Is This Conan O’Brien Joke ‘Racist’?

The Qur’an says Muslim men may take up to four wives. Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, had nine.

Is it Islamophobic — nay, racist — to tell a joke based on those incontrovertible facts?

It seems so. Conan O’Brien got pilloried when he (or, more likely, one of his staffers) tweeted this the other day:

The reaction was swift: “So fucking gross and racist. Good job guys,” responded a seething Twitter user (one of many who’ll probably be surprised when someone clues them in to the fact that Islam is a religion, not a race). Tweeted another: “Real classy bigotry, Conan OBrien. Did you enjoy having a laugh at the expense of the marginalized?”

Two hours later, O’Brien’s tweet was gone.

The U.K. Freethinker reports that

Angry respondees not only pointed out to O’Brien that his comment was “prejudiced towards Muslims” but also that the character being introduced by Marvel is a teenage girl from Jersey City, not a housewife from Saudi Arabia. In other words, there’s more than one type of Muslim woman.

Conan O’Brien deleted the offending tweet but so far has not apologized.

Nor should he. If the newest Marvel superhero had been a Mormon, and O’Brien had made the exact same quip, I very much doubt that there’d have been a backlash. (Say what you will about Mormons, but they can take a joke.) In fact, I’ll bet that many of the same people who were upset by the Muslim-polygamy rib-tickler would have laughed right along if O’Brien had cracked wise about Mormon polygynists.

Muslims and their humorless advocates have no business claiming special treatment for Allah’s tribe. Like many other groups, atheists included, they’ll occasionally come in for a good ribbing. They should learn to like it.

The alternative is that we’ll oblige them, stop making jokes, and instead begin talking in great earnestness about what Islam’s hardcore extremist followers are up to. We’ll discuss honor killings, Sharia outrages, religiously inspired death and destruction perpetrated on atheists and Christians and fellow Muslims, the Qur’an’s love affair with violence, and a host of other topics that Muslims and their Twitter friends will probably like quite a bit less than the occasional one-liner by a famous comedian. 

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    (Say what you will about Mormons, but they can take a joke.)

    They sure can. The Book of Mormon. The Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith.

    The trouble is, they tend to take these jokes seriously.

    • JT Rager

      As devil’s advocate, plenty of them like The Book of Mormon the musical though.

      Still, we should not be allowing to pass off anything Muslim as something that cannot be criticized in any way. That’s incredibly harmful.

      • Jacqui H

        I was floored that all of the ads in my Playbill for “Book of Mormon” was for the real one. “You’ve seen the play, now see the real thing!”

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        Though not a comedy, I’ve always been curious about what Mormons think about Angels in America. They are featured prominently and in complex ways.

  • SecularismStones

    ­

    • Psychotic Atheist

      In fairness they aren’t complaining of the taco part, its the unnecessary ethnic headgear they seem to have a problem with.

  • busterggi

    Pointing out the lies, damn lies and contradictions in a religion is not racist – there is no Muslim race.

  • Cos2mwiz

    Can’t be “racist” as Muslim is not a RACE, just another absurd religion. Period.

    • Daniel Miller

      Watermelon isn’t a race either, but if Conan made a racist watermelon joke, he would deserve whatever backlash came his way.

      The fact is that most Muslims around the world are non-white, and any analysis of the prejudice faced by Muslims has to take this into account.

      Or, you know, ignore how racism works in social contexts and instead defend obnoxious behavior.

      • cyb pauli

        I hate to be that guy, but those “racist watermelon jokes” arent racist against watermelons.

        • Daniel Miller

          Congratulations, you most definitely are being That Guy.

          Conan made a lazy joke based on negative stereotypes of a group of people who face social stigma in our country. If this was the best he was capable of, he wouldn’t be where he is.

          • David S.

            For one, it’s more complex then negative stereotypes; it’s something that Muslims actively choose to believe in. For another, racist is still about races, not any generic group of people.

            • 3lemenope

              It’s even more complicated than that. Religion is on some level chosen (you assent or decline the actual belief part) but on a cultural level is often not chosen; in many places a person cannot reasonably be said to have or make an unencumbered choice to participate or not in the customs of the religion endemic to the place they live.

              • David S.

                Yes, it’s more complex then that. But we need to think about it in its complexity, not simply label it racism.

              • beau_quilter

                Especially when the penalty for apostasy is a death sentence.

            • Daniel Miller

              By that standard, David S, watermelon jokes are entirely acceptable. After all, they refer to a voluntary choice, and watermelons are not a race.

              Which is why this is such a poor line of argument. The joke was entirely constructed around a negative stereotype, and one directed at a marginalized group without our country. Additionally, that stereotype had absolutely no relation to the subject matter.

              It was lazy, it was a reflection of unexamined privilege, and it deserves to be criticized.

              • David S.

                What is a watermelon joke? If it’s about making fun of watermelons, they can’t be very funny, but aren’t racist. If they’re really about making fun of blacks, then they’re racist.

                You don’t think it’s a mite bit problematic to consider part of Islam a “negative stereotype”? Is it also unacceptable to mention Rastafarians and marijuana?

                • Daniel Miller

                  If “mentioning” Rastafarians involves a string of cheap jokes based on stereotypes made at the expense of a historically marginalized group, then yes.

                  Because the point of these jokes is to reinforce a social stigma. Otherwise, why not come up with something more interesting to say about a group of people, and a way to be funny about it?

                • cyb pauli

                  The opening premise is that watermelon is not a race, therefore, a joke about watermelons told at Black peoples’ expense is not racist. That’s the cornerstone, that watermelon is not a race. That’s the rebuttal to Muslim is not a race.

          • cyb pauli

            As long as we agree that I’m not a watermelon, I’ll wear my title proudly.

          • Mark Browne

            Congratulations, you just made an Ad Hominem attack, rather than just making your argument. You may disagree with him, but attacking him, rather than the argument, is not the way to go.

            • Daniel Miller

              Try again. Referring to someone’s admitted behavior is not an ad hominem attack, it’s a criticism of their admitted behavior.

              And criticizing someone’s rhetoric or their choice in public statements is also not an ad hominem attack. It’s a legitimate criticism of an unfortunate choice.

              • Mark Browne

                I wasn’t referring to your comment about his admitted behaviour, it was the “That Guy” comment, which is only intended to belittle, and stifle further comment.

                • Daniel Miller

                  When someone uses a statement like “I hate to be that guy”, and then proceeds to dismiss someone’s serious concerns, it’s clear that they intend to belittle those concerns rather than address them.

                  Again, this is not an ad hominem attack, it’s a direct and objective criticism of someone else’s statement and their behavior.

                  I agree that the “that guy” remark was intended to belittle and stifle conversation. But it was someone else who introduced that poor behavior, and they deserve to be called out for it.

                • Mark Browne

                  Fair enough.

        • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

          Ok, watermelon was a bad example. How about Mexican? If I told a joke using stereotypes of mexicans, people would call me racist. However, mexican isn’t a race, in the terms of a distinct genetic grouping.

          Mexican is a race if we use one of the other definitions of race: mainly “A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution:” in which case Muslim is also a race.

          • David S.

            There aren’t really any races in the terms of distinct genetic grouping, at least not ones that most people would recognize.

            And still, Muslims have no common history, nationality, or geographic distribution. They can come from anywhere and have any ancestry. Cat Stevens is a Brit with Swedish/Greek ancestry. Arabs, Persians and Indonesians are all different races.

            • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

              So can Mexicans.

            • Daniel Miller

              The “race doesn’t actually exist” defense of racism is tired stuff.

              Whether or not the social construct of race is an accurate reflection of objective reality doesn’t matter here. We’re not talking about sequencing a genome, we’re talking about using stigmatized social groups as the butt of a cheap joke.

              And in that context, race very much does exist. The fact that race is socially constructed and arbitrary makes the situation worse, not better.

              • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

                Couldn’t have said it better myself.

              • David S.

                Yes, race very much exists. That does not suddenly make a religion a race.

              • John Perkins

                people use that to defend racism? it seems like it would more readily be used to condemn it.

          • cyb pauli

            The man who confuses Arabs for Muslims will probably confuse Black Americans with watermelons.

            • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

              And sadly, I think that man has a job on fox news.

          • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

            In that case the Catholics would also be a race, but I’ve never heard anyone call someone racist for telling a joke involving that religion.

          • Carmelita Spats

            I don’t know that I would automatically call you a racist…It depends on so much, including context and intent…I am Mexican, born and raised south of the border, and I love telling Mexican jokes…Cheech Marín cracks me up and sometimes I bust out singing his hilarious song about Mexican Americans and education…I poke fun at my comadres, their superstitions, their Catholicism, and their wacky breeding practices, including my own mother…I’m also a huge fan of other Mexican comedians who tell very Mexican jokes about Mexicans…

            The most vicious type of racism that I’ve encountered living in Texas doesn’t come out of the mouth of comedians but institutions…It is subtle…Driving and reading Baylor’s billboards in Spanish about the need for cancer screening…Baylor had white males pose questions highlighting the importance of getting checked, “Will I be able to run a marathon?”, “Will I be able to get a doctorate?”, “Will I be able to travel and see the world?”, etc. The lone matronly Mexican woman opened her mouth on the billboard to let the world know of her biggest concern regarding cancer, “¿Podré tener más hijos?”…Now THAT is goddamn racist even if my buddy busted out laughing to the point that I had to whack him across the jaw with a sock full of wooden screws to make him stop…I’ll take Cheech Marín’s song ANY day.

            • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

              Yes, it depends on context, who is telling the joke, who the joke is about. A member of an ethnic or racial group telling a joke about that ethnic or racial group has a very different context, than someone outside that group telling the same joke. And if Conan was Muslim or Arabic, this text would have a different context. But in this case, I think Conan used cultural stereotypes not to subtly challenge Islam or the stereotypes themselves, but used the stereotype as the joke. Thus re-enforcing the stereotype.

              I think this whole discussion got side tracked over what can and can not be called racism based on how the group that is being targeted is defined. It’s all bigotry.

              And yes, we really should worry more about institutional racism and bigotry, but cultural bigotry is what ultimately leads to institutional bigotry.

              (And holy shit that billboard was racist.)

          • Latinista

            Why don’t you use WASP’s for examples and leave the rest of us alone? BTW, I’m an OTM Latino, but to you ‘wasps’ we are all ‘Mexicans’! 3:)

          • Daniel Miller

            Actually, I think watermelon was an excellent example, and here’s why:

            Neither “muslim” nor “watermelon” are a race, but in both cases the jokes are undeniably associated with xenophobic stereotypes.

            And most of those “watermelon” jokes have no direct relevance to the conversations that they’re introduced to. Just like Conan’s quip has no relevance to the story he was commenting on.

      • Cos2mwiz

        Just stating fact. Religion is changeable. Race is not. Muslim is NOT a race. Period…but I do agree Conan is obnoxious.

        • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

          Race can be also how other people perceive you. And you know that you don’t actually have to spell out period after you use one.

        • Daniel Miller

          Actually, race is changeable. That’s what people mean when they call race a social construct. We currently defined groups as “white” today that were recently considered stigmatized racial outgroups.

          So let’s call out behavior that reinforces harmful and ostracizing “racial” categories, so that we can have a serious conversation about ideas that isn’t loaded down by the baggage you’re defending.

          • David S.

            No, race is not changeable in the sense that religion is. A black man does not get the choice to be white, or even mixed race in a lot of situations. It may change culturally, but not on the individual level that religion can.

            • Cos2mwiz

              Precisely.

          • Cos2mwiz

            “Belief” in an imaginary deity is changeable…with a bit of rational thought. The same cannot be said for DNA.

            • Daniel Miller

              Belief systems are certainly changeable through rational dialogue. And they are worth changing.

              Condescension and indifference to the experiences of marginalized groups are rarely a workable substitute for rational dialogue.

          • M.

            A religion is primarily made up of people who are joined together by their belief in a common myth, or doctrine. They can be from any race. People keep explaining this, but Daniel Miller keeps missing the point. These people all share the belief that the koran, and it’s prophet, the related history, etc. are all true. This includes the mentions of polygamy, and pedophilia. If people have a problem with this, they should reconsider their religion, not bully us to shut up about what we perceive to be grievous.

      • SecularismStones

        Liberals are actually the racists for assuming that Muslims = brown people. Just like Christianity, Islam has plenty of white adherents, and there are also very many ex-Muslim (atheist) brown people.

        • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

          You don’t live in america, do you? Or watch fox new?

        • Daniel Miller

          And the “liberals are the real racists for pointing out racism” canard is well-worn at this point. But by all means, feel free to ask when White History Month happens.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          Wait. Not all liberals are moral equivalency morons. You’re racist! (That was a joke, maybe not a good one, but a joke.)

      • Iron Hat

        I would argue that the majority of the worlds Muslims ARE white. It is this unrealistic idea of whiteness that makes most believe that your statement is accurate. Take middle easterners out of the middle east and plop them in the U.S. and their Americanized, non accented children will be indistinguishable from other whites. To call middle easterners non-white is akin to calling Italians and or Albanians, etc., non-white (which we do not).

        • Daniel Miller

          Sure. But then, a century ago, we did refer to Italians as non-white.

          Your argument seems to be that if someone were taken out of the context of their family, culture, and place of origin, then they could be seen as white. I see at least two problems with that:

          1) This is exactly what people mean when they talk about race being socially constructed. It’s not a counterargument.

          2) This is also tied to white supremacism – it’s saying that someone can be “white” if they adopt the mores and behaviors of a primarily white culture. The fact is that if someone did not adopt those cultural markers of whiteness, they would not be seen as white.

          • Iron Hat

            Not True. Do we not consider the English white. What about the French or the Dutch? I’m saying those in the middle east are viewed as non-white merely because they are Mediterranean (like Italians) and sound the way they sound in addition to being Muslim.

            • Daniel Miller

              Again, not a counterargument. People of western European descent and upbringing are generally seen as “white”, precisely because of the cultural markers of whiteness.

              So again – the argument that someone can be “white” by adopting another culture’s values and behavior is exactly the point.

      • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

        Wait, now you’re saying we can’t attack someone on the basis of a practice because a certain race is associated with it?

        I thought basing criticisms of people on their actions and not their race was the RIGHT way to do it…

        Using your same logic, the majority of honor killings and suicide bombings are also committed by non-whites. We shouldn’t denounce those practices because certain races partake in them more than white people?

        Every religion or ideology practiced by non-whites is off-limits no matter how heinous? Sorry no. White people do a lot of bad things but they don’t have a monopoly on it…

        • Daniel Miller

          1) Explain why your argument doesn’t give the vast majority of racist jokes a pass. After all, most racist jokes are based on a practice associated with a certain race.

          2) If the conversation were about terrorism or human rights, it would be totally appropriate to talk about honor killings or suicide bombings (as well as women’s clinic bombings, refusing to take children to doctors, arranged marriages, etc). But the conversation is NOT about human rights – it’s about a new comic book character. And rather than take that conversation on, Conan used an unrelated issue as the butt of a cheap joke.

          3) This is about two pixels shy of complaining about “political correctness”. Which fundamentally ignores all of the thoughtful arguments being put forth on this page, in addition to setting up a pretty flimsy strawman.

          • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

            The problem is when it’s mean-spirited and demeaning. When it’s used to mock people and treat them as sub-human. That’s what racism does. I don’t see that here.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          NO ONE WAS ATTACKED! It was a joke.

          Please give me a list of people we can’t joke about. That way I’ll know which people have no sense of humor and I just won’t mention them at all.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        As someone who has actually studied minstrel shows and “coon songs” as part of a study in American music, the cliches used to mock African Americans were used specifically to demean and dehumanize them. I see nothing of the sort in Mr O’Brien’s little joke.

        • Daniel Miller

          Your inability to see demeaning or dehumanizing comments should not be mistaken for their absense.

          Conan used offensive stereotypes about a stigmatized minority group in our country, and used them in a total non-sequitor. How is this not a cliche meant to demean someone?

          • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

            Are actual Muslims offended? If one is, perhaps they can explain it to me.

            • Daniel Miller

              This is not a helpful way of understanding “offensiveness”. The problems with demeaning comments are not limited to the impact they have on those who receive them.

              Your measure of offensiveness puts tremendous power in the hands of the already powerful. It’s common for someone to make a demeaning or dehumanizing statement, and then put the burden on the target of that oppression to say something… and when that doesn’t happen, bigots can claim there was nothing wrong with their statement.

              • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                As a gay man, I’m often appalled when someone thinks they can decide for me which jokes about gay people are offensive. I assume that Muslims are capable for deciding for themselves which things are offensive to them and explaining that to me. I’m happy to listen to what they have to say. This PC minefield is a post-modern absurdity. If I believed any real harm had occurred here I would certainly say so. I also admit that I could be wrong and I am happy to discuss this with a member of the offended group. But speaking on their behalf is patronizing and condescending.

                • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

                  As a trans woman who was once perceived to be a gay male, I’m rather relieved to see straight people challenging other straight people who make phobic jokes about LGBT people. I don’t view this as others determining what I should and shouldn’t find to be humorous. I view this as a person calling out the prejudicial utterances of another person of equal social privilege… which is exactly what’s needed, given that my own social power is far more limited than a straight/cis person.

                  And given that I am a woman who is primarily attracted to other women, I’m still affected by the craptastic attitudes reflected by this kind of humor to this very day.

                • Daniel Miller

                  “Political correctness” does not exist.

                  You say that it’s “patronizing and condescending” to object to disrespectful behavior. But how is it not just as bad to decide for someone else that attacks on them based on intentionally hurtful stereotypes are fair game?

                  You’ve avoided addressing this argument several times now, instead using well worn cliches about “political correctness”.

                  So why is it acceptable to use inaccurate and hurtful stereotypes about marginalized groups of people when those comments are apropos of nothing?

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  You can call it what you want, but these knee-jerk reactions to everything are making it impossible to discuss anything at all. Please explain to me what in Conan’s joke was so horrible offensive that we have wasted this much bandwidth on it? A polygamy joke involving Muslims? That’s the most offensive thing you’ve read on the internet in the last week? Really?

                • Daniel Miller

                  Nope, try again. I think Conan’s joke was a waste of his talent, and deliberately obnoxious. The end.

                  Now, the much more problematic *defenses* being made of his joke are a more serious matter. What good is a thoughtful atheist community if it recreates the same systems of oppression and dishonesty that it seeks to criticize?

                  You haven’t answered any of my questions, and with each response you’ve chosen exaggeration and derogation. I’ll answer yours:

                  We’re using bandwidth to talk about intolerance, and about problematic and inaccurate claims about “political correctness”, not Conan’s joke. If the predominant response to the joke had been “that wasn’t a good joke, wasn’t respectful, and was beneath Conan’s talent”, there wouldn’t be a debate. Instead, commenters have chosen to use this story as an opportunity to engage in easy stereotypes in place of a constructive debate.

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  I don’t think Conan O’Brien is all that funny. This is about as lame as most of his jokes. that’s just my opinion. It’s fine with me that other people think he’s hilarious. I just watch something else. That’s not a problem.

                  I don’t see what was so horribly offensive about this joke? You keep saying I’m not answering any of your questions. What are they? I don’t see any oppression here. Muslims have the same rights as everyone else. No more, no less. They are not excused from mockery for crazy religious beliefs. I don’t think Christians or anyone else are either. I’m sick of this kneejerk reaction of calling anyone critical of any Islamic belief or practice as “racist”. it happens to someone on twitter or elsewhere every day. I’m against attacks on Muslims but at the same time I’m not for treating them as a charity case that needs to be protected from the same mockery and criticism we subject everyone else to.

                • Daniel Miller

                  If you actually think that Muslims have the same access to their civil rights as anyone else in this country, you are part of the problem.

                  There are many unpopular minority groups in our country that have had nominal access to the same rights as anyone else, but our culture’s history is full of examples of the ways in which formal and informal systems of oppression prevented the meaningful protection of civil rights.

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  I’m not questioning that Muslims often face discrimination. That is wrong. I am for equal rights for everyone. At least it’s illegal to discriminate against people in the workplace based on religion. It’s still perfectly legal to discriminate against gay people in most states, btw.

                  I fail to see what this has to do with Conan’s little joke. How did it deny anyone any rights? How does it lead to discrimination. And since we’re talking about Muslim women in the joke, it seems to me that the problem confronting Muslim women is Muslim men. Why don’t we talk about that instead. I see women walking around campus (in Texas) in full burkas in 100 degree heat. That’s far more oppressive than this stupid little tweet.

                • Daniel Miller

                  “I don’t see any oppression here. Muslims have the same rights as everyone else.”

                  “I’m not questioning that Muslims often face discrimination.”

                  This seems like some substantial backpedaling here.

                • Daniel Miller

                  I also see women in religious clothing walking on the street, and also in Texas. I have yet to see a burqa,or even a niqab, although I’ve seen a fair number of women in hijabs.

                  I’m all for dismantling traditional gender roles, and would encourage anyone to think critically about their religious upbringing. But you also seem to be saying that any woman who wears Muslim religious clothing is oppressed.

                  But didn’t you just tell me that “speaking on their behalf is patronizing and condescending”? What would you say to my Muslim friends who choose to wear hijabs or practice their religion in other outwardly visible ways, and also choose to espouse radical feminist politics?

                  And you continue to fall into the trap of singling out a specific group for criticism and applying a double-standard that other groups are exempt from. For example, wedding rings have religious roots, and marriage has traditionally been a form of property ownership for men. But I don’t hear you talking about married women as being oppressed, and instead you choose to single out a specific unpopular minority for criticism.

