Phenomena: #GoodMuslimBadMuslim Podcast

Everywhere you look in the news, the media is tackling hard-hitting issues for better or for worse. As listeners, we lament about the absurd negativity bias associated with their material. However, at the end of the day, negativity sucks us in. Fortunately, in the age of podcasts, we can intelligently filter the media we engage in to get more balanced content. #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, hosted by Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh, is a great counter-balance to the Islamophobia that pervades the airwaves.

Taz and Zahra are a dynamic duo who break down stereotypes of Muslim Americans and shed light on what it’s like to be Muslim-American women who walk both sides of the halal (permissible) or haram (forbidden) line. Taz is the more hard-lined Muslim—she doesn’t drink, and she believes in Heaven and Hell (among other beliefs). In contrast, Zahra prides herself as an unorthodox Muslim who drinks alcohol, eats pork, and had pre-marital sex (i.e. she is now married to her Infidel husband). Having spoken with other podcast producers, what is clear about #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, is that it is well produced whether it is intentional or unintentional. I speculate that it may be unintentional and rather a product of the fact that Taz and Zahra’s impressive professional portfolio provides the know-how to create engaging content—Zahra is a comedian and both are experienced storytellers and activists. If that isn’t convincing enough, Taz received a Champions for Art and Storytelling Award from the White House earlier this year, where her and Zahra recorded one of their episodes (Episode 17).

As a non-Muslim, after listening to the podcast, I realized quickly how ignorant I was toward Muslim culture. I suppose I just never felt the need to engage in this content because it didn’t affect me. However, I realize that my perception of Muslim culture is heavily influenced by the little information I receive from mass media and it served me well to hear what Taz and Zahra had to say. The content of the show primarily focuses on news centered on Muslim individuals, in media roundup type segment. From violent encounters with police to protests, Taz and Zahra weigh in. While part of the show deals with hot-button issues facing Muslims in America, there is a lighthearted side to the show as well.

Two of my favorite segments of the show are Awkard Ask a Muslim Moment and Creeping Sharia. In one Awkward Ask a Muslim Moment segment (Episode 4), Taz shares an incident in which she was on her way to Starbucks and was confronted by an attractive transient. He greeted her with the traditional Muslim greeting as-salaam aliakum (peace be upon you) to which she responded the traditional alaikum assalaam (and peace be upon you). After the greeting, the attractive transient then proceeded to ask Taz to purchase him a healthy beverage from Starbucks. Being a good Muslim, she complied. It is a bizarre encounter and worthwhile segment to listen to. Creeping Sharia is a hilarious segment where Taz and Zahra point out how Sharia Law is creeping unknowingly into mainstream society. In Episode 8, they bring to light how New Zealand, which is the major exporter of lamb in the world, employs Muslim men to slaughter every animal in their plants, therefore making the lamb halal. 

Overall, the show is smart, funny, and informative. More importantly, it sparks thought-provoking discussions in unexpected ways. After listening to Episode 9, Let’s Talk About Sex…Ed, my wife and I talked at length about how disparate our sex education experiences were with our parents. Furthermore, Taz and Zahra’s parents shied away from talking about women’s periods, which unfortunately still reflects a culture that finds this normal bodily process taboo. This led my wife and I to talk about how vulnerable of a time puberty is for women and men alike. My suggestion is to pick any of the podcasts on their website and take a listen—you’ll find more good than bad.