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Shazia Mirza: 'My Irish friends ... they didn't go join the IRA. I didn't go join Gaddafi'

The Muslim comedian will be exploring ‘illusion and seduction in Iraq and Syria’ in Dalkey tomorrow night.

1 Source: Shazia Mirza

SHAZIA MIRZA SEEMS a little bemused to find herself on a Dublin literary festival bill alongside the likes of PS I Love You author Cecelia Ahern, pioneering record producer Brian Eno and former ‘rock star’ Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

“And I’m a comedian… right?” the Birmingham stand-up notes, over the phone, in her trademark deadpan delivery.

The Muslim comedian brings her show about life, love and Jihadi brides to the Dalkey Book Festival this week – and will be taking to the stage in a marquee just off Sorrento Road at around ten tomorrow night.

It will be her first appearance at the festival – but she says that, given the rest of the lineup on offer, she has a pretty fair idea what to expect.

“I’m used to playing to these types of people… White, middle-class Guardian-reading audiences, you know.

“They don’t really come to laugh. They come to learn and they just don’t laugh. They just sit there and go ‘yes it’s very interesting’ and try to ask me questions, try and have a debate and discussion about it.

I have to remind them that this is comedy.

q Source: Shazia Mirza

It’s probably fair to say that the jokes in Mirza’s current show – billed as an exploration of ‘illusion and seduction in Iraq and Syria’ – may take a bit of getting used to for audiences more comfortable watching panel discussions chaired by Vincent Browne or talks by Malcolm Gladwell.

‘The Kardashians Made Me Do It’ has been called “brave and urgent” by the Telegraph in the UK, while the Mail on Sunday said it was “as brave a piece of comedy as you’ll see”.

Taking its inspiration from a story that generated global headlines last year, about British schoolgirls running away to join Isis – Mirza argues that young girls who flee to Syria are motivated more by sexualisation than radicalisation.

As for how what the Kardashians have to do with any of this?

It’s not really a direct connection, she explains. “What happened was the parents of the teenagers were called into the home affairs select committee by our government in Britain and they were asked, why have your daughters gone to join Isis? And the sister said: ‘I can’t understand why she’s gone, she used to watch the Kardashians.’

They [the schoolgirls] obviously thought ‘well that’s what we need to do, we need to go and join Isis to get away – we don’t want to end up like Kim’.

No sympathy

Mirza, who describes the city she grew up in as ‘the Islamic Republic of Birmingham’ says she has no sympathy whatsoever for young women who flee the UK to become Jihadi brides.

“We all, when I was growing up in the 80s in Birmingham, we all had strict parents, we all weren’t allowed to do things, and we weren’t allowed to go out.

“I mean all my Irish friends, they weren’t allowed to go out with boys or have sex before marriage and, you know, all the things I wasn’t allowed do.

“They didn’t go join the IRA, I didn’t go join Gaddafi. I didn’t think ‘oh this is a repressive upbringing, let me go join a terrorist organisation’. I never thought that.

So I don’t have any sympathy. It’s a choice that they made. They got on the plane. Nobody forced them to do it.

Source: FRANCE 24 English/YouTube

The former science teacher says that, in her experience, teenagers of any faith tend to be far more interested in sex than religion.

All teenagers I knew were horny and they were interested in girls and boys and getting off with each other behind the bike shed. They’re not interested in religion at 15. I never met one.

The road to…

After debuting a “work in progress” version of her show in Edinburgh during last year’s festival, Mirza later booked a two week run at the Tricycle Theatre in London.

At that point, though, it was called ‘The Road to al-Baghdadi’ – a reference to the leader of Isis (as well as, presumably, if less controversially, a series of classic comedy films starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby).

Theatre management, fearing protests and possible attacks, asked her to change her title – much to Mirza’s astonishment.

“I was just really surprised that I couldn’t say what I wanted to say,” she explains.

The irony is it didn’t work because I put that incident in my show anyway. The fact that they tried to silence me backfired on them because I got to tell the story anyway. I don’t think you should ever silence a comedian… They are just going to get it out anyway.

one Source: Google News

And, headline-generating soundbites aside (see above), the comedian says reaction to the show – from audiences of all backgrounds – has been predominantly positive.

“Nobody has disagreed with anything that I’ve said – people that have seen the show,” Mirza insists.

“These girls are just human beings like every other human being, like every other teenager. They do everything that every other teenager does… When you’re a teenager it’s all sex and drugs.

I just make it very clear in the show that that’s my point of view, and nobody has disagreed with it – which I was really surprised about.

Poeple Khloe Kardashian Khloe Kardashian Source: Associated Press

Kardashians keeping up

There is, perhaps, one group who might want to register a complaint or two about the show’s title, if not the content.

Have the Kardashians – or their representatives – made contact about it?

“Yeah one of them had emailed my manager in LA asking for tickets to see the show.

They emailed my manager and said ‘oh we’d like two tickets to see the show because, you know, it’s about us so we’d like to come and see it’.

The comedian’s manager explained that there wasn’t really anything in the show about the reality TV family – and that it was more about Isis and that sort of thing.

They thought he was joking, “so they still asked for two tickets to come see it because it was named after them”.

What Khloe Kardashian (we eventually established it was Khloe who called) will make of the Birmingham stand-up’s thoughts on Isis remains to be seen. Mirza won’t be in the US until later this year, as her tour on this side of the Atlantic has been extended.

In the meantime, there’s still time to catch tickets to see her in Dalkey tomorrow night.

Read: More young girls are leaving their homes to join ISIS militants. But why? >

Read: Teenage girls lured by ISIS with promises of ‘Disney lives’ with good homes and husbands >

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