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  I live in Texas and I see women covered in black from head to toe. It’s not so hot now so that’s not so horrible, I guess. Some of them seem to have pastel covered versions for the summer, but not all. I see them every day. I guess it depends on where you live.

                  As for marriage, people should get married if they want or get married if they want. If you feel it’s a form of oppression, then don’t do it. I think that’s kind of an absurd argument because marriage in the west in the 21st century bears little resemblance to what marriage was 500 years ago (or still is in some parts of the world). Women are no longer property to be bought and sold and that’s a good thing. Most of the places where they are include the Muslim countries but I guess I’m racist for mentioning that.

                  Basically you’re just trotting out the same old tired moral relativism. The topic was Muslims so that’s what I talked about. I don’t talk about Muslims or even think about them all that often since I live in the Bible belt. Usually I’m making fun of Fundamentalist Christians but I guess that’s racist too. Or is it just racist if I make fun of Muslims. Or Catholics. Didn’t mean to leave out the world’s largest criminal organization that is still shielding pedophiles from prosecution.

                  This is tired. It was from the beginning. If your complaint is that Muslims face job or housing discrimination or are being attacked, I’m with you. Those are horrible things. If you feel they need to be protected from a lame joke on the internet, that’s just going to elicit an eyeroll. I’m done. These conversations only go in circles.

                • Daniel Miller

                  “People should get married if they want or get married if they want. If you feel it’s a form of oppression, then don’t do it.”

                  Why shouldn’t this statement of yours apply to someone’s decision on what to wear?

                  Why are you speaking for someone else’s oppression as you imagine it, after you’ve taken such a strong position against doing just that?

                  And if marriage is no longer tied to patriarchy, can you explain the overwhelming majority of current wedding traditions in this country?

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  Are you claiming that all Muslim women are free to wear the hajib or not and that it’s their choice and there’s no problem with them not complying with that rule?

                • Daniel Miller

                  No.

                  But you are implying that any women who chooses to wear religious clothing is oppressed… but only in the case of this one group of people, while you think applying this same argument to other common forms of patriarchy is “absurd”.

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  I implied nothing of the sort. Okay except for having to wear all black from head to toe in 105 degree Texas heat. That is oppressive by any standard. As I said earlier, some of them had white and pastel versions of the clothes which would be much better in that weather. I’m not sure why my approval or disapproval makes any difference so long as I am not interfering with their right to practice their religion? What bothers me is when they do not have a choice. (Also note: I see women dressed this way on a university campus. These women are getting college degrees. That is a step forward considering in many countries women are not allowed to attend school of any kind. Education will inevitably lead to progress and liberation.)

                • Daniel Miller

                  I do not think you’re debating in good faith, based on your comments.

                  “the problem confronting Muslim women is Muslim men. Why don’t we talk about that instead”

                  “Muslims have the same rights as everyone else”

                  So again, which is it. Are Muslim women oppressed if they wear religious clothing or not? Your argument relies on the assumption that Muslim women – in this country – wear religious clothing not out of choice, but as a subtle form of spousal abuse. And when I suggested that this dynamic neither defined Islam, not that it was unique to Islam, you responded that I was being “absurd”.

                  And you keep digging deeper on this – that if Muslim women are educated, they will choose not to practice their religion. But there’s not much evidence to suggest that education causes people to leave their religion. I’m all for education, and especially in closing the historic gap between genders in education.

                  But I’m also not making the racist assumption that a religion associated with people of color in an unpopular minority group has some special social properties not shared by either other religions or among secular communities.

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  Again, you’re making strawman arguments. I never said that educated Muslim women will abandon their religion any more than educated Christian women have abandoned theirs. Obviously most have not. My point was that this is a move towards a more equal status (at least better than it is now) for Muslim women. What that will mean or how that will work I do not know. I have no abilities to predict the future. I only have optimism that women, being offered some opportunities, will at some point refuse to accept being treated so badly, just as women in other cultures have done. I could also be wrong.

                  You are the one acting in bad faith. You continue to attribute to me views I do not hold and statements I did not make. Yes, things are worse for Muslim women than for Christian women overall. That is about culture and has nothing to do with race. There are both Christian and Muslim women of various races. I don’t know why you want to turn this into racism except that it’s as a shortcut to shoot down anyone who dares criticize a minority religion. The result is to make excuses for horrible practices in the name of moral relativism. I reject that concept. Women have the same rights as men regardless of their race, their religion, their ethnicity or their place of birth. Allowing abuse because some cultures do not accept those concepts of human rights does a disservice to the people living in those cultures. I find the entire concept repugnant. And using that to attack people who want to make things better for all people is horrendous. That is what you are doing. And you want to make me out to be the bad guy for thinking that women ought to have the right to choose their religion, their manner of dress and which cultural customs they choose to follow. I’m disgusted by you and people like you and hope the people who are enabling the oppression of millions of women see the error so that the horrors inflicted come to your senses. Wearing certain clothing is among the least of these horrors so focusing on that is nothing more than a red herring. One of us is for equal rights for all women and it’s not you.

                • Daniel Miller

                  Your entire argument here hinges on the idea that a women in religious clothing is oppressed – a decision that you’ve projected onto her, despite explicitly claiming that you find this practice distasteful.

                  You simply cannot have this both ways. Either you are using Muslim women in religious garb as examples of oppression, or you are not.

                  I will continue to make my case that this is exactly what you’re arguing, because you continue to give fresh evidence for this interpretation. For example, you now claim that “women, being offered some opportunities, will at some point refuse to accept being treated so badly”. In saying this, you are arguing that any women who chooses to express a religious faith is being mistreated, and you focus this particularly on Muslim women.

