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June 12, 2003

Progressive Islam

Our Islamic Fine-Tuning Project is an introduction to a book titled Progressive Muslims. I wish them good-luck, but I suspect that they're the Spinozas of their age, ahead of their time....

Posted by razib at 10:31 AM




May their tribe increase.

If they are the Spinozas of Islam then that is reason for rejoicing, as Spinoza was ahead of his time, but eventually his ideas took root amongst other Jews.

If they are offshoots with no roots, then that's reason for pessimism.

Posted by: Diana at June 12, 2003 10:38 AM


LOL godless.

Rushdie: If Woody Allen were a Muslim, he'd be dead by now.

Speaking of which, I saw a funny British TV show called Goodness Gracious Me (about and by British Asians) in which there was a very funny routine where a young British Asian thinks he is Woody Allen and impersonates him. The parallels were astonishing and made for good humor.

That said, I do believe that none of the Asian actors on the show were Muslim.

Posted by: Diana at June 12, 2003 07:47 PM


perhaps getting muslim cultures to develop a sense of humor in the public space should be a priority....

seriously. i mean, are their palestinian comics speaking to the absurdity of their peoples' plight?

Posted by: razib at June 12, 2003 09:54 PM


Check it out razib,

comic Aron Kader

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0221/p13s01-almp.htm

quote from article

Dysfunctional families are also a ripe target. "My dad is Palestinian and my mom is a Mormon," says Aron Kader. "My mom asks me if I want to go on a [Mormon] mission. In Arab, that word means something else altogether, like something you don't come back from."

saw this guy on Comedy Central. Best line? "I was visiting my cousin in palestine and he told me 'America is a paper tiger, America will never defeat muslims. Are you hungry, we have McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell.'"

Posted by: scott at June 12, 2003 10:51 PM


Actually this brings up a touchy subject that I'd like to explore, which is the Muslim sense of ummah. I mean, humor. The question is: does it exist?

Muslims strike me as a priggish, humorless lot. Jews OTOH may be a pain in the ass in many ways but the Jewish sense of humor is famous. I can testify that behind closed doors Jews are actually funnier than the the professional comedians.

It's occurred to me that Muslims may be funny behind closed doors but for whatever reason present a public face that's different. How would I know, since if I am present, it's no longer closed doors.

Explain. Discuss. Enlighten.

Posted by: Diana at June 13, 2003 04:44 AM


A writer, who left Iran shortly after the fundies took over, once addressed just this very topic--the idea that there was no levity in their religious attitude. He wrote that when he, his mother, and an aunt, visited a popular Moslem shrine, his nose started to bleed. He describes the ensuing conversation thusly, "we were leaving quickly and my aunt said "well it's well known that at that shrine,when your nose bleeds it means you're a bastard." My mother disagreed; it was the ----- shrine, in ----...they continued (laughingly) to discuss which shrine it was that would reveal such info" You've got to have a sense of humor for that exchange. Yet a famous European (so famous I can't remember his name) while traveling through the Arabian peninsula, declared that he found no merry men in Araby except for the Africans, the only ones he heard to laugh aloud with any mirth. Even dry humor doesn't seem to flourish in desert climes.

Posted by: MaryClaire at June 13, 2003 06:24 AM


muslim fundamentalists told me once that laughing is bad, though smiling is OK in certain contexts.

Posted by: razib at June 13, 2003 09:36 AM


That explains a lot.

Posted by: MaryClaire at June 13, 2003 04:31 PM


Why is laughing (and smiling, albeit to a lesser degree) considered "bad" in Islam?

Didn't the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on Him) laugh and smile during his ascension to Heaven on his magical winged-steed (Pegasus)?

Razib: could you kindly direct me to a passage in the sublime Holy Koran where Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, forbids laughing and smiling?

And I thought that it was only us, dour Northern Europeans, who didn't laugh much, etc.

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 13, 2003 10:07 PM


dude, i don't know, some bearded wacks in bangladesh told me it was un-islamic to laugh. might have been full of shit for all i know....

Posted by: razib at June 13, 2003 11:27 PM


Very interesting.

Historically, RC convents and monasteries strongly discouraged laughter inside their walls.

Did Jesus laugh? That is the question.

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 13, 2003 11:53 PM


"Laughter should not be much, nor frequent, nor unrestrained." - Epictetus

Posted by: Dienekes at June 14, 2003 02:55 AM


George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation:

64th Break not not a jest where none take pleasure in mirth; laugh not aloud, nor at all without occasion; deride no man's misfortune, though there seems to be some cause.

84th When your superiors talk to any body, hearken not neither speak nor laugh.

Posted by: friedrich braun at June 14, 2003 11:56 AM