its excellent selection of foreign movies, programmes and locally produced programmes, like the previously-featured East West 101.
Now, it has made a lovely addition with Salam Cafe, a talk show by Australian Muslims.
My first encounter with Salam Cafe was when it was still aired on TVS, a community TV channel for Sydney. A sense of pride and joy bloomed inside me when I knew that they have been picked up by SBS, garning them a national audience.
The premise is simple: it’s a casual forum with 5 regular panelists led by the charismatic Ahmed Imam, who himself is the CEO of the Islamic Council of Victoria. The rest is rounded up usually by Waleed Aly (spokesman for Islamic Council of Victoria and lecturer at Global Terrorism Research Centre, Monash University), Susan Carland (Political and Social Inquiry lecturer, Monash University), Ahmed Hassan (ophtalmologist and father of four) and Toltu Tufa (community worker in Melbourne’s East African community). Nazeem Hussain (another commitee member of the Islamic Council of Victoria) will usually be at the side delivering spur of the moment stand-ups. At times they are joined by Aamer Rahman and Dakhylina Madkhul.
Beautiful Muslim women, proudly wearing their hijabs, exuding confidence and guts—not something you see often in Australian television.
Between the funny review of current issues and talks with guest panelist, hilarious skits are shown. Today’s skits start with “Chef Rumzi: 1001 Kitchen Nightmare”, a miserly Middle East version of Gordon Ramsay. Chef Rumzi is a truly a nightmarish stereotype of Asians, unleashing his wrath when the chef didn’t put enough ghee in his dish or serving too little a portion. “Every dish should be served with pickles and bread..even the cheque.” Precious.
Other regular skits include Uncle Sam, your usual “annoying uncle” and Fatima “Teems”, a bimbo-ish Muslim teenage girl.
It is definitely refreshing to see Muslims laugh at themselves, and tell jokes about Islam in good taste. The guest panelists are free to join in the humour, something best represented by today’s guest, Reverend Tim Costello, the CEO of World Vision Australia. The panelists started by purposely misquoting the Reverend as performing jihad by coming to the show. They then proceeded to discuss the situation in Burma, joking about the panelists being lucky they’re Muslims and not Burmese monks.
Then the show was closed by a performance by Brotherhood, a Muslim hip-hop crew from Melbourne.
From polygamy to Danish cartoonist, nothing was safe from jest. The great thing is, you don’t need to feel politically-correct at all when you laugh out loud.
It is high time somebody shows everyone that Muslims can laugh at themselves too. We are not all angry effigy-burning fundamentalist rioters.