Humza Arshad pokes fun at Pakistani accents and emotional soccer fans. He jokes about his weight, his voice and his own mother. But mostly, he laughs at jihadists. Mr. Arshad, 29, is no ordinary comedian. A practicing Muslim in hip-hop gear whose YouTube videos have drawn millions of views, he is the centerpiece of the British government’s latest and perhaps cleverest effort to prevent students from running off to Syria and joining the Islamic State. Since March, Mr. Arshad has been on tour with the counterterrorism unit of the Metropolitan Police. They have already taken their double act (“Ten percent message, 90 percent comedy”) to more than 20,000 students in 60 high schools across London.
Now Mr. Arshad, who says he first discovered stand-up as a 10-year-old watching American shows like “Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam,” hopes to take his act across the Atlantic: At the end of the month he is headed to New York and Los Angeles to meet with Hollywood studios and television networks — and hold exploratory talks with American schools on his counterextremism work.