He is British and Pakistani. He is a Muslim, and English. His aim is to send positive messages, but he is known as the "badman." Humza Arshad defies simple labels and so does his extraordinary popular video series on YouTube called Diary Of A Badman, which the BBC reported has had over twelve and a half million views in the span of a year.
"Diary" first appears to be another one of those awful, barely entertaining shows. But viewers who continue watching find that episodes that begin with a superficial obsession end with a moral lesson.
Take for example the second episode in which Arshad deals with the issue of materialism in an increasingly secular society by sharing his obsession with getting a new iPhone.
He visits the home of one of his closest friends with the intention of borrowing some money for the phone, but Arshad's 'urgent need' for the phone is challenged when he discovers that his friend is living without the most basic necessities. Through humor, Arshad challenges subtle weaknesses such as materialism within his own community while attempting to showcase his understanding of true Islamic values.
In addition to provoking thought within the Muslim community, the 26-year old comedian from South London told BBC hopes his work will challenge non-Muslim's misperceptions of Islam, through entertaining yet meaningful videos.
But not everyone likes his method. Arshad is aware that his show deals with challenging material that invites criticism.
"If you haven't got haters you haven't made it yet", the comedian told BBC. "There are some people, I guess some extremists who like to make bombs and stuff, they turn around and message me saying you shouldn't be doing this or that...but to be honest when you're in this profession you're going to get people who won't like what you're doing. You can't please everyone..."
And Arshad doesn't. According to OddOnion.com, an Islamic activist named Muhammad Abdul Jabbar has created his own YouTube messages to caution audiences against Arshad's program.
“Muslims of the 21st century have taken this guy as a role model,” Jabbar told Odd Onion. “Is it because he listens to the devil’s music? Is it because he makes a mockery out of the food Allah provides for him?”
Even many of Arshads old crew members have joined Jabbar's campaign, which has lost Arshad some of his following. One ex-member says: “How can you expect us to sit here silently when we hear about children becoming disobedient to their parents and niqaabi and hijaabi sisters mocked by school children [as a result of the videos]?”
For Arshad, however, his comedic mission remains clear:
"Comedy is such a powerful tool. Someone could have family problems, they could have financial problems, problems with their girlfriend or boyfriend, but no matter what when you're watching comedy for that split second when you're laughing, you forget everything, I’m not saying I’m the best Muslim role model out there. But I make people laugh and think. Every day people will come up to me, even atheists, and will say I have a different impression of Islam now.”
The series, which launched in 2010, has had 35 million views.
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