Islamofarcist is a fresh breeze in the smog of the hate-mongering and fear inducing that is the Australian political climate.
[This is archived content and may not display in the originally intended format.]

Islamofarcist, performed and devised by Sami Shah. 

Pakistan-born writer and comedian Sami Shah’s Melbourne Fringe show Islamofarcist was not only hilarious but it was honest and intelligent. As the winner of Best Local Act at the 2013 Perth International Comedy Festival and Best WA Comedy at 2016 Fringe World it’s no surprise. Not just a comedian, Shah is an academic; he is a published novelist and his memoir: I, Migrant (released in 2014) has been nominated for NSW Premier’s Literary Award and WA Premiers Literary Award (and not to mention he was a journalist in his native Pakistan before turning to comedy).

Good comedy is having perfect timing and Islamofarcist is right on point. Shah introduces himself and his story: ‘born’ and raised as a Muslim Shah is now an atheist. And thus we are taken on an informative and sincere walk through his life; not only do we learn about Shah but we learn a significant amount about Islam as a whole. Shah, though an atheist, seems to carry no malice for his former religion but explains to us his deeper understanding of the impact of all religions on society: Shah defines it as a fear of religion (any religion) and admits to it. ‘…I am not only Islamophobic (the fear of Islam) I am Christianophobic – really, I have a healthy fear of all religions.’  

The Lithuanian Club is an interesting venue and needs a good cramped crowd to get the space toasty but Shah’s comedy filled the unkept spaces and we were lost in his stories of his youth in Pakistan. Islamofarcist was low-key but this didn’t distract or detract from the show, rather, I was taken in so much by Shah’s warmth and candidness.

With the volatility of the Australian mood, Islamofarcist is a fresh breeze in the smog of the hate-mongering and fear inducing that is the Australian political climate.  As Shah says ‘comedy gives us the tools to speak the truth and gives us the ability to dismantle power structures’. There is heat (with no hate) to his argument as he asks an audience member on stage to state facts that only ‘a white man can say’. It’s the plain ugly truth that leaks through to the debate of Australia’s treatment of refugees: wars cause refugees and fear causes wars. The fear of ‘Muslims and not Islam (because Islam is a religion) but the fear of people, not a religion but people…’ is ludicrous. If you didn’t laugh you would cry. And that is the art of comedy.

‘Comedy spoke to me like no religion could; comedy gave me focus and direction. Comedy saved me, my art saved me.’ And from this message you leave Shah’s show feeling like you have devoured something of humour, pathos and a dose of reality. Shah’s lived an interesting life and I’m sure Islamofarcist was just a fraction of his substantial experiences and ideas.


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


Produced, performed and devised by Sami Shah

Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club

As part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival

16 September – 1 October 2016