Tez Ilyas presents a delightfully poignant and punchy twist on the ever-popular TED Talk format, in which he eases us through the final stages of our apparent “conversion” to Islam. Addressing us in the vein of a motivational speaker, Ilyas sheds light on one of the most sensitive issues of this generation: that of British values, integration, and what those things mean for the modern-day Muslim. Or “Muslims 2.0” as he terms it.
Tez, who identifies as a proud British Muslim, deconstructs the rhetoric surrounding what it means to be British, and scrutinises the suspicious motives behind things like the British Bill of Rights. But he does so in a way that engages his audience. In his upbeat, wry style, Ilyaz talks us through his version of the Ten (or “Tez”) Commandments, which centre on how to be a good Muslim.
Despite the heavy topic, Ilyas keeps it light, bringing the audience on board with a cleverly crafted subversion of many scaremongerers' worst nightmare. It's a much-needed fresh approach to a subject everyone has seen debated to death in the media, but rarely does it have the same effect as here – constant laughter. Because when you put it like Ilyas does, you realise how ridiculous and un-British the idea of imposing British values is. If we're all going to live by one law, Ilyaz asks, which law is that going to be? To strengthen his point he gives us a choice of three genuine laws which we probably don't live by.
The pace is just right for maintaining that balance between lecture and comedy show. The funny thing is that this would actually give a real TED Talk a run for its money: it provokes you to question things that you may not otherwise have thought about. Among those issues is the real meaning of the word Jihad, a word Ilyas works hard to reclaim, amongst other things he wants back (like beards and hooks for hands).
Ilyas has taken this personal and difficult topic and turned it on its head, to make an argument so much more accessible and meaningful than hours of Question Time debates. You can feel how much this show means to him; the laughs can only hide so much. The drop in tone for a brief moment hits hard, and gives us a glimpse of the man behind the comedian's mask. It works better than the usual cliched “serious bit before the end”, largely down to Ilyas's blind outrage at a hateful Twitter user's command of grammar.
One of the most relevant and powerful points he makes is on how backwards it is to forcibly demand integration between cultures when your own approach is so hostile. Looking to British expats residing in Spanish holiday resorts for inspiration, Ilyas touchingly asks, is there a more British way to live than with blatant disregard for another's culture?