Christianity frequently gets dissected for laughs and there’s a long tradition of comedy in Jewish culture. But of the three Abrahamic religions Islam isn’t often mined for jokes. In fact it’s often said that comics are too scared to touch it in case a fatwa wings its way over.
But Eshaan Akbar is endeavouring to change that by blasting through the common misconceptions of Islam and the Koran in Prophet Like It’s Hot.
Last year’s debut show Not For Prophet introduced Akbar’s life as the son of a Pakistani father, Bangladeshi mother and with a former career as a banker. This year he delves deep into his former faith. Though there are gags aplenty throughout the show—and sharp, incisive ones at that—Islam isn’t the butt of the joke. Maintaining respect for the almost two billion people worldwide who are Muslim, he sheds light for the benefit of his audiences who are, let’s face it, largely white folk from Christian cultures. With this intelligent, measured response he moves through the five pillars that form its base and the commonly misinterpreted aspects of modesty, Sharia law and alcohol consumption.
It’s a finely balanced show: comic, well researched and tightly constructed then pulling back to poignantly end on a deeply personal note. The only downside is that those who truly need this enlightenment—the frothing-at-the-mouth Islamophobe or the part-time bigot who reads the Daily Mail—aren’t likely to come in the first place. Which is a damn shame.