                  While I am not Muslim, nor do I think Islam or other religions are a particularly useful tool for understanding the world, I also recognize that people often choose to be religious of their own free will, including Muslim women. And while I may not share their religious views, I respect my female Muslim friends and colleagues enough to understand that their religious clothing is part of an informed decision that they’ve made in how to express their sincere feminism.

                  You continue to focus this criticism of patriarchy and oppression only on Muslim women. It’s not difficult to find examples of these systems of power and privilege not just in Islam, or in religion, but in secular communities as well.

                  And lastly, it’s typically not a sign of interest in good faith, honest dialogue when someone says “I’m disgusted by you and people like you”, nor when someone repeatedly avoids answering direct questions.

                  What exactly is it about me that is so disgusting that it has to be pointed at me from behind a pseudonym? And who are the “people like me”?

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  “People like you” are the moral relativists who make excuses for honor killings, female circumcision, wife-beating and other horrors and call anyone who dares criticizing anything in the Muslim culture as “racist.”

                  Okay, yes I think not being able to leave the house without being covered head to toe except for eye slits is oppression. Being forbidden to drive a car is oppression. Not having the right to vote is oppression. Having no parental rights in custody disputes is oppression. Should I go on? Are you claiming these things don’t happen?

                  Yes, if a woman wants to dress that way I think that is her right. How often is that actually the case? What risk does a Muslim woman face if she refuses to comply with this manner of dress? Are you claiming that if she doesn’t want to and has to out of fear that isn’t a form of oppression?

                  And you’re really comparing a modern American marriage as equally oppressive? Are you for real?

                • Daniel Miller

                  You’ll have to point out the part where I “make excuses for honor killings, female circumcision, wife-beating and other horrors”.

                  And moral relativism? As in, “Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures”?

                  Well, yes, I try to think critically about the differences in systems of moral judgement across cultures.

                  I also do not assume that the dominant American culture has a monopoly on valid moral judgement, because I make an effort to recognize and reject both American exceptionalism and white supremacy.

                  You ask how often a woman has a real choice in how she presents within her family or out in public. But again, you continue to insist that this is a conversation that not only has to remain focused specifically on Muslim women, but also continue to imply that Muslim women are less likely to have that choice than other women here in our country.

                  “Equally” oppressive isn’t a very comforting notion to those who are committed to fighting all oppression. “Oppression olympics” is such a common tactic for derailing conversations about justice that it has its own name.

                  My own experience is that patriarchy is neither limited to Muslim American communities nor unusually powerful within compared to other American communities.

                  There’s no question that there are societies and legal or cultural regimes that are more or less oppressive to women (or other non-male gender identified people). Then again, there’s no question that there are both legal and cultural systems within our own country which are oppressive to women (and, again, other non-male gender identified people).

                  But it was your choice to introduce American Muslim women as examples of oppression, without either offering evidence that their behavior is not their choice, nor recognizing other examples of oppression directed at women within our own country as valid comparisons.

                • http://facebook.com/OccupyProgressNow OccupyProgress

                  Hound, we’re dealing with this outright left-wing dork (guy is top-to-bottom mindlessly spouting/defending/trashing every liberal-fed indoctrinated bit of self-destructive nonsense) over at NewsBusters as well.

                  These rabid leftist loons are truly cancerous, and seem to be 24/7 bloggers dispatched to spread the propaganda.

                  - TCA

      • fatherdaddy

        What I’m getting from this is that it isn’t okay to make jokes about anything cultural, as it could be tied to a race, ethnicity, religion, etc., and could be construed as marginalizing any of these groups. Mormon jokes, New Yorker jokes, sports fan jokes, all should be gone since someone might see that as marginalizing some group. I am pretty ignorant, so, clue me in as to what is acceptable to crack a joke about.

        • Daniel Miller

          Why is it so important to know who you can mock?

          It seems disingenuous to imply that you can’t see for yourself who in our society is marginalized by the dominant culture.

          Using deliberately belittling examples like “sports fans” isn’t a sign of interest in learning more. It’s dismissive. So again, why is it so important to know whose personal traits, culture, or values you can mock?

          • fatherdaddy

            Not just who, but what I can joke about is important for the very reason we are commenting here. I have heard some funny pope jokes that you are implying are as bad as telling the black jokes I used to hear when I was a kid. I find it important to know what lines I’m not supposed to cross in civil society.

            I would consider the “sports fans” to be more glib than belittling, but, doesn’t that just emphasize my point if it is belittling?

            • Daniel Miller

              This doesn’t answer the question – why would it be so personally important to know who you’re “allowed” to make fun of in jokes?

              I mean – make fun of anyone you like, for any reason you like. People are free to think your joke was funny, think you’re an inconsiderate jerk, or ignore you completely.

              There’s nothing stopping you from making these jokes. What you’re asking for is a social sanction for mocking people in their absense. And that’s not something that anyone can give you.

              • fatherdaddy

                That’s funny, I thought I made it perfectly clear why this is important. It seems you can’t come up with a situation where a joke is acceptable. We can cast a pretty wide net with the marginalization criteria. We can extend it beyond derogatory racial jokes to jokes about anything, because someone might get their feelings hurt if I make that minister joke. Again, I ask you where are we allowed make fun? Anywhere? Since more and more doctors are women, is making a doctor joke to be considered sexist?

                • Daniel Miller

                  You never answered why it was so important to you to make fun of other people.

