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Is There Humor In Islam?


See-Dubya at HotAir points us to this BBC broadcast debate between Hugh Pankuck of The Nose On Your Face and Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR regarding the now-infamous 'Islamic Rage Boy'. Hooper naturally is completely humorless about this, and is 'outraged' that bigoted, hate-filled Muslims would be mocked in this way. Pankuck gets off a great line: he is painting Islam with the brush they handed him.

Pankuck admits that he doesn't know much about Islam and has not read the Koran, and is merely reacting to what he knows about Islam through the press. Moderate Muslims should take heed - the average person does not have the time to investigate and study Islam in all of its aspects, so their views of Islam are only going to be what is presented to them in the news. No wonder the international opinion of Islam is swirling down the drainpipe. Islam is its own worst enemy.

See-Dubya also links to Christopher Orlet of the American Spectator, who has this to say about humor and Islam:

When I first saw the T-shirts and bumper stickers featuring Islamic Rage Boy and the caption "My child beheaded your honor student," I got a chuckle out of it. Muslims, however, are unable to see the absurdity in it. Not only do they not find it funny, they cannot understand how it can be funny, simply because they do not understand the concept of absurdist, satiric or ironic humor. Satire and irony are largely Western concepts dating back to Ancient Greece. Aristophanes employed political satire to criticize certain prominent Greeks while Socrates was celebrated for his sense of irony (hence the term Socratic irony). Absurdism is a more recent phenomenon originating with early 20th century Dadaism, and later the surrealists and the Theatre of the Absurd. These were philosophical and artistic forms that highlighted the essential precariousness and meaninglessness of human life, again concepts foreign to Islam.

It is not true that there is no humor nor satire in Islam. I highly recommend reading the tales of Nasrudin by Idries Shah. I was quite surprised when reading them how genuinely funny and clever many of the stories are, and mostly surprised at how modern the humor and the sentiments are. Nasrudin's satirical and ironic tales are used as teaching devices by Sufis much the same way that zen koans are used by Japanese Buddhists. They are often profound. They are so good they are even treasured by many non-Muslims. They also disprove Orlet's argument.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 21 July 2007 04:10 PM


"Moderate" Moslems? Um, is there any evidence that such a beast is any more real than a chimera?

Hugh Fitzgerald, quoted at View From the Right (with a link to the extraordinarily verbose original), says

... the phrase “moderate Muslim” should not be used unless it is clearly defined. I suggest that any Muslim who misleads non-Muslims about the central tenets of Islam... is objectively furthering the Jihad, by rendering non-Muslims unwary, and keeping them in a state of naive trustingness that can only cause them harm.

Incidentally, NPR's Day To Day bowdlerized Islamic Rage Boy on Friday: their piece was about "Rage Boy" [sic].

Posted by: Nathan Hale at July 21, 2007 07:46 PM

Oh, and Ken: the Sufis are not considered to be "true" Moslems by Sunnis and Shi'ites, and are often persecuted by their mainstream "brethren." Furthermore, no less a Koranic scholar than Ayatollah Khomeini said that,

Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.

Ayatollah Khomeini, from Vol. 4 of Khomeini’s opus, “Tahrirolvasyleh,” also called “Tarir-ol-Masael”, pub. Darol Elm, Qom, Iran, 1990.

So it seems the answer to your title is, "no."

Posted by: Nathan Hale at July 21, 2007 07:49 PM

True, Sufis are often considered heretical.

I also agree completely that Islam comes off as completely humorless for the most part.

Posted by: Ken McCacken at July 22, 2007 05:53 AM

Islamic jihad seems to lack in alot of areas. Imagine straping a bomb to your childs back? Humor just isn't in their genes or something...

Posted by: zsa zsa at July 22, 2007 05:03 PM

I wont agree to declare Muslims are don't have humor sense. Mulla is an wonderful example of Muslims humor and clever stories.
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Posted by: sakthi at July 23, 2007 07:04 AM

Wow. On-topic spam. I guess it was the next step in spam evolution.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at July 24, 2007 09:27 AM