March 27th, 2009Vol 102 Issue 23
Muslim comic brings laughs, raises MSA awareness
Torch Staff Writer
Muslim comic Azhar Usman cracks a joke at a March 21 performance sponsored by the Muslim Student Association.
A world-renowned Muslim comedian came to Valparaiso University Saturday to entertain students while providing a better understanding of the Muslim community.
Azhar Usman, a stand-up comedian from Chicago who has been referred to as the “Ayatollah of Comedy” and “Bin Laughin,” performed at the Harre Union Ballroom in an event sponsored by the VU chapter of the Muslim Student Association. Asrar Ahmed, president of the MSA chapter, said he felt the event helped students learn about the organization.
“The comedy show was intended to create awareness in the Valparaiso community that a Muslim Student Association existed right here on campus,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed noted that a large number of universities and high schools have their own chapter of the MSA, and also mentioned the importance of the group to the community’s cultural growth.
“It is imperative in order to further the diversity initiative at the university, that we have a thriving MSA,” Ahmed said.
Usman has been known to perform with such comedians as Jim Gaffigan, Dave Chapelle and the late Mitch Hedberg. Along with Preacher Moss and Mohammed Amer, Usman is also the co-founder of the comedy tour “Allah Made Me Funny.” The group has toured more than 100 countries on five continents, in addition to a movie release.
Usman said both he and his opening act, Prescott Tolk, were able to have fun at Saturday’s show. He also complimented the turnout of the campus community.
“To have a solid turnout with such diversity come together on a Saturday night when most college students are interested in partying on campus was a pleasant surprise,” Usman said.
Usman also talked about how impressed he was with how the event was put together.
“For the MSA to be the driving force behind organizing the event demonstrates what’s possible on campus when student groups work closely with the university itself to bring out up-and-coming performers,” Usman said.
450 people turned out for the show, including university president Mark Heckler.
“I was thrilled with the outcome and the audience seemed to enjoy itself, too,” Usman said.
During his act, Usman talked not only about his difficulties at airports, but also about his experience as a parent.
“I thought the show was very entertaining and informative about the Muslim culture,” said junior Kelsey Howard. “I had seen some of his stuff on YouTube, but what I saw went beyond my expectations. I loved the presentation, and the atmosphere was great.”
Ahmed said he was pleased overall with both Usman and Tolk’s performances.
“Both the comedians put their hearts into the event because they knew how important this event was to both the MSA and the university,” Ahmed said.
The official Web site for the MSA at VU can be seen at valpo.edu/student/msa. A calendar of events is listed and includes the Jummah prayers, which Ahmed hopes will attract students of different cultures.
“We would like to invite people from all races, religions and cultures to join in our events so that we may all better understand and tolerate one another,” Ahmed said.
Contact Dean Siemon at firstname.lastname@example.org.