In immediate response to the the attack at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, The Lab hosted this forum, presented in association with the US Premiere of Amrika Chalo (Destination: U.S.A.) by Shahid Nadeem.

Ajoka Theatre has been the target of violent threats, and Pakistani authorities have banned Nadeem’s Burqavaganza for the play’s criticism of a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Nadeem himself lived in exile until 1993 because of violent responses to his satirical plays. The tragic incidents in Paris provided a bracing reminder and a highly-charged political and ideological context for the complex and essential role satire and freedom of expression play in our society.

Derek Goldman, Shahid Nadeem, and Imam Yahya Hendi. (Photo by Teresa Castracane)

The Forum included:

  • Nikahang Kowsar, an Iranian-Canadian cartoonist who fled Iran after he was imprisoned in 2000 in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison for a cartoon mocking a top religious authority
  • Zarqa Nawaz, author of the best selling comedic memoir Laughing All the Way to the Mosque and created the world’s first sitcom about a Muslim community living in the west, Little Mosque on the Prairie
  • Shahid Nadeem, award-winning Pakistani journalist, playwright, screenwriter, theater and television director, and a human rights activist.
  • Imam Yahya Hendi, Georgetown University Muslim Chaplain
  • Moderated by Professor Derek Goldman, Co-Director of the Lab


Politics, Comedy, and the Danger of Satire was part of Myriad Voices: A Cross-Cultural Performance Festival, which was made possible in part by a grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Building Bridges: Campus Community Engagement Grants Program, a component of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The festival was also presented in collaboration with the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World AffairsBridges of Understanding, and the GU Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies.