American comedian and television personality Steve Harvey is undoubtedly the biggest draw at the Sharjah International Book Fair this year.
On Thursday, when Harvey addressed a packed Sharjah Expo's 2,000-capacity ballroom, hundreds more waited to enjoy the company of the 62-year-old, Khaleej Times reports.
Everything he said about faith, religious tolerance, and hard work was greeted with loud cheers and thunderous applause. Even when he gushed unintelligible words mimicking the Arabic language, no one batted an eyelid. The crowds only cheered louder. From Emiratis to Asians, and from adults to little kids, everybody loves Steve Harvey. And, Harvey loves them back. He even wore an olive green kandura and ghutra to prove his point.
Though Harvey has visited the UAE before, this is his first time at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), an event he hopes to be a part of more often. He wants to foster cultural dialogue between Americans and Emiratis.
His idea of cultural exchange is to bring more Americans to the UAE for his next trip, especially students, who can see for themselves 'the real meaning of Islam'.
"There are many misconceptions about the Arab people in the US. But I can only change me. I can't change America," Harvey told Khaleej Times, commenting on the West's misconception of Islam. "America has been that way a long time."
Here are the excerpts from Khaleej Times' conversation with Harvey:
From your interactions at the SIBF, it looks like the Arab world loves you. Were you aware that you have such a massive fan base here?
Steve: No, not at all. I was completely surprised. I've been talking to my wife, family, and business associates about it. It is mind-boggling for me because I had no idea. You know you go to work every day, trying the best to perfect your craft. But, this thing called YouTube - it sends out what you do globally. It's unbelievable to me. People here have seen my clips that meant something to them or is funny to them. When I came here and saw the popularity that I have - it was very humbling to me.
Once you go back, what would you tell people back home about your experience at the SIBF?
Steve: I would say that they should visit this, and see all this for themselves. You got to understand - there are many misconceptions about the Arab people and Muslims in the US. They (the media) take the negative side (of Islam). They are people who have taken Islam and done some fake stuff with it. ISIS and stuff. and put Islam on it. That's not what Islam is.
Islam doesn't murder people, kill children and blow things up. If that's what TV stations are showing the whole country, what do you think they are going to think?
And, in the end, you got a president who puts a travel ban on Muslim countries, and then you think - man, is this guy for real? Is he for real? (laughs). But, you know, that's the government sometimes. It makes decisions sometimes that's not the decision of all people. If I were to believe in the government, I wouldn't be over here.
Does this mean you are going to be doing a UAE-special on American TV?
Steve: No, I think I want to come here and do more shows. With that I can learn and change me. I can't change America. America has been that way a long time. So, it is better if I come here to experience and love the people.
Next time, I want to bring more people with me, and one day, we can do an exchange where we take UAE students there, and let some (students from the US) come here, and put them in a protective environment so they can learn off each other. That's the way I see it.
Can this generation replicate the Steve Harvey success story?
Steve: Absolutely, success is always possible. When I said, I don't recommend Hollywood to anybody that's not to say it is not possible. About 95 per cent of the people who go to Hollywood to make it, get swallowed up. It takes more than an average person to be in show business.
So, being authentic is the key to success?
Steve: You can't be fake, people know fake. They watch TV closely, people know, and they put stuff together. Being authentic in your job is important. If you don't like the lady sitting next to you at work, how far you think you are going to get without her knowing that? You have to be your most authentic self.