Learning through Laughter: MSO Revolutionizes Explorations

The Muslim Students Organization (MSO) hosted a showing of the film Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King, a standup comedy by Muslim-American comedian Hasan Minhaj, last Saturday.

The Muslim Students Organization (MSO) hosted a showing of the film Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King, a standup comedy by Muslim-American comedian Hasan Minhaj, last Saturday. The MSO selected this film, because “not only are Muslims generally represented as extremists in the media, but the emotion surrounding Islam on campus seems to be very serious, at least to the MSO,” Co-President of MSO Pashmina Khan ’21 said. The screening was followed by a discussion, allowing the event to serve as an Explorations.

Yet simultaneously, the MSO pursued this more lighthearted approach to learning about Islam particularly in light of speakers and courses that the MSO believes have framed Islam as a “heavy topic” of discussion: “We choose a comedy movie because we wanted to show that Muslims are just like everyone else, and learning about Islam doesn’t have to be super serious.” The club seemed to achieve this goal, evident through “a ton of laughter throughout the film and large applause,” Khan said. Over 85 students gathered for the Explorations event, which is particularly notable not only because the majority of students plan to attend Lessons and Carols—which will count as this interim’s Explorations—but also because two established annual traditions that enjoy a great turnout occurred on the same night: Rumble in the Arena and the CartERA dance. According to Khan, “a large amount of people approached [Khan] after the movie and said that they were now interested in researching more about the Muslim or second-generation immigrant experience.”

She wants to stress, however, that Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King, described only one Muslim-American’s experience. “Each and every one’s perspective contributes to the Muslim experience as a whole.”

On this event’s importance to the Explorations program as a whole, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life and Religion Master Sue Anne Steffey Morrow H’12 said, “the success of this Exploration demonstrated the wide variety of successful Explorations,” as this was the first comedy film shown for an Explorations event. Crediting Co-Presidents Khan and Areeq Hasan ’20 for their efforts in making the event “come together very nicely,” Morrow added that the event “reminded everyone that students can create successful events all on their own.” Reflecting on the film and following conversation, John Weaver ’21 said that he and his friends particularly enjoyed that the movie allowed them to “discuss issues of racial and religious discrimination while making [them] laugh and leaving [him] contemplating the questions it raised far after the film’s conclusion.”

Nico Torres ’22 said one of his main takeaways from the film was “some [of the] realities of what being a Muslim in America is like, especially for young people, and how [these] experiences can shape a person’s life.”