Abra-Cadabra: NBC’s Community Makes Burqa Jokes

I don’t know how you spend your Thursday nights, but mine are usually spent in front of the television for NBC’s Thursday night comedy line up. And usually, Community is one of my favorite shows. It’s a comedy about a misfit group of community college students.

This weekend, I saw the “Basic Geneaology” episode while I was catching up on all the episodes I missed from the past few weeks. This episode showcased “Family Day” at Greendale Community College. Everyone’s family was coming, and Abed (who is my favorite character despite all the racial issues with casting a South Asian actor as an Arab student) was bringing his father and his cousin from Gaza, Abra.

Abra (left) and Abed on NBC's Community.

Abra (left) and Abed on NBC's Community.

Abed’s father (who is also played by a South Asian actor) shows up with a woman in a niqab—Abra (shown left). I admit, the niqab (referred to as a “burqa” by Abed—cringe!) irritated me. A niqab, really? They couldn’t possibly have portrayed a young Gazan woman in a headscarf? Or no scarf?

The rest of the story line revolved around how Abra wanted to play in a bouncy castle at Family Day, but Abed’s father wouldn’t let her. The same basic Muslim-woman-under-a-male-family-member’s-thumb routine.  But, considering all the Homeland Security jokes that the show uses, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

A somewhat positive scene was when Shirley’s young sons bait-and-switched Abed’s father, dressing themselves up in Abra’s niqab so that she could slip away and finally jump happily in the bouncy castle. It was a cute twist, but didn’t cleanse the icky taste of burqa jokes from my palate.

Shirley's sons in Abra's niqab.

Shirley's sons in Abra's niqab.

Anyone else have thoughts on the episode?

If you’re in the U.S., you can see the episode on the NBC website.

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