Goodbye, Abed Nadir: A Brief Eulogy for TV's "Community"

If you know a Community fan, chances are you may have witnessed some tears shed last week when NBC announced it will be canceling the show. It may not have been the most unexpected news for those of us that caught this past season’s finale, but that didn’t make the decision any less disappointing for its enthusiastic fan base. For five seasons we’ve watched the ragtag Greendale Community College study group form close bonds despite their seemingly disparate backgrounds in one of the smartest, most self-aware, and wickedly subversive comedies in television history. What is truly sad, however, is the loss of one of the best portrayals of an Arab Muslim on the small screen.

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Big, Brown And Laugh Out Loud: Legends Of Arab Comedy

Last Saturday a handful of Arab comedians took the stage as part of the Legends of Arab Comedy show, one in a series at this year's New York Arab American Comedy Festival. The festival is now a decade old and featured seven stand-up performances full of Arab comedians, a number of whom have performed in the festival since the beginning. Energetically hosted by comedian Aron Kader, the performance was attended by a largely Arab crowd whose spirited responsiveness stayed quite consistent throughout the night.

One of the themes of the night was an oft-repeated country-by-country roll call, serving as the basis for snarky, nationality-themed humor. ("Anyone here from Saudi Arabia? You? From Riyadh. Never heard of it.") The geographic representation was checked and re-checked by comedians a few times, with the obvious numerical advantage going to Egyptians. The roar that followed "Who here's from Egypt?" was just as deafening every time.

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Iran And The U.S.: A Magnetic Fusion

You might say Rezwan Razani has a thing for fusion (no jokes about her prerequisite Iranian heritage). By day, she works as the founder and executive director of the Fusion Energy League, an organization that strives to bring people together and foster collaborative environmental problem solving, conversation and community. By any other time, she is better known for her witty and thought-provoking artworks on her satirical yet sincere website Ajaban, most notably her Persian-English magnets, geared at making the process of learning Persian a fun and creative experience.

Designed for any level of language proficiency, the magnet kits come in three kits: the Standard Kit, the Pleasantries Kit — complete with “over 600 Persian words of desperate supplication and inverted one-upmanship”— and the Courtship Kit of words to use when declaring “love, passion and insanity.” The sets work very much like the oft-familiar magnetic poetry kits: each word has its own word tile, with its English transliteration and translation on the reverse side. Useful for forming grammatically-correct colloquialisms and inappropriate phrases. Coming soon, a democracy kit, for when you need to hit up the next protest event with a little #OccupyFarsi.

Aslan Media Contributing Writer Roxanne Naseem Rashedi recently had a chance to chat with Rezwan Razani about creative process and her Persian-English magnets.

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Tiger Prowls, Military Raids And An Uncaged Hit Set In Iraq

In the 10 years since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, a flurry of theatrical productions have attempted to bring the war experience home to American audiences (Black Watch, Surrender, Dying City, Aftermath), but few have dared to confront the absurdity of war with as much imagination as Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.

A Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony-nominated play, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (BTBZ) debuted in 2009 at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City, CA and two years later, made its way to Broadway with actor/comedian Robin Williams in the cast. Now,the award-winning San Francisco Playhouse has selected the play as its 2013-2014 season opener, where it’s currently running through November 16.

“We did Animals Out of Paper three years ago, also by Rajiv,” says Bill English, Artistic Director and co-founder of the San Francisco Playhouse. “I really gravitate to playwrights with a unique voice, who find stories to tell in startlingly original ways… I have wanted to produce Bengal Tiger for five years since I read it. Such an original way to write a play about the quest for meaning.”

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Elia Suleiman: Finding Humor In Struggle

If good art is derived from conflict, then the increasing popularity of Middle Eastern cinema should come as no surprise. In the wake of two major wars, in the midst of widespread popular uprisings and amongst the continual backdrop of the Israeli/Palestinian issue, these films offer a window to a part of the world that is so often misunderstood, particularly here in the West.

