[Left: Zahra Noorbakhsh Right: Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed/Photo Credit: Kamini Ramdeen]
The first thing I noticed about the “Good Muslim Bad Muslim” podcast was that it was like no other. The agenda, antics, jokes, and topics are all especially original and true to the will of the co-hosts, Zahra Noorbakhsh and Tanzila Ahmed. Together, they run through a list of topics; in this episode, they began with detoxes and ended with hot doctors. As I’m sure one can already tell, this episode is especially unique.
The episode begins with Taz’s explanation of what a detox is (the elimination of caffeine, sugar, and bread from a diet), then quickly progresses to a discussion of Taz’s viral article titled “Why I Don’t Date White Guys.” In the piece, she covers a variety of topics, from her mother’s stance on the issue to the lessons she’s learned. Taz speaks of her target audience on the platform where her article was published, which includes predominantly Muslim women—as well as how this has affected the reaction to what she wrote. Taz then covers the feedback she received and tells of an offsetting occurrence. “It’s odd because I’m told, ‘it’s great—everyone has preferences… but don’t put it on the Internet.” She then ponders for a moment, before continuing. “The people telling me to be quiet are usually men. Why do men always police what women do?”
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Zahra then interjects with the fact that she and her “whitey white” atheist husband often have conversations on internalized racism, sparking a thought on the origin of preferences. When dating, we assume that we all have our own “types,” but all this really is is a product of our environment and what we choose to surround ourselves with. It seems our preferences are simply dictated by marketing society and culture.
The topic then shifts to cover the hosts’ feelings about 9/11, during which Zahra proclaims she was “off the grid.” In other words, she simply turned her phone’s notifications off because she has been watching the ways she takes care of herself as an activist. “I distance myself because I’m exhausted,” she explains. She then tells of her opinion that everyone should turn their phone off for some period during the day, but should not let it become the next “drink eight glasses of water.”
On the topic of 9/11, the women criticize the viewing of the notorious image of the twin towers depicted every year on every news channel and social media platform, as it shows people dying and leaves viewers “assaulted with violent images”—and also seriously desensitized.
When discussing recent news, the report of the 53-year-old Sikh man in Chicago who was brutally attacked on his way to get groceries for his family arose. The women commented on how both Sikhs and Muslims have unrightfully suffered on behalf of 9/11, and how both religions have become seriously confused and intertwined due to the outrageous ignorance.
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As the podcast continued, the women addressed their “Awkward Ask a Muslim,” a segment that explores scenarios in which they have been approached as Muslims. Zahra began by speaking about an occurrence at a comedy club where another comedian came up and notified her that her boyfriend would not see the documentary “The Muslims Are Coming.” When Zahra questioned why, she took a gulp, then looked her straight in the eye as she spoke the words, “He’s Irish.” Zahra was dubious and went through a variety of possible explanation why being an Irishman would automatically mean he possessed a hatred for Muslims, such as being a recent immigrant. When the comedian denied this, Zahra arrived at a conclusion. “So now, being Irish means you hate Muslims, you don’t watch documentaries, and you don’t travel.”
Taz’s story was a bit more cringe-y. She told the story of being at an Erika Badu concert, head bobbing to the outro of “Brown Sugar,” when a guy tapped her shoulder in between songs and intently asked, “What do you think about Hillary Clinton’s view of Muslims?” Taz then explained the sad truth that people expect all Muslims to be ready to speak about political issues in the U.S., then added an imperative detail: “Also, I’m pretty sure he was high.”
The women then went on to give out their personal fatwas, or rulings on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized scholar. Zahra informed us to never worry, as her magic marker and construction paper qualification certificates rest safely at home. Taz told of her fatwa against distracting attractive men, which was exemplified by an instance when a man with tattoo sleeves and bulging muscles happened to be her maid, which truly was an awkward situation. Taz responded by speaking of her fatwa against detoxes.
Good Muslim Bad Muslim is a podcast that explores all dimensions: some relatable and others purely entertaining. Within just one episode, the listener is taken on a journey through the girls’ diaries, minds, and mouths; a journey that simply cannot be replicated.