A MUSLIM comedian who claims to be behind the first-ever “halal” comedy action film said he hopes it can help break stereotypes and bring communities together.
American Sharia tells the story of a Muslim police detective who has his own prejudices against Islam, following constant exposure to Islamophobia. It has just started its UK tour this week.
Written and directed by Omar Regan, an American stand-up comic, the movie’s star line-up includes Hollywood actor Eric Roberts, Pakistani singer Junaid Jamshed and Youtube stars Baba Ali and Adam Saleh.
Penny Appeal, a humanitarian charity which is hosting screenings of the film – it won’t be available to view anywhere else, including in cinemas or online – has sold over 10,000 tickets so far. Boxing champion Amir Khan has purchased four tickets.
“I’m humbled by the support. From something to come into my head, go on to paper then be on the big screen, it’s made me nervous, but I’m really happy,” Regan told Eastern Eye.
“There probably will be opposition to this film, but what it is designed to do is encourage you to read and study for yourself as opposed to learning anything from hearsay. You will have your own experience.
“Sharia is used as blip in the media. In the film, we’re just telling the truth about what Sharia really is rather than what the media says.” The comedian is also a former rapper and has been the opening act for renowned artists including Redman, Method Man, Wu Tang Clan and Eminem. He was also the body double for Chris Tucker in the kung fu flick Rush Hour 2.
Recently, however, Regan decided to move from Hollywood to “Halalywood” – an initiative he started last year. Halalywood, the “first halal-certified film industry for Muslims”, offers followers a “halal entertainment” that reflects their true image, said Regan.
“The purpose of Halalywood is to represent Muslims as they really are. In the media, Muslims are always portrayed as terrorists. In Hollywood, they are also portrayed as terrorists. It only continues the Islamophobia that is out there. Generally, there are millions of Muslims who don’t relate to that. I wanted to make movies we could relate to, our children could relate to, which could re-educate the public about Muslims and Islam.”
News of the UK tour, which broke when gunmen in Paris attacked and killed staff a satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last month for drawing the Prophet Muhammed in cartoon form, was an awkward time to promote the film, admits Regan. However, he said he didn’t find the pictures offensive.
“I don’t understand how anybody would be upset about someone apparently drawing Muhammed because that’s not Muhammed. Just because they [cartoonists] made a drawing and put the name on there, they doesn’t know what he looks like. They are not hurting anybody.
“In the Qu’ran, there are stories about how all the messengers and prophets were mocked. History repeats itself.”
Regan used money from a crowd-funding campaign and his stand-up work to raise cash for the film, which cost £124,000 to make. He hopes American Sharia can reverse the prejudices against Islam and help promote the religion in a more positive way.
“It’s an alternative form of entertainment, during a time where we are surrounded and exposed to increasing negativity and profanity,” said Regan. “I’m really excited to watch my film with UK audiences and support Penny Appeal at the same time.”
Part of the tickets sales of the film are going to the Penny Appeals Smile relief campaign, which helps orphans around the world.
Go to http://www.pennyappeal.org/appeal/ american-sharia-tour for more information.