2 min Read
March 23, 2018

On SNL Kumail Nanjiani joked about Islamophobia: Here’s how to talk about the issue to build resistance

Carly Goodman


I recently wrote a blog post with tips on how progressive organizations can set themselves apart by inspiring and promoting meaningful and productive conservations about discrimination. I’m excited to share one of the pieces from Americans Friends Service Committee that added substantial value to the main ideas of that blog. This piece succinctly explains the value in being intentional about how we shape and communicate our messages in a way that inspires action.

If you’re someone who wants to learn how to take advantage of ownable and creative ways to take action by sharing relatable stories and experiences, this one is for you! — Gil Mejia

In his Saturday Night Live monologue, host Kumail Nanjiani, star of “Silicon Valley” and “The Big Sick,” sharply and hilariously spoke about Islamophobia and racism in America.

“Islamophobia is on the rise. It’s like ‘Will & Grace,'” Nanjiani joked, referring to the sitcom’s reboot. “It was huge awhile ago, we thought it was gone and done forever—and now it’s back!”

It is true that Islamophobia is on the rise–and humor can help bring attention to the issue and help to challenge it.

While you yourself may not be planning to host SNL, there are ways for you to cast light on and push back against Islamophobia in your own community.

Here are some tips for talking about Islamophobia online and in real life.

Talk about values when you talk about Islamophobia.

AFSC conducted a research study and we found that certain values resonated with people when talking about Islamophobia. Two frames were more likely to move people to action. One is “everyone deserves safety and peace” and the other is “respecting human rights.” The most important thing is to find values that your friends and family share and will respond to.

Tell and share stories that focus on people’s humanity.

Part of challenging Islamophobia is building empathy and connections between members of our communities. Unfortunately our media tends to present stories about Muslim people in one-dimensional and stereotypical ways, either focusing on extremism or victimhood. Sharing stories that portray Muslim people as complex sounds simple–but can make a big impact.

Share stories of resistance and resilience to inspire.

Once you have learned about Islamophobia, you will see that many stories that circulate online reinforce hateful and stereotypical ideas about Muslim people. You might want to post or retweet these stories to argue against them. But research shows that repeating negative stories can accidentally amplify them and put them in front of more eyeballs. What should you post instead? Stories about communities resisting and working together to push back against Islamophobia and hate.

Offer solutions and actions people can take.

Islamophobia does not just live in individuals’ hearts. It is embedded in our communities through policies, especially in profiling and surveillance. But just because it is a deep complex problem doesn’t mean people can’t take action to make things better. Be sure to talk about specific steps people can take, like:

  • Contacting elected officials to end surveillance and change policing practices;
  • Supporting the efforts of local organizations that serve immigrants, refugees, and Muslims;
  • Offering support to Muslim friends and family;
  • Showing up at local marches and rallies in support of inclusive communities; and
  • Signing up to take a Communities Against Islamophobia training hosted by AFSC.