A couple of months ago a friend booked tickets for me to go see Ashley Blaker & Imran Yusuf: Prophet Sharing I have never watched either of them perform on TV before the event and in fact in the run-up decided not to Google or YouTube and just go straight to the show to experience the comedic value live.
The topic however definitely interested me, having visited Jerusalem three times in the past couple of years (take a look at my past blogs), to see a Muslim comedian and an Orthodox Jewish comedian stand up on stage together was always going to get interesting.
The show description as advertised on the website was:
‘Two great religions. Two great comedians.
The descendants of Abraham may have gone their separate ways but now stand-up comedian friends Ashley Blaker and Imran Yusuf – both stars of their own BBC shows – are joining forces in the most unlikely double-act since Kermit and Miss Piggy (who neither Ashley nor Imran can eat!)
Originally brought together by a passion for the same football team, the pair are travelling the UK uniting people of every faith and none for an evening of laughter.’
I was not sure what to expect and being perfectly honest was a little tired after work and was thinking – I hope this is worth the time…and OMG did it exceed expectations, one of the best comedy shows I have been to.
We rushed to get to the Curve in Leicester after running a little behind schedule to find a small crowd of people gathered outside the theatre hall, looking around we quickly established that the Muslim population of Leicester had not turned out compared to the Jewish community, made us a little sad in fact and a natural human reaction we took a little walk around and then retreated to a corner a bit further from the crowd as human nature compels you to do when you suddenly feel like you may not fit in, but after having a look we decided to be a bit different and we decided to go into the crowd and stand more closer to some of the other people there and found ourselves having discussions with various people in the queue and dotted around.
We met a couple called Naomi and David who were from Israel and ran a programme in Jerusalem called Loving Classroom which is aimed at building bridges by educating communities to understand each other better.
It quickly dawned on us that this was a group of people who were interested in knowing more about each other and there was a mutual respect of faith around the venue. The energy was fantastic, and we quickly realised this is going to be an interesting night. Breaking down the barriers and being able to have an open conversation was very liberating.
We took our seats and realised we were smack bang in the middle of the front row directly in front of the comedians, we all looked at each other and groaned knowing full well we should expect to be picked on. This helped us to all get into deep conversations about religion, living in the UK, Hajj and more.
I was fortunate to share my experience with a lovely Christian couple from Wyoming in America called Mary and Casey, Mary a Priest in her Church in America was house swapping with a Priest from Leicester for a week, after some conversation we discussed places of worship and discovered that she had still not visited a mosque, I sat thinking for a while about if it will be possible to change this and then invited them to meet us over the weekend to visit a mosque, we exchanged email addresses and booked some time in.
The comedy show was fantastic we established the crowd was majority Jewish but there was a few Muslims, Hindu’s, Atheists and more and Imran Yusuf came on stage and went through some of his childhood and his connection with his religion Islam, with some great gags and satire throughout ensured we all had a belly full of laughs before the interval. It was definitely an intimate crowd with some fantastic vibes.
Second half Ashley came out and the pair bounced off each other and kept us laughing throughout.
There were things discussed about each other’s cultures and religions that people would not realise or know otherwise, as well as some more gritty conversations but in a light hearted comedic way this ensured everyone was able to be open and laugh at themselves as well as others without the risk of offending.
If you missed it, I must say you really missed out and if you still have time to catch it in your town or city – it is a definite must!
Back to meeting the couple from Wyoming, we arranged to meet on Saturday for Maghrib (sunset) prayer, the reason why we chose this prayer because it is prayed aloud compared to Dhuhr (noon), Asr (teatime) which are prayed silently in congregation.
After making a few phone calls we decided to take them to Darul Arqam in Thurmaston. We picked them up at 9pm and got to the masjid for adhan (call to prayer). After sitting and listening to the call to prayer they were able to observe and see how Muslims pray salah and what we do in a masjid (mosque).
They had the chance to meet the leader of the masjid and have some tea in the kitchen as well as meet some young people who were still praying at the time.
After the masjid visit we ended up passing by my friend’s mum’s house where they got to sit and have some more conversation and a taste of what a typical home in Leicester is like.
It was a pleasure hosting them and being given the opportunity to take them around a masjid and talk about our faith so openly, having the chance to have such open dialogue was informative and educational.
It actually proved how events such as the comedy show brings people of different backgrounds and faiths together and by keeping an open mind and maintaining mutual respect can lead to great things.
We definitely feel we made friends for life. It would be great to have more events like this please…
UPDATE: Since posting this on my social media and talking to friends about this especially those who are not muslim we have discovered that there are more people who would love to visit a masjid (mosque) and have not been able to make it to visit my mosque day annually or find it difficult to ask out of the risk of feeling disrespectful. There really is no need to feel this way, most people will be happy to take you along and let you sit and watch as we pray or hear the call to prayer or just experience what we do when we pray five times a day. For those of you who are interested please speak to any muslim friend you have with a request and hopefully they will contact a local mosque near you and arrange for you to go along with them. #ComeMosquewithMe