Stand-up comedian Jeremy McLellan discusses politics, religion during McSA event


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Comedian Jeremy McLellan addresses a crowd as the first speaker of McSA’s Discover Islam Week. McLellan discussed through humor his own experiences learning about Islam.

Anna Laffrey, Reporter

Stand-up comedian Jeremy McLellan emphasized the importance of coexistence and allyship during a Muslim-cultural Students Association event Tuesday.

McLellan, a Charleston, South Carolina, native who won the 2015 and 2016 Charleston Standup Comedy Competitions, kicked off McSA’s annual “Discover Islam” week. He addressed about 90 people in the McCormick Foundation Center Forum with an hour-long performance centered on political, religious and racial difference, while also advocating open discourse for cultural understanding.

This year’s theme is “We The People,” and McSA co-president Rimsha Ganatra said the week will focus on how Muslims incorporate themselves into American society and define their culture.

“Muslims are not single-faceted human beings,” the Weinberg senior told The Daily. “We are a diverse group of people and those differences should be celebrated.”

Ganatra said she hoped McLellan’s light-hearted comedy would provide an upbeat introduction to the week of more “serious” speakers, including Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, advocate Khizr Khan and Islamic scholar Nouman Ali Khan.

Although he was born in a conservative Christian household in the South, McLellan said his liberal perspectives on American race relations garnered a large following among Muslim communities, and he said his wide circle of Muslim friends makes him eager to engage with Islamic social issues.

“I’m a fast learner; I ask dumb questions, as everyone should,” he told The Daily. “I spend time with people with an open heart and an open mind. If you have the right attitude, it’s really easy to learn something really fast.”

In addition to recounting stories from his first job at a camp for people with developmental disabilities to his experiences with white supremacist death threats online, the bulk of McLellan’s performance was centered on common conceptions of Muslims in the United States.

McLellan discussed learning about Islam and jokingly related it to his own experiences growing up in a conservative Christian background.

“When I started hanging out with my Muslim friends, I found out about an app that points you exactly towards Mecca from anywhere — makes total sense,” he said. “Well, I heard some southerners are working on an app to point Christians towards the nearest Trump tower.”

Ganatra said the responsibility of normalizing Islam should not fall exclusively on Muslims. Greater exposure to Islamic culture facilitates allyship, she said, and non-Muslims such as McLellan can demonstrate that effort.

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