Buried in the "controversy" over Bradley Cooper's selection as People magazine's most recent Sexiest Man Alive is a little known fact: If you had polled American Muslim women the winner would have been -- wait for it -- Jon Stewart.
Every Monday through Thursday, thousands of Muslim women across the country eagerly tune in to Comedy Central to watch The Daily Show -- ok, let's be real -- we're really tuning in to check out Jon. With his great hair, fine Armani suits, intelligence, and deadpan delivery, what's not to love? Plus, he speaks truth to power, often on social justice issues and current events that impact minorities, including the American Muslim community. He gets it.
Look, sometimes it's tiring being a Muslim in America. Like all other Americans, we're suffering through the recession, worried about job security, our mortgages and whether we'll be able to afford health insurance. But, unlike other Americans, we can't escape the bad news by turning on the TV because whenever we do that there's YET ANOTHER opportunist saying something crazy about us!
So it's a relief to know that, regardless of how the day's events are spun on cable news and by politicos, we can come home after a long day at work, take off our heels, slip into something more comfortable and -- spend the night with Jon.
He's been on the right side of every faux controversy involving Muslims, from Park51 to calling out politicians and pundits who use Islam or Muslims as a wedge issue or to score cheap election year political points. He did it again most recently in a segment discussing Lowe's decision to pull its ads from the TLC show All-American Muslim after the show became the target of a boycott campaign by the fringe group, Florida Family Association. Their problem? The show features "ordinary folk while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish."
With a baffled look on his handsome face, Jon asked, "Why would you be upset to learn that there are non-Jihadi Muslims?" Exactly. While the cable news brings fringe groups into every American's living room, thereby inflating their sense of self-importance and expanding their impact, Jon Stewart exposes their prejudices and shrinks them down to their real -- itsy bitsy -- size.
Within minutes of the segment airing, half of our Muslim girlfriends on Facebook posted the link with comments such as, "<3 Jon!!!," "Stewart 2012," "looooove," and "I <3 Jon Stewart... and my husband is ok with that!"
But can Muslim women really love Jon Stewart, who is -- gasp! -- Jewish? Honestly, that makes it even better. The Daily Show's Senior Muslim Correspondent Aasif Mandvi may be a suitable boy to bring home to our parents, but the element of forbidden fruit makes Jon all the sexier. (And, we suspect our moms might have a thing for Jon too.)
As we ring in 2012, we're putting it out there now: To avoid a Ryan Gosling type "he was robbed!" scenario for this year's People magazine's selection, skip the controversy and embrace what Muslim women already know -- Jon Stewart is America's Sexiest Man Alive!
Ayesha Mattu & Nura Maznavi are the co-editors of the upcoming anthology, "Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women" (Soft Skull Press).