I’ve always been a staunch advocate of “better late than never” and this adage applies to the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast dreamed up by activist and contributor to The Aerogram Taz Ahmed and comedy queen Zahra Noorbakhsh. I was exactly a year late to the first episode of the podcast — and yet, it’s still timely as ever. #GoodMuslimBadMuslim is basically the Pringles of podcasts: Once you pop, you won’t be able to stop. (I finished the whole thing over a couple days.)
The podcast focuses on what it means to exist in that gray zone between “good Muslim” and “bad Muslim” — and how those labels can be rife with their own pernicious undertones depending on who casts those frames. The genius of the entire series lies in the strength and boldness of Ahmed and Noorbakhsh. It endeavors in this exploration with a ton of humor though.
In fact, after listening to the brilliant, effortless banter between Ahmed and Noorbakhsh for a few episodes, I immediately wondered why nobody had contacted this fearless duo for a TV series of their own — something akin to Broad City or Girls, but with more substance. On #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, nothing is too haram. The ladies discuss love, sex, white supremacy, the difference between ISIS and DAESH, the perils of dating, the shortsightedness of one of POTUS’ speechwriters, mainstream media, and even Star Wars.
The genius of the entire series lies in the strength and boldness of Ahmed and Noorbakhsh. While they allow themselves to get vulnerable — one anecdote Noorbakhsh presents about a racist doctor whose motives endangered her brother’s life is particularly striking — they are ferocious women who are daring to have these conversations in a bid to empower listeners to be more informed. More importantly, they are doing what members of the media seem unwilling or unable to do — set the record straight about their culture and their faith.
It is, of course, an unfair burden to expect of anyone. Both co-hosts speak about how dumb it is for people to expect that a select few can act as the mouthpiece for a community that simply isn’t an indiscriminate monolith. This aside, our heroines navigate thorny discussions in a way that the mainstream media seems incapable of doing.
Over the course of 12 episodes, Ahmed and Noorbakhsh explore what it means to be a “good Muslim” versus a “bad Muslim” — but in their incredibly beautiful, frank discussions, they give the rest of us a crash course in what it’s like to be a Muslim American woman navigating this country. They explore this ambiguity through pop culture, politics, and of course, Our heroines navigate thorny discussions in a way that the mainstream media seems incapable of doing. the expectations set by their families. What is startling about their conversations is how their discussions of identity find common ground with Black Lives Matter, feminism, and the experiences of South Asian Americans. The conversations on this podcast are universal themes of identity — and should be considered required listening for all cultural critics.
We’re living in troubled times: Our would-be Presidents don’t seem to care that they’re empowering a violent culture of Isolamophobia, our elected officials are not crafting policies to protect many of us, and our mainstream media is doing a terrible job of covering the issues that matter. Thank goodness for #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, then.