                  If your humor depends on denigrating others, why do you care whether or not that humor is also racist, homophobic, or otherwise oppressive?

                  You are fully allowed to make these jokes. And others are fully allowed to think less of you for it.

                • http://batman-news.com Anton

                  I’m relieved to see that the stereotype of the humorless PC cyber-bully isn’t a myth after all.

                • Daniel Miller

                  Or that the glib belief in the existence of “PC” can be removed from the endangered species list.

                • http://batman-news.com Anton

                  Oh, I forgot. As soon as it succeeded in eradicating all systemic inequities in society just by hectoring strangers online, PC retired so it could bask in the egalitarian utopia that its moralistic grandstanding and bullying had made possible.

                  Thanks again!

                • Daniel Miller

                  So participating in racist or oppressive speech from behind a pseudonym would be a preferable vehicle for bringing about positive social change?

                • http://batman-news.com Anton

                  No, you misunderstood me. Obviously the most important form of activism in our day and age is insulting strangers on message boards. Humorless sanctimony is truly the key to eliminating systemic inequities in our society.

                  Fight the power!

                • Daniel Miller

                  First they came for the racist jokes, and I did not speak out.

                  Then they came for the baselessly snarky insults that substitute for a clear argument, and I did not speak out.

                • http://batman-news.com Anton

                  How I admire your bravery and motivation, Daniel.

                  Some people berate strangers online just as a form of useless narcissistic grandstanding, attacking the low-hanging fruit instead of doing anything real to battle social ills like racism. When you do it, though, it’s obviously about more than just being an insufferable busybody. It’s more than seeking out people to act morally superior to. It’s more than bitching about racism at its most cosmetic level. You’re making a difference in our world, Daniel, and that makes you a hero.

                • Daniel Miller

                  So your insertion of insults into the conversation and your attacks on the morality of others are neither “grandstanding” nor being a “busybody”? Are your evidence-free assumptions about the actions of others somehow immune from being seen as “insufferable”?

                  The trouble with Conan’s joke, and with “fatherdaddy” having a self-professed desire to share similar jokes, is not that humorless scolds will disapprove.

                  The trouble is that these jokes are themselves humorless. A joke is about pushing against people’s expectations, and being surprising. But a joke about ethnic or cultural stereotypes is rarely able to rise above mediocrity. These are not actually humor, they’re a sort of tribal bonding mechanism meant to define outgroups.

                  And when your commitment to making the world a better place is prefaced by rhetoric lifted out of an early 90′s Rush Limbaugh piece, it’s not unreasonable for people to dig into that. “PC” has never existed as anything other than a bumperstickerism meant to derail conversations and distract from actual issues.

                • fatherdaddy

                  I see. You’re just going to ignore me and talk over me. Are you really that uptight and humorless? You must be real fun to hang with.

  • Mario Strada

    Lighten up for fuck’s sake

  • WalterWhite007

    It all comes down to one problem. Religion is given too much respect especially among the religious. People of one myth based belief system are not inclined to express their atheism towards (or criticize) other myth based belief systems because they would then be obliged to apply the same skepticism to their own myth based idiocy. Radical islam is well aware of this and exploits it at every opportunity. It’s not liberalism that makes westerners back down from criticizing islam it’s the fact that many in the west believe in myth based nonsense also.

  • Danny Bailey

    There will always be a group of hypocritical religious morons to stick up for other hypocritical religious morons’ right to be stupid hypocritical morons.

  • ShoeUnited

    The deep irony of calling Muslim a race.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Humor is a complicated business. And when you tell a joke, especially if you do so for a living, you better understand the context of not only the subject of the joke but your own context. And the lines between racist and not racist are blurry. In this case, Conan made a bad joke, that went too far into racist territory.

    Here, the object of the joke was the muslim superhero, which in this case was going against the standard muslim women stereotype, which is being submissive and basically property of men. But by using these standard stereotypes to poke fun at something that is already going against them, the tweet just re-enforces the negative stereotypes. If the superhero instead went around fighting for the orthodox muslim values and her superpower was to change miniskirts into burkas, then the context of tweet would have been completely different. And the tweet probably wouldn’t have been so offensive.

    Also you have to look at who is telling the joke. The same words can have entirely different meanings. Here, Conan, who really belongs to a privileged class (White, Male) here in America, is commenting on an underprivileged class. Again, the exact same joke could be told by a muslim woman, but it would have a completely different context.

    Even the comparison with Mormon isn’t apt. Mormons don’t get pulled over for additional searches at the airport. The stereotype of a Mormon is an annoying guy in a white shirt and black tie, not a terrorist. So comparing the reactions of the two communities is comparing apples to oranges.

    This was a racist tweet. Was it get out the sheets and burn a cross level racist? No. Are Conan O’Brien or his staff racist, no. They make a living telling jokes that push the line between good taste and offensive. They just told a bad joke that crossed into territory I don’t think they wanted to go.

    (And yes I understand that muslim isn’t a race, but there is such a blending between race, ethnicity, and religion that there isn’t a good word to describe a generic prejudice against one to all of those categories. Also Conan is a professional comedian, so we should expect a higher standard.)

    • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

      Here, Conan, who really belongs to a privileged class (White, Male)
      here in America, is commenting on an underprivileged class.

      In further support of your comment, he is not only white and male. He is a white male with a high level of access to the media and its ability to shape people’s perceptions and mores. That makes the impact of his words far more extensive than an awful joke told by some dude on a blog or a street corner.

  • SecularismStones

    Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, had nine.

    Coincidentally, also the age one of his wives was when they first got down and dirty.

