The Muslim Laugh and Whine


It seems the Muslim is easily insulted. He- the Public Muslim tends to be male- objects to art unless strictly Islamic and music is also Haraam. The Muslim wrath sure reared its ugly head when writer Salman Rushdie got fatwa-ed by the Ayatollah of Iran for alleged blasphemy in his novel the Satanic Verses back in the shoulder-padded 1980s. It was that ugly that the novel’s Japanese translator got killed and Rushdie was forced to live in hiding for over a decade. Closer in time  Mali, a predominately Muslim country in West-Africa with a culturally diverse make-up, has become a theatre of war with Islamist extremists in the role of antagonist. These characters are by no means digging Mali’s interpretation of Islam, in which music is almost considered holy and worship is often mixed with animist traditions.                                                                                               

After the airing of the first episode of Citizen Khan, billed as the first Muslim sitcom, the Muslim doesn’t seem to have a sense of humour either. The episode received 185 complaints and counting regarding stereotypical portrayal and insulting Islam and might face an Ofcom investigation. I thought first and foremost that Citizen Khan is solid prove that ginger jokes even work in a Muslim setting.

Humour is often seen as the ultimate sign of development. Understanding the humour in and of a foreign language is the final step towards cracking the linguistic and cultural code. Being able to laugh at yourself is a sense of maturity, you don’t take yourself too seriously anymore.

Now, I am aware that the Muslim- like the Jew or the Christian- doesn’t exist. The Public Muslim, however, the dangerous extremist, who takes his religion way too seriously for his own and the common good and who is considered a threat to the Western way of life, is in dire need of a makeover, unlike the Public Jew or the the Public Christian, who are, despite ever-present anti-Semitism and an atheist fundamentalist campaign, far less sharply defined.

Considering the image issue Muslims are facing the Umma could do with a decent PR officer. As that might seem a bit of a far-fetched plan, a sitcom, besides a British Muslim double gold medallist- go Mo!- for the entertainment of the Muslim and non-Muslim alike would be a very good alternative.

And perhaps those complaints have little to do with religion and more with culture as those complainants didn’t hesitate to exercising their British right to whine.

image: Guardian


About Lemba

Non-conformist Writing Soul and Language Geek from the Lowlands with a South London accent, currently living a nomadic, location- independent lifestyle. While executing the Big Fat Writing Plan I’m invading cyberspace with my views on 'expat living', travel and other lifestyle choices, current affairs and other randomness. Welcome to the Dark Fairy Zone.

2 responses »

  1. When it comes to something venerated or revered, it often becomes difficult to accept abuse or insults. It’s rather like how one would tolerate an unwelcome comment regarding race, nation, gender or culture. Come of these thing are acceptable and yet others are completely taboo. In the Muslim psyche, most things attached to their religion are rarely used as material for comedy: it would be misplaced and miscalculated, often resulting in ex-communication of some sort.

    There is however a tolerable reaction, but lets focus on what is not acceptable first, that will inevitably shed light on the former. The Muslim who dislikes abuse towards his/her Religion, Prophet and any other associated interest reacts in a way which is invariably compelling others to accept their standpoint. The formula would read A loves B, therefore C should also love B: It’s a dysfunctional premise.

    It hurts when others insult something dear to you, but you can see in the reaction of an incendiary comment the level of tolerance people have. The over-reaction by Muslims post Sam Bacile sensation was clearly unwarranted but because the Muslim demographic crosses many borders, the response could not be geographically isolated. Again, these are a minority group but the hurt remains and a reasonable method of protest is to demonstrate. Or as one scholar said recently, the Prophet Muhammad is praised in name repeatedly, to simply let sensationalism and hatred run its course should suffice.

    This is not a question of understanding humour, it functions on the very premise that you mention: cultural sensitivity.

    • Hi Mogz

      Thanks very much for your comment.
      Firstly, it’s not an issue of sharing the same sense of humour. I can find something not funny without finding it offensive.
      I understand that many muslims can’t see their religion as an object of comedy and would even find it offensive. Finding harmony between different cultural morals and assumptions, especially the freedom of speech and freedom of and respect for religion, can be a fine balancing act. Although some muslims might be offended by Citizen Khan and/ or that daft film, all muslim, which I believe most of you do, have to understand that in most countries where muslims live as a religious minority, one is allowed to criticise and mock religion. And that whenever this happens, the state is by no means responsible, so it is therefore ludicrous to smash up or even just exercise one’s freedom of speech in front of an embassy building.
      What might be seen by muslims as what you call sensationalism and hatred, might be seen by the non-muslim as criticism and lampooning. Even if it is sensationalism, it is made- from the non-muslim perspective, just that by a rather vocal and in some cases violent group of believers, who make such a big deal out of the issue.

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