Everyone Should Listen to This Podcast At Least Once
Pepperoni pizza, Ramadan, hijabs, Janet Jackson—these are just a few of the topics that Tanzila "Taz" Ahmed, an activist, and Zahra Noorbakhsh, an actor and comedian, have taken on in their sharp-tongued podcast #GoodMuslimBadMuslim, a savvy mash-up of pop culture and politics. The pair's frankness—on sex, feminism, Islamophobia—offers a funny respite from the negative stereotypes their community often faces. "Muslims are seen as either terrorists or rebels who fell out of Islam," says Ahmed. Her costar concurs: "There's no space where Muslims are simply seen as good."
Ahmed and Noorbakhsh can thank social media for their show's genesis. After meeting in 2012, when each contributed to an anthology called Love, InshAllah, they continued conversing on Twitter, using the hashtags #GoodMuslim and #BadMuslim to try to disrupt that prickly dichotomy with a sense of humor. Says Noorbakhsh, "To some, I'm a bad Muslim because I don't practice strictly. But that's exactly what, to others, makes me a good Muslim. We can't win!" Before long, their playful tête-à-tête drew loyal followers—and outgrew the 140-character limit.
Today their fans range from Muslim millennials to what Noorbakhsh calls their NPR audience: "There's an older white population that really listens to us," Ahmed says. Despite early criticism from conservative Muslims, the hosts are proud of their work. "We're providing a space for a diversity of Muslim voices," says Ahmed—and as a Shia (Noorbakhsh) and a Sunni (Ahmed), the duo come by it naturally. "Taz and I contradict each other all the time," says Noorbakhsh. "Even we don't have a singular voice."