I recently had the opportunity to see Zehra Fazal preform her musically-inclined comedy show titled “Headscarf and the Angry Bitch” at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Her one-woman show centers on a fictional character named Zed Headscarf who tours around mosques, giving lectures in order to educate congregants about Islam through her folk songs.
Her “lecture series” opened with a discussion of the most basic of topics, with Fazal defining for the audience key words such as halal and haram and key concepts such as the oneness of God or the five pillars of Islam. As the show continued, more sensitive subjects such as having a hyphenated identity, terrorism and virginity were discussed. Each subject was approached from an intimate, albeit tongue-in-cheek, perspective which seemed to be, in part, drawn from Fazal’s own experiences as an American-Muslim woman of South-East Asian descent.
Despite the largely non-Muslim audience she draws, Fazal’s comedic flair, as well as her use of explanatory narratives allows her to keep her audience engaged as opposed to alienated. Caucasian men and women of our parents’ generation were all laughing along, demonstrating that Fazal’s comedy was not “lost in translation”. Her animated character and on-stage energy were wonderful and drew the audience in.
To add to the shock factor of her show, Fazal dons the hijab while on stage and satirizes taboo subjects such as oral sex, homosexuality and reproductive health. She also, quite cleverly parodies popular songs such as Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” adding her own witty lyrics, charming guitar playing skills and fierce voice.