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5 Reasons The Muslim World Needs a Jon Stewart


There will be many who read the title of this article and think – of all the many, many things that the Muslim world does need – they’re pretty sure that a middle aged liberal Jewish comedian isn’t one of them.

And they would be wrong.

Dead wrong.

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Yes, the Muslim world needs another Umar ibn Abdul Aziz and Tariq ibn Ziyad. We would be blessed to have an Uthman Dan Fodio or Muhammad Ali Jauhar.


Who am I kidding? Even Hijabi Barbie is front page news for us

But I’m here to make the case that we could also do with our own version of Jon Stewart.


No. This doesn’t count…


Well, here are just 5 reasons:

1. Someone who tells it like it is

Politicians and leaders often like to hide behind semantics and carefully scripted soundbites. They speak like they’re afraid of what might happen if the masses understood what was actually going on.

Probably with good reason.

Then here comes Jon every weekday evening cutting through the garbage and explaining things in simple, direct (albeit American) English.

js quotes

A dose of raw, passionate, straight-talking truth? Suddenly, college students are interested in the debt crisis or police brutality.

The Muslim world could do with a few articulate souls who manage to move beyond preaching to the converted and instead, try and reach out to the disaffected, the uninterested and the disenfranchised.

Someone who could dumb it down without the dumb part.

2. Someone who is fair

It is well known that Stewart is towards the more liberal end of the spectrum. [Understatement alert]

You would expect him to constantly and mercilessly pick on Fox News and Dick Cheney.


He does.

But this doesn’t stop him from pointing out the hypocrisy and ineptitude of those he supports. Watching the Jewish American Liberal Stewart rip apart Israel during the last Gaza war showed he was a man of some principle.


The Muslim world could do with leaders who are willing to tell hard truths to their home crowds just as much as they were willing to rail against their natural enemies.

3. Someone who nurtures talent

Over the years, the Daily Show has attracted young and unknown aspiring comedians and turned them into confident stars. From Steve Carrel to Steven Colbert – Stewart hasn’t just surrounded himself with sycophants but with talent that pushed him to do better.

Again, the Muslim world could do with leadership that produced more leaders rather than ever more dependent followers. How amazing would it be if the Muslim world served as an incubator for good leaders, where people were valued and flourished and…



4. Someone who pushes the intellectual boundaries

If the Daily Show was to pander to its demographic, they would have movie and rock stars on every evening to plug their latest asinine movie or album. Instead, you were as likely to see an interview with Taylor Swift as with the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

not taylor swift

Stewart often nailed the balancing act of being entertaining to his audience whilst also encouraging them to broaden their intellectual horizons.

The Muslim world could do with leaders who focused not just on individual spiritual inspiration, but also on societal temporal aspiration as well.


Translation: Where’s the Muslim equivalent of NASA?

5. Someone who tells it with a smile

Lets face it, for someone who has been on TV 4 nights a week for more than 15 years – Jon Stewart has surprisingly few gaffes to highlight. There were only a handful of anger-related meltdowns. There were definitely no unguarded moments where he “heroically” rails against an elected government, but stays silent about a coup and the mass murder of innocent people whose political viewpoint he disagrees with.


No caption would do justice…

Whatever Jon did, he did with grace. He skewered you like a kebab and cut you up like a … kebab. However, he did so with a politeness that made it hard to dislike him.

The Muslim world could do with leaders that managed the art of making a point without making an enemy.


Now some will read the above and wonder why someone who holds as many  opinions at odds with Islamic orthodoxy as Stewart should be cast in a favourable light by us. To them I say that I am not advocating taking our religion from him. In fact, the qualities described above are Islamic qualities that are rooted in our deepest traditions, yet somehow are best exemplified these days by non-Muslims like him.

js racism

You don’t have to accept his views or his politics to be a fan of the way the man simply excelled at what he did.

And what he did, was shine a searing light on the state of his nation so that maybe, somehow, some way, they might just realise that they could be so much better than they are now.

If that isn’t something that the Muslim world needs right now…then I don’t know what is.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Dr. Muhammad Wajid Akhter - National Council Member, Muslim Council of Britain | - Lead, National Muslim Covid Response Group | - Council Member, British Islamic Medical Association | - Founder, Charity Week for Orphans and children in need | - Co-Founder, Islamic History Channel | - International Director, FIMA Lifesavers



  1. M Sheikh

    August 6, 2015 at 6:03 PM

    I have to disagree for reasons Steve Almond explains so eloquently in this piece.

    To summarize, Almond makes the case that Stewart’s brand of satire serves mainly to entertain and pacify us- when these are often major issues that require action and serious consideration. It strokes our collectively inflated egos as the smart people in America, and by confirming our position as the correct one, it maintains the divide between the liberal know it all (but do nothing) and the conservative backbone. This brand of entertainment doesn’t improve a society- it’s full service is in maintenance of status quo.

    • Hyde

      August 9, 2015 at 9:45 AM

      Glad I am not the only that will be overjoyed to not see his Leibowitz face on television again. Ritual satire; ‘state the issue, or rather make fun of the issue, but never give a solution’. Let’s just laugh at how the Palestinians are being treated by the Israelis.
      I’m so glad he is gone…but oh dear the liberal revolving door is always open. Culturally and politically.

