Correspondent Hasan Minhaj has been covering the Trump administration’s de facto Muslim ban ever since it was a pipe dream on the campaign trail. Now that the White House is fighting to make the ban a reality for travelers from seven Middle Eastern and African countries, Minhaj’s coverage has kicked into high gear. We asked Minhaj about what it feels like to be on shaky ground as an American Muslim — and how he’s taking action.
Comedy Central: How did you come up with the idea for the Hasan the Record segment?
Hasan Minhaj: I’ve been fascinated with the rise of this new form of journalism, the explainer video. Basically, a super energetic host explains a topic or issue in front of a green screen while graphs and text appears onscreen behind them, a la “Schoolhouse Rock!” It’s like a sing-a-long for news: “Come on, man. Don’t make me read — just animate what you’re saying onscreen!” I wanted to satirize the idea that we’ve gotten to the point where reading articles isn’t enough — we need everything given to us in three minutes or less. That said, it is a very effective tool to get across a ton of information in a short period of time.
Do you feel a lot of pressure as a Muslim comedian in Trump’s America?
I feel a lot of pressure being a human being in Trump’s America. In regards to being Muslim, I think this is a yuge opportunity to reach out and find allies. And the incredible thing is that, from the Women’s March to the travel ban, I’ve seen people of all communities coming together and standing up for one another. Trump is inadvertently forcing us to show him how great this country truly is — that we are better together than we are divided.
Since the election, have you noticed a change in the way people treat you?
I’ve noticed two things. First, the insane people have come out of the woodwork and want to harass me online and tell me to “Go back to where I came from,” which in my case is Sacramento, California. But second, and what’s been even more powerful, is the heartwarming response from fellow Americans regarding the immigration ban. We have such incredible potential for goodness and decency in this country, and right now there are millions of amazing people standing together in solidarity saying, “Thank you for being who you are and being a part of this country.” That love and inclusion is what I’m focusing on.
What are some helpful actions people can take in their day-to-day lives if they’re concerned about immigrants’ rights?
Educate yourself about the issues and what’s going on. Support organizations like the ACLU or CAIR that are fighting for immigrant rights and against discrimination. Also, follow young activists that are on the ground working for civil liberties for all Americans. I love what Linda Sarsour and DeRay McKesson are doing.