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23rd Jul 2019

Meet the stars of BBC’s first ever British-Muslim sketch comedy show

Wil Jones

“I remember getting excited seeing a brown person on a game show”

Hitting BBC iPlayer this week is Muzlamic, a new sketch show billed as “exploring life from the perspective of two Muslim comedians, or rather, two comedians who happen to be Muslim”.

Muzlamic stars social media comic Ali Shahalom (better known as Ali Official) and stand-up Aatif Nawaz, who both also wrote the show. Sketches in the fifteen-minute pilot stretch from the duo turning up at the airport 24 hours early to successfully get through security, to the exploits of Mabz, an enthusiastic barber from Bethnal Green.

Ali and Aatif stopped by the JOE offices to tell us about the show, and why making a show like this was so important to them.

“For me, Goodness Gracious Me was the first time I ever saw brown people on TV,” explains Shahalom. “And I remember that was amazing. I was, like, ‘Wow, that’s myself being reflected back at me’. That always sat with me, how that made me feel.”

“I remember the exact moment I wanted to be a stand-up comedian,” continues Nawaz. “That was in 2005 watching Omid Djalili on Live At The Apollo.”

“It was the first time I’de ever seen somebody who looked like me [on television]. He’s not Muslin or South Asian heritage, he’s from Iran and he is Baha’i, but just the fact he looked a bit like me and he could tell jokes and talk about his experience made me think ‘That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.'”

It’s not just about reaching other Muslims though for Ali and Aatif – they are quick to point out that they want the show to appeal to anyone and everyone.

Crazy Rich Asians wasn’t just for Asians,” Shahalom adds, “Black Panther wasn’t just for black people. Muzlamic isn’t just for Muslim people.”

Muzlamic is available now on the BBC iPlayer now.