Prize win icing on cake for Wanstead comedian combatting Islamophobia

PUBLISHED: 10:18 12 February 2016

Comedian Bilal Zafar, 24, from Wanstead, in action. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Comedian Bilal Zafar, 24, from Wanstead, in action. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

(C)2015 steve ullathorne, all rights reserved

A comedian using humour to tackle Islamophobia is feeling “overwhelmed” after bagging an impressive accolade.

Comedian Bilal Zafar, 24, from Wanstead, bottom row, third from right, at the NATYS final. Picture: Spike LiseikoComedian Bilal Zafar, 24, from Wanstead, bottom row, third from right, at the NATYS final. Picture: Spike Liseiko

Bilal Zafar, 24, from Wanstead, beat the competition at this year’s New Acts of the Year Showcase (NATYS) in Leicester Square, to take the top prize.

Past winners include comedy veterans Lee Mack and Ardal O’Hanlon, and past finalists include the likes of Russell Brand and Simon Amstell.

The former pupil at Wanstead High School, Redbridge Lane West, Wanstead, has been using his CAKES routine to reverse misconceptions about Islam.

It is the story of how his Twitter account @zafarcakes was attacked by trolls who mistakenly believed he ran a Muslim-only cake shop.

“I’m still feeling a bit overwhelmed about winning,” said the comedian, whose first “scary” experience with Islamophobia was when his mosque in South Woodford was set on fire as a child.

“There’s a lot of legendary winners, it was exciting just being in the final.

“It’s amazing, it’s unbelievable – it’s still very hard to believe.”

The former University of Bolton student said Islamophbia has “just got worse” as he has grown up.

“People are scared of Muslims,” he said.

“All I can really do is respond to that – it wasn’t intentional to do the kind of material I do, it just kind of happened.

“It [on stage] is the only place you can speak freely and provide social commentary like nowhere else.”

The aspiring TV and radio writer, who got into comedy after having an “epiphany” as a teenager, said he felt he became a “spokesman” for Islamophobic issues since his routine resonated with audiences.

“I have had a great response so far, I have been lucky,” he said.

“I have performed to Asian audiences and in places that are completely white and they all love it – it’s something they haven’t see before.

“The way I see it is, I’m showing audiences that I speak like them and I’m pretty much like them.”

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