The FBI has enlisted comedians in a drive to spruce up its image with Muslims and Arab-Americans damaged by a wave of arrests and searches since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

“It’s so nice to be standing in front of the FBI and not be handcuffed,” quipped Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed, one of the performers at an FBI-sponsored comedy show during an American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee convention.

“Today’s FBI. It’s for you,” said posters promoting the law-enforcement agency at the annual event attended by 1,000 people in a ballroom at a Washington, D.C., hotel on Saturday.

Sponsoring the show was also part of a campaign to recruit agents for a service that is seriously short of Muslims and Arab speakers at a time when U.S. security services fear attacks by Middle Eastern groups.

Ahmed, who arrived in the United States when he was a month old, said his life is complicated because he shares a name with a wanted man on nine FBI lists.

Ahmed, 37, helped launch the “Axis of Evil Comedy Tour” which has performed all over the United States and was featured in May on the U.S. Comedy Central cable channel.

Maz Jobrani, an Iranian-American actor and comedian, got thunderous applause when he arrived on stage and turned his digital camera on two tables reserved for FBI officials. “I just want to take a picture of you,” he said.

Aron Kader, a Palestinian-American comedian, said he had no second thoughts about the FBI sponsorship. “I hope they tap my phone. I have a lot to say,” Kader told Reuters.

Gwen Hubbard, chief recruiter for the FBI’s National Recruiting/Testing Office, which paid $10,000 to sponsor the event, said it was the first time her office had appealed to Arab- and Muslim-Americans in this a way.


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