Religious jokes: funny until they become dangerous

Family Guy hasn't always been kind to Jesus
One of the funniest moments on Family Guy is when Brian the dog is a contestant on The Bachelorette.

As the men are getting voted off the show, one of the contestants asks if he can say hi to a friend, to which the host says, “Uh, sure?”

The contestant, Trevor, turns to the camera and says, “Hi Jesus!”

The scene quickly cuts to Jesus sitting on a couch eating chips who says in disbelief, “No way!”

His phone then rings to which he says, “Hello?.... I know, I saw it!”

First off, it’s a fairly irreverent way to talk about our Lord and Saviour.

Second of all, it’s absolutely hilarious.

Yes, I can laugh about it. I laughed myself silly at the time and, as I was just re-writing it then, I had a chuckle.

This, however, is one end of the spectrum. The other end happened earlier this week in France when magazine, Charlie Hebdo, printed a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed and a speech bubble with the words: '100 lashes if you don't die of laughter'.

Later that day, the office of the magazine was firebombed and burnt to the ground.


There seems to be a push/pull mentality between secular media and Islam of late with one side constantly ‘pushing the boundaries’ of what Islamic extremists deem acceptable.

Furthermore, given the propensity for extremists to use Islam as an excuse for terrorist acts, making jokes about Mohammed is a reasonably dangerous course of action, as proved by the attack on the French magazine’s office.

The majority of French Muslims seem keen to take the middle ground. While condemning the cartoons, they also condemned the firebomb attacks. Their quote was interesting reading: 'I am extremely attached to freedom of the press, even if the press is not always tender with Muslims, Islam or the Paris Mosque'.

Naturally this raises about a billion different questions, but one in particular which springs to mind is, “Is it worth it?”

Are jokes about Islam really worth it given the propensity for extreme and, quite frankly, dangerous responses?

Sure you can make a few people laugh, but when people’s lives get put in danger as a result, surely it’s going a bit too far.

Some might argue that by not making these jokes you’re effectively letting the extremists win. I’m not so sure. Artists throughout the centuries have been deeply committed to ‘staying true to their craft’.

But sometimes, when your actions have consequences which put people in danger, playing the “we won’t abandon our commitment to making people laugh” card is something that needs a little more thought.

I fear, a little, this is the start of a new ‘warfare’ – words against weapons. Satirists and cartoonists will continue to provoke extremists, and extremists will continue to commit atrocities in return.

How far will this escalate? Who knows where this could lead us, because the extreme parts of Islam aren’t getting any less extreme. And if these comics are anything to go by, irreverent humour directed against Islam isn’t going anywhere either.


Steve Garner said…
The French magazine writers didn’t put other people’s lives at risk, they risked their own. It was their office which was fire bombed. Risking your own life for a principle is called courage. A virtue that is often neglected in our cotton wool world.
Michael. said…
Another thought provoking article, thanks Dylan.
I've said it before and no doubt I'll have to say again many many times; extremist Islam is fundamental Islam.
Fundamentalists of any belief system will defend it vehemently in accordance with the values and principles of that belief system. Fundamental Islamic teaches that those who ridicule Islam must die; it’s all quite simply really. Therefore the fire bombing is to be expected from Islamic fundamentalists.
By comparison fundamental Christianity teaches one must sacrifice themselves for the betterment of others. By removing himself from His rightful position of sovereign over all created things, the Lord Jesus Christ led by example setting aside His glory, living with His beloved yet fallen creation, then sacrificing His life so that others may have life, true life.
So the next time someone puts Christianity down or belittles the completed work of the Lord Jesus Christ, ask them if they’d like to live in a society ruled by fundamental Islamic - Sharia law. I thought not…