The creator of forthcoming BBC Three sketch show Muzlamic has spoken of how he felt he was “too Asian to be white and too white to be Asian” after moving to London.
Ali Shahalom, 26, was raised in the predominantly white county of Devon but moved to London to attend the University of Westminster before becoming a social media influencer.
The comic, who has more than 350,000 followers on Instagram under the name AliOfficial, produces observational videos tackling his Bengali cultural identity.
He told the Press Association: “What I realised was I was too Asian to be white and too white to be Asian. There was always this double space that I was in.
“My thinking was always a little bit different. Maybe it was in the way I spoke, or maybe in terms of the way I thought.
“A lot of my mates in London had this prejudice, that the mainstream, the white man, the industry, doesn’t want us.”
Alongside nurse Rucksar Naaz, who posts as BrownGirlProblems1 and has more than 260,000 followers, Shahalom will tour the UK in partnership with the charity Muslim Aid.
On Friday April 12 the pair will play the first date of their Unfiltered Tour where they will tell how they became social media influencers and explore mental health, gender equality and inclusion.
Shahalom’s upcoming show Muslamic, produced with Aatif Nawaz, will explore life from the perspective of two Muslim comedians, “or rather, two comedians who happen to be Muslim”.
He urged young Muslims to ignore those who said they should not apply for jobs in predominantly white workplaces, suggesting this only perpetuates the imbalance.
Shahalom, who worked as a digital marketer for Warner Bros, was responsible for hiring his replacement but did not receive a single CV from someone from a minority background.
He said: “I wanted to see if there was some sort of conspiracy going on here. I wanted to see how many Muslims apply.
“I was shocked to realised that not a single ethnic name was on that list.
“What I realised was this: sometimes we perpetuate the very thing we don’t want. Our own perception of what we think someone has against us, we let that play out.
“I realised that they want us and we want them. Sometimes it’s just about taking that first step.”
Naaz, who lives in Sheffield and was born to Kashmiri parents, said she wanted to set an example to other young woman in a mostly male comedy world.
The 26-year-old said: “I have a point to prove, especially being a female British Muslim.
“I feel like I am the only one in a very male-dominated Asian comedy market. I feel like I need to pave the way for young girls who want to think about comedy.
“When I initially started I got a lot of criticism purely because I was female. Asian females have never been represented in comedy.
“People were like, ‘oh she’s not funny’. That’s how they all start. But if they did exactly the same thing they would be applauded. But I was questioned.”
The Unfiltered Tour begins in Luton on Friday April 12 and will visit London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford.
Money raised will go to Muslim Aid’s Need is Greatest appeal which funds projects in Syria and Yemen.
Shahalom and Naaz will also lead male and female groups to the peak of Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain, in June to raise donations.