Free Expression Group Launches New Series to Elevate and Amplify Muslim-American Voices

NEW YORK—Amid a presidential campaign cycle infused with anti-Muslim sentiment and high-profile hate crimes, PEN America tonight brought together some of the brightest stars in comedy for a hilarious and irreverent performance and conversation to challenge the prevailing narrow representations of Muslim-Americans.

Hosted by Joe’s Pub in New York City, ‘The M Word: Muslims Comedians on the Right to Joke’ featured Hasan Minhaj of The Daily Show and Homecoming King; Negin Farsad, documentary director of The Muslims Are Coming and author of How To Make White People Laugh; and Mo Amer of the Muslim comedy troupe Allah Made Me Funny, joined by 2 Dope QueensPhoebe Robinson, whose memoir You Can’t Touch My Hair is forthcoming this October. Award-winning playwright, New York Times contributor, and television host ‎Wajahat Ali moderated.

“A lot of person-of-color narratives have to have really high stakes,” said Minhaj. “The only way to break that narrative is to write it ourselves.”

‘The M Word,’ a new series of public events presented by PEN America, will provide a platform for Muslim-American writers and cultural figures to address audiences on their own terms–highlighting the art forms, narratives, and identities that influence their work. The series is underwritten by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art Building Bridges Program.

Over the next two years, PEN America will bring together some of the most bracing and original voices from both Muslim and non-Muslim communities in conversation on the challenges of self-identification and self-expression in today’s social and political climate. Events in New York, Boston, and Washington will each center on a different genre of writing, including fiction, comedy, script-writing, punditry, and more.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

The Building Bridges Program is the grant-making arm of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), which is an extension of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF). Based in New York, the Building Bridges Program supports national efforts to advance relationships, increase understanding, and reduce bias between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. For more information, please visit

Clarisse Rosaz Shariyf, Deputy Director of Public Programs:, +1 646.779.4831