May 1, 2016
When Chicago Muslim Moe Shama posted his now viral road trip video on April 3rd showing himself, his hijab-wearing wife, and his kids lip-synching in their SUV to one of the greatest rock anthems in history — “We Will Rock You” —he knew he was striking a political chord.
His Facebook video has provoked 4 million views and 4,000 comments and counting.
“They see a woman in hijab [in the video], and they realize that we’re a Moslem family. And they start watching,” he said from his home in Chicago. “I am making a statement that I’m an American just like anybody else.”
They were driving to the Mall of America in Minnesota. But fed up with the rise in anti-Muslim views in U.S. politics, the Palestinian American family recorded their mimic to Queen‘s classic 1977 stomp-and-clap song. His wife purposely wore her Kiffeyah hijab for the video.
Shama believes his video resonates because of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s proposal for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” until American “representatives can figure out what is going on,” in response to terror concerns.
Trump has long said shutting the borders to Muslims is popular because Americans “want to have their country safe again,” he told the Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon.
But the 44-year-old truck driver says Trump has kicked a fury among Muslim Americans. “I see — and my children see —everything that’s going on in the news with conservatives,” reacted Shama. “It really does tick us off.”
Shama knows a ban on foreign Muslims entering the U.S. would never apply to himself. He was born in Phoenix, Arizona, was raised by Palestinian immigrants, and is “as American as apple pie,” he says.
But the suggestion that an entire class of foreigners should be banned because of their faith is deeply un-American, said the father of three.
“There’s a lot of the misconceptions about Muslims that, you know, we’re so conservative, we don’t listen to music, we don’t have fun, our women don’t drive, our women are oppressed.”
“All of this, throw it out the door because… these things are within every community,” he said, “ whether it be [a] Christian community, [a] Chinese community…”
Sham says he grew up in Chicago watching Gilligan’s Island and Three’s Company and arguing with white kids over whose rock God ruled supreme — Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin or the Who, Kiss or Queen. “Turns out Queen was better,” he laughed.
Online comments to the family’s Queen video have been overwhelmingly positive, if not slightly odd. “It’s a real family!” writes one Facebook commentator. “Thank you [for showing] this to the world, [because] a lot of people think that Islam means terror! God bless you.”
But a few remarks are obnoxious, says Shama, as in “they are waiting for the car to blow up” kind of stuff, he said.
One critic wrote on his Facebook page —the video shows, “that awkward moment when Muslims try to act American.”
On that, Shama jumped in: “I need to answer you because your statement is as ignorant as a Trump statement. We are not acting American. We ARE American born and raised,” he wrote. “For what it’s worth, Asalamu Alayakuf brother.” The response earned 1,439 “likes.”
In Shama’s America, the pursuit of happiness is simple: raise a family, go to work, pray to one’s God… and make zany videos. And on that last score, he is prolific.
He’s produced dozens of kitschy comedy sketches and music videos showcasing Arab American culture, his home life, and his point of view.
He also mashes up music videos —taking Travolta, Teletubbies, Happy Feet and Drake —and remixing them to celebratory “Dabke” music. Think Drake’s “you call me on the cell phone” lyric overrun by a Middle Eastern wedding social.
He declares himself an “entertainer” on his Facebook page because the “public figure” option didn’t seem to fit. But he says he takes in no money for his humour. He uses his Facebook Page following —now 36,000-people strong —to direct attention to the causes he cares about, such as Zakat.org—a Muslim charity that helps poor people around the world —or to families in Palestine in need.
“Yesterday I did a post about a child in Palestine that needs some help,” he says in one walking video monologue, before raising $25,000 in two days for the 3-year-old boy who needed surgery in Ramallah for a crippling larynx problem.
Yet mixed in with his comedy and charity posts, are deeply political ones. And the high school drop out has lots to say. “You don’t need to finish high school to be educated. You just need to open your eyes.”
There’s one about Mahmoud Shaman, a 16-year-old Palestinian-American “executed” by the Israeli military at a West Bank checkpoint. And another about the dead body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi that washed up on a Turkish beach.
Shama sighs when he talks about the Syrian refugee crisis. Many conservatives, he says, don’t get it. “They just see a these refugees fleeing ISIS, what they don’t understand [is] there is a history behind all that.” He believes the early roots of the crisis was the American invasion of Iraq —a view held by other Middle East analysts.
“We caused all this mess… the same people who really supported the [Iraq] war, in the beginning, didn’t listen to the people who didn’t support the war really should shut their mouths… and take in some of these refugees, because they caused all of this.”
On the rise of Trump, he quoted former U.S. President LBJ, who said in 1960: “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best-coloured man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
“[This is] exactly what Trump is doing,” said Shama. “He’s Republican. And the majority of Republicans are…(pauses)… the white people of America. And a lot of them that are supporting Trump are very uneducated. They are the ‘lowest of the white folk.’ I really hate to say it that way, but that’s what it is.”
The Donald J. Trump campaign was asked to make a comment on Saturday but did not respond.