A word with Shazia Mirza
What’s your earliest memory?
When I was seven, I invited all my friends from school to my birthday party, which my parents didn’t know about. I had all these girls knocking at my door and I had to tell them to go home. When they asked why, I said: ‘I’ve had to cancel the party because my mum forgot to buy the jelly.’
Who or what inspires you?
People that have the courage to speak the truth, no matter how unpopular that makes them, or if it puts their life in danger. And people who are brave enough to oppose a majority. Often the majority is considered to be right, just because there are more people supporting that view; but that doesn’t mean they are right, the best, or have a right to power. I’m inspired by people like the German women who stood up to the Nazis to protest for the release of their Jewish husbands; by the Muslims today who oppose ISIS despite their voices being drowned out by people who prefer to believe a different view; and people like Bhekithemba Makhubu, the magazine editor in Swaziland who was imprisoned for writing about the royal family, yet continues to write.
What are you politically passionate about?
People who use the name of religion to justify committing the most heinous crimes for their own personal gain. Raping women, killing children, beheading anyone that doesn’t agree with what they believe. Any intelligent, rational person with a drop of common sense can surely deduce that God wouldn’t dictate this. The essence of any religion is peace, love and forgiveness. People that commit these crimes need to be distanced from the name of any religion. It’s a flimsy excuse for these people to practise the evil that they are.
Can comedy be a force for social and/or political change?
All art is useless. It doesn’t feed the hungry or clothe the poor. You can go to a comedy gig, laugh non-stop and then walk out and not remember a thing that was said, or what it was that made you laugh. But one small thing in a comedy show can inspire a thought or an idea, and it’s a thought that starts everything.
Who would you like to banish from the earth, and why?
Donald Trump. It might put a few hairdressers out of business, but this man needs to be fired. He breeds hate faster than Angelina Jolie breeds kids. What he forgets is that all his wives are eastern European gold-diggers.
What’s your biggest fear?
Of being as poor as I was when I was a child. Children brought up in poverty never really get over it; it stays with you forever. I never buy expensive clothes, I just can’t justify it. I think it’s a waste and I think long and hard before spending large amounts of cash.
Tell us about your most memorable stand-up performance.
Performing to 1,000 people – old men, old women, young boys and girls – in a huge tent in Lahore, Pakistan. A lot of them had never been to a live gig in their life. There was so much excitement and they laughed like mad at all the things they can’t really say. I was mild to start with, until they all started shouting, ‘Go further, go further!’ and when I went really overboard, it was like bonfire night.
What’s your current show, ‘The Kardashians made me do it’, about?
ISIS and jihadi brides. The first part is about political correctness and offence, and incidents that have happened to me relating to this. The second part is all about ISIS and why I think young girls are going to join them. I said to a good friend of mine, for a joke, that I was thinking of becoming a jihadi bride and he said, ‘Has your mum not found you anyone yet?’ He thought I was serious, and then questioned me further, so I used all his questions as a starting point for my new show.
This article is from
the April 2016 issue
of New Internationalist.
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