  2. Amel

    August 6, 2015 at 6:43 PM

    How about Bassem Youssef or Dean Obeidallah?

    These are just two names that come to mind.

    • Asim Zahoor

      August 6, 2015 at 10:06 PM

      Jazakallahu Khairan for that, you saved me the effort of having to make that same exact point, the muslim version who Jon Stewart considered ” a brother”, was issued an arrest warrent by Mursi for insulting Islam. If you were to have a John Stewart muslim version of what is written in the article, it will only work in the muslim world (although unless you want to be shot by the regimes, you may not want to replicate the level of political scrutiny delivered by stewart), reason being is that for you to appeal to people about big issues in societies pertaining to governance, you need shared values, you cant exactly expect a barrel of laughs for mocking homosexuality the way John mocks homophobia, comedy is relative to the values people have, muslims in the west can only laught with their non muslim counterparts on certain things together, other there are some big value differences regarding certain big issues in the west, that are so extreme to non muslims especially in Europe, that to hold those values without advocating it is a big issue, let alone making a comedy out of it.

      • Zoaib

        August 7, 2015 at 12:18 AM

        Apparently criticizing corruption and extremism is “insulting Islam”? To most of our dear Muslim leaders, any point of view outside of what they preach is insulting “their religion” is akin to blasphemy. Never did I see him insult Islam and its tenets, rather he insulted those who have taken it upon themselves to lead us, yet failed to do so and become corrupted.

      • Mr T

        August 7, 2015 at 12:33 AM

        I wouldn’t go that far Zoaib and Asim.

        Bassem Youssef is no angel and he did transgress what is acceptable to the Egyptian society at that point. His brand of satire came at a time when Egypt was not politically stable (unlike in Stewart’s case) and was focused solely Mursi and the Ikhwan. It is true that he didn’t like SCAF’s ruling time either, but he sure didnt mind when they overturn the only democratically elected leader of that country.

    • Hyde

      August 9, 2015 at 9:49 AM

      Yeah they are funny as a dead fish. Comedy is the lowest forum of human communication presently. Sort of like being tickled to death. Both of these clowns have such an absurd forum of Islamic Liberalism, it becomes dark satire…how long before Muslims start making fun of the Prophet(p) trying to be edgy ?

  3. Mr T

    August 7, 2015 at 12:46 AM

    I have to say that I totally disagree with this article.

    The problem with Jon Stewart and his clones is that they don’t present the truth, at least not all the time and not when it opposes their liberal agenda. That includes Bassem Youssef. It is almost illiberal of them, specially Bassem, to present only one side of the argument while demeaning anybody- often conservatives- who would disagree with them or their liberal ideology.

    To give you an example, I watched his segment on on the Supreme Court oral arguments with regards to DOMA last year and the way he represented and quoted the Justices whom disagreed with redefining marriage did not sit well with me. So I went and listened to the recording of the arguments and sure enough he misquoted and misrepresented those Justices. This was the beginning of my eye opening to how sneaky he is in making those who push for a conservative thought look like idiots. The more I double check his facts and listen to the full quotes instead of the cut-and-paste job that he does to give us a cheap laugh, the less I desire watching his shows. After all its a comedy show on comedy central- or so he argues! Certainly we don’t need more misrepresentation of the truth (any truth regardless of if like it or not) in our community (locally or globally) and hence I think this article is extremely flawed.

    • Ahmad

      August 9, 2015 at 5:34 AM

      I agree with Mr. T.

      And this article deserves to throw into waste bin.

  4. Sheima Salam Sumer

    August 7, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    You make such excellent points and I cannot help but to agree with you. This article was fun to read as well as thought-provoking. JazakAllah khair.

  5. Khalida

    August 15, 2015 at 10:54 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum,
    Having had a Jewish, liberal professor who assigned us to watch videos of Jon Stewart on business and politics, I can understand why some Muslims would disagree with this article. I personally believe that we should have a Muslim version of Jon Stewart for the same reasons Br. Wajid provided us with. Of course, our version would have to be free of unIslamic values/beliefs/ideas (not all liberal ideas are against Islam). I really think Br. Wajid would be a great candidate for this (seriously)!

  6. Infidelicious

    August 16, 2015 at 4:43 PM

    Why is his “Jewishness” an issue ? Why not simply agree (or disagree, if you will) “Jon Stewart is a fearless satirist, and the Arab/Muslim world could use one or two like him (or not). He is not about religion – he´s about current events, that need challenging. Greetings from a Christian by birth, human by choice

  7. cliveey

    January 26, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    Islam seems such an unhappy religion at times. Derision needs to be careful it can become arrogant. Slight poking fun at people and views is one thing. Slipping into tribalism and racism is anothe rand is completely wrong. It is too easy in using humour to believe taht we are always right and never query our basic assumptions. I often admire commedians whose ideas I do not agree with necause they have been clever, original and funny in putting their m,aterial together. How tolerant would you all ne to commedians who made you query your way of thinking? We all need to have our ideas challenhed and to be tolerant of different points of view.

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