  • ologies

    I think this piece misses the mark in a huge way. There isn’t a wave of Mormonphobia sweeping the nation, Mormons aren’t facing the same set of dimwitted stereotypes (such as, ahem, multiple wives) or challenges as Muslim women, and let’s be real — Mormons are largely not people of color.

    That aside, criticizing one joke for being stupid is not the same as requesting that no joke ever be made at Islam’s expense ever, as you imply. You’ve set up a false dichotomy that either all Muslim jokes are fine and dandy, or we all have to kiss their ass and never speak an ill word and live in fear of their wrath. That’s pretty lazy.

    A few jokes I’ve enjoyed about Islam that don’t leap straight for overwrought stereotypes:

    * What do you call a drunk Muslim? Mohammered.

    * I’ve got a Muslim friend who’s really religious. He knows the Qur’an backwards! Which is handy, because that’s how you read it.

    As I see it, obviously Conan’s tweet isn’t the Worst Thing Ever. I have a healthy perspective of the scale of things, I think, but it also get why it’s worthy of criticism, especially because it’s coming from a professional comic. I expect more wit than that — this joke is on par with the “lol muslims fuck goats and blow things up” lot. The fact that this entry jumps straight for the obvious hyperbole and “Muslims hate fun!!!” is beyond disappointing.

    • M.

      Mormon-phobia is not on the rise. Although if people are suspicious of this cult, it is not without good reason.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    Marvel comics is introducing a new atheist female super hero. She has so many more special powers than her nihilist denial of morality.

    Marvel comics is introducing a new atheist female super hero. She has so many more special powers than her ability to spew hatred toward religious people.

    When you make a joke that utilizes a negative stereotype of an oppressed group to get a few laughs, you inadvertently downplay the damage inherent in the stereotype in question. Kamala, the super hero in question, is a teenage girl living in the US, where Muslims are marginalized and oppressed. She comes from a monogamous family. Conan’s joke makes light of and promulgates a negative stereotype of Muslims in the US.

    What I see here is a basic failure of empathy. If you don’t like others making prejudicial jokes about atheists—a marginalized, hated, oppressed group here in the USA—one would expect that such a concern would extend to other hated, marginalized groups as well.

    • Eli

      Thank you, I was just trying to write something similar.

      No, I can’t call it racism since it’s not about race, but when a character presumably meant to be relateable to marginalized teenage girls in the US is immediately stereotyped by a bunch of white guys who then tell the minority (since we’re really talking about a character meant for a US audience not a predominantly-Muslin audience) they’re too sensitive…that’s kind of the hallmark of privilege and oppression right there. There’s no criticism of religion in this “joke” because while he may be mentioning a real thing in Islam, he’s stereotyping a representation of a teenage American girl, and through that stereotype, criticizing her for simply BEING a kind if Muslim that she clearly is not meant to be, which IS very harmful, no matter how much Islam may or may not also be harmful.

      • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

        Indeed, Eli.

        And the thing for me is, I find the complaints about whether the manifested prejudice is truly racist to be largely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Is the group in question one that is hated and treated like human refuse? Is it a group of people who are widely viewed with suspicion by “the guy in the street”, the government, and the media? Do members of the group find their access to civil rights being curtailed by institutional discrimination? If you can answer “yes” to any of those questions, you’re talking about a group of people who are oppressed. Shitting on an oppressed group of people in ways that you wouldn’t want to happen to your own group is pretty… questionable. It doesn’t matter what moniker you might classify that particular form of oppression under. The problem is, you have the majority treating a relatively powerless minority like dirt. Ultimately, the label you attach to it is a tertiary concern. Kicking around a relatively powerless group of people is vile. Period.

        • Eli

          Yes, I agree, although judging by another comment you received, it seems some people don’t even understand what “oppression” means. I…don’t even know where to begin with that… I know I shouldn’t be surprised, and yet, I’m kind of bewildered…

    • TrickQuestion

      i find both the original joke and the ones you posted equally funny.

    • closetatheist

      Muslims are being oppressed? Maybe not given the same amount of public attention, but oppressed? They’re not outlawed, taken to jail, barred from any jobs, congregating, or holding public office…I’d really like to see a source if you can provide one. Honestly, I’m not trying to be a smart ass.

      • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

        Muslim Discrimination Cases Disproportionately High In U.S.

        Just do a search on “US, discrimination, Muslims, statistics” or a similar set of search terms. Its not that hard to find info on this topic.

        • closetatheist

          That article cites absolutely no sources and uses a lot of vague language like “there has been a spike in discrimination charges brought against employers.” Which doesn’t give any hard facts.

          Also, the article said that Muslims face discrimination about workplace dress and worship times. I’ve read many stories about charges being brought against employers for both of these things and what they basically boil down to is an employee asking for unreasonable privileges – like trying to get out of wearing a company-wide uniform or wearing things that impede how they complete their job. As for worship times, I personally know two small business owners who had to let Muslims go because they wanted a three or four hour lunch break on Fridays but insisted on receiving 40 hrs pay. They were not interested in making up the time, they wanted a concession… I’d say that its no small percentage of these cases that aren’t actually “religious discrimination” but an unwillingness on the part of the religious person to be reasonably accommodating.

          In this case, she signed documents stating she would wear their uniform then changed her mind. Disney gave her options to switch jobs so that a uniform wasn’t required, gave her a substitute to wear and then began making a custom hijab for her. All of which she refused, then filed discrimination charges.
          http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/08/disney-muslim-head-scarf-dispute.html

          • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

            Again, you can easily search for