Roses are red, violets are blue. Fighting Islamophobia with humor? How new!
Tanzila "Taz" Ahmed — a self-described activist, storyteller, and politico — does just this each year, but especially during February. Ever since 2011, Ahmed has been created Muslim-themed Valentine’s Day cards that will make you laugh, perhaps uneasily, all in an effort to raise awareness about and to fight negative public perceptions about those of the Islamic faith.
“Valentine’s Day as a little brown girl in America was always traumatic,” Ahmed told A Plus via email. “I was always the girl who didn’t get that many Valentine’s Day cards. I wasn’t popular or cool, I was the Bengali-American kid who looked unlike everyone else around me.”
Fast-forward to 2011 when, as an adult, Ahmed reflected on just how little we are exposed to Muslim love in popular culture. It was then that Ahmed started tweeting with the hashtag #MuslimVDay. Her cards soon caught everyone’s attention and she began selling them the next year. Now, in 2018, not much has changed but the conversation is still evolving.
“It’s evolved because the news of the year is always changing and I like to make the cards reflective of the Muslim-American news of that particular year,” Ahmed explained. “I have also changed the aesthetic of the cards as I go along, basically reflecting my taste at the time.”
By using current events, Ahmed wants to get people thinking about what’s happening in the world around them — using her cards to do so. And, she believes, “laughter is the best tool to shift hearts and minds.”
“The No. 1 feeling I want people to have when they look at these cards is uncomfortable humor,” Ahmed said. “I want people to laugh, but I also want people to reflect on why they are laughing. I think that’s what humor can do — it drops the guard, and makes people vulnerable and reflect without being defensive.”
As for the one card from this year’s batch that she would choose for everyone in the U.S., Ahmed revealed that she would “send out ‘I’d Never Muslim Ban You From My Heart’ because the Muslim Ban is in the news” as it helps us in “seeing Muslims as humans.”
“People need to recognize that Muslims are people too and humanity is important — but it feels so simplistic to put it that way,” Ahmed concluded. “What I really want all people to hear is that it is time to smash White supremacy and to smash it truly. Muslims and all people of color need to stop being treated like the ‘other’ and marginalized.”