When I found earlier episodes existed, I wondered how I had missed them: answer, they were on Melbourne’s Channel 31. Now of course with the new series being on SBS we can all see, and you can too if you go to my earlier entry Salam Cafe on SBS Wednesdays at 10 pm and click the screen shot there.
I have promoted one bit of the earlier series from the VodPod to here:
The format is hardly ground-breaking. As a blend of The Chaser and The Panel, Salam Cafe aims to deliver laughs via sketches, vox pops and a discussion of the day’s issues. The twist is that the panellists and interviewers are Muslim, giving Salam Cafe an endearingly subversive edge…
One clip shows a series of vox pops conducted in suburban Frankston – an area the unkind might describe as Melbourne’s answer to Cronulla.
“What do you know about Muslims?” one interviewer asks a passer-by. “Not a lot,” the young man says. “But I know their beliefs are pretty dangerous.”
“What do you think of Muslims?” another man is asked. “I hate ’em.”
“What’s Ramadan?” the interviewer asks a woman. “Is that like a papadum?” she replies.
The segment is funny but also poignant, giving an insight into the sort of prejudices and misconceptions faced by Muslim Aussies such as regular panellist Susan Carland.
“Most of the misconceptions are about Muslim women,” Carland says. “A lot of them are about the headscarf. I’m often asked if I have cancer. And I have a badge that says, ‘No, I don’t wear it in the shower.’ People really think we’re aliens. A friend of mine said, ‘But how did you give birth?’ It’s just a piece of material, like a T-shirt. It doesn’t have magic powers. For me, it’s very important that this show is about Muslims, not about Islam. It’s just showing that Muslims are normal people. We’re not from Planet Islam. It’s showing the human face of the Muslim community, same as Acropolis Now did [for the Greek community] in the ’80s. People will see that we won’t eat their babies.”…
The regulars chosen for the 10 initial episodes – to be filmed with live audiences in Sydney and Melbourne – are an impressive bunch. There’s Waleed Aly, the young lawyer who stole the show at last month’s inaugural Intelligence Squared debate in Sydney. As the closing speaker for the negative, Aly argued against the proposition that “Islam is incompatible with democracy”. It was his entertaining, eloquent argument that won his team the debate.
There’s the show’s host, Imam, a journalist, counter-terrorism expert and father of four who sees Salam Cafe as a tool to bring Islam into the consciousness of mainstream Australia. Then there’s Carland, who is sharp, opinionated and has a stud in her tongue. “She has a touch of the punk about her,” says co-producer Pamela Swain. “She’s like a punk mum. She’s got a bit of the rebel about her and is also a feminist. But she’s amazingly down to earth and so Aussie.
“I can’t speak highly enough of them. The thing that makes me really excited is they’re really young. These are mostly twentysomethings and that’s a generation we don’t often see on television. This show is a big ask of them but I think it’s got great potential.”
Also on the team are comedians Nazeem Hussain and Aamer Rahman, whose show Fear Of A Brown Planet won the best newcomer award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and was described by The Age as “beautifully distilled fury”. Appearing beside them are Ahmed Hassan, Dakhylina Madkhul and Toltu Tufa.
With the help of Robinson and Swain, whose credits include Good News Week, The Glass House and The Sideshow (the show uses the old Glass House desk), SBS’s Salam Cafe will be much more polished than the version that premiered on Channel 31 in April 2005…
I enjoyed it.