So far, much of the focus has been on Iranian cinema— and for good reason. Whether it’s the docu-fiction experiments of Abbas Kiarostami (Close Up, Certified Copy) or the recent Oscar-Award-winning work of Ashgar Farhadi (A Separation, The Past), these works have exposed audiences to a side of Iran rarely seen. Facing strict censorship— and risking (and in some cases, serving) jail time— these artists have eloquently examined problems within their own society, while putting a face to a country that has become so demonized in recent years.

Something similar could be said of Palestinian director, Elia Suleiman, whose tragicomedies are arguably some of the finest films to emerge from the region in decades. Impeccably crafted, Suleiman’s work helps promote awareness of the Palestinian plight, but not in a manner one might expect. Using irony and deadpan humor, Suleiman depicts the lives of “ordinary” people and their largely mundane, or often absurd, troubles— a man throwing garbage into his neighbor's yard and then getting angry when the neighbor complains, or a gentleman who can’t resist using the word "six" in every sentence.

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Gaza's Omari Mosque Embodies City's Ancient History

Praying in the Great Omari Mosque elicits humanistic emotions before evoking religious feelings, especially if one knows that, thousands of years ago, people prayed in this place of worship when it was a pagan temple for Marna, the greatest of the city’s seven gods. During that era, Gazans worshiped idols and the sun.

According to Saleem Mobayed’s book "Islamic Archaeological Buildings in the Gaza Strip," when Christianity emerged at the beginning of the 5th century, the majority of the city’s inhabitants embraced Christianity and demolished the pagan temple. They built a church on the same site to practice their faith, under the supervision of the then Gaza bishop St. Prophyrus and with the support of Queen Eudoxia and her husband King Arcadius. The latter ordered 42 Greek marble columns to be shipped to Gaza to construct the church, which was named in honor of the saint.

READ MORE AT: Al Monitor

*Photo Credit: Voice of Heaven

Sameer's Eats Takes Halal Food on the Road

Sameer Sarmast dares to offer something many halal eaters only dream of: a day dedicated to halal food, entertainment, cooking demos and an Iron Chef-style contest. Sarmast mixed all these ingredients together to launch the first halal food festival in the United States, under the banner of his online show, Sameer’s Eats.

The Halal Food Tour kicked off at the University of California, Irvine on April 13th to a warm reception. With the New York / New Jersey event taking place on July 7th in Teaneck, NJ, Chicago, D.C. and Houston are also on the itinerary in the near future. Featured guests at the Los Angeles stop included emerging singer/songwriter Mo Sabri, writer and comedian Aman Ali, veteran culinary expert Chef Abdul Eldeib and culinary educator and publisher of the popular food blog My Halal Kitchen, Yvonne Maffei.

Aslan Media’s team sat down with Maffei and the Sameer’s Eats team a day before the Los Angeles event to talk about the idea behind the Halal Food Tour- and how Sarmast developed a passion for food thanks to his mother’s “addiction” to cooking.

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LGBTQ Muslims: A Diverse, Dynamic and Confident Community

On Friday May 31, 2013, the Washington Post published an article about a retreat for LGBTQ Muslims and their partners that had taken place the weekend before. Along with five other individuals who were present at the retreat, the article included a section about me. Amidst positive reactions coming my way from friends and long lost acquaintances, I struggle with my own mixed reaction to the article. For a community whose identities, needs, and struggles are too often invisible within society, it is indeed a cause for celebration to be featured by a high profile media outlet. Yet, I worry that the article misrepresented me, and presented the LGBTQ Muslim community and the LGBTQ Muslim Retreat through a narrow lens.

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Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Arranged Marriages

To most westerners, arranged marriages are an extraordinarily confusing concept. Of course, in some areas of the world, not only is it perfectly acceptable, it is the norm. It even occurs in areas of North America. In fact, many people around the world may think that the western idea of marriage is strange, especially given the high divorce rate.

Here are a few things you should know about arranged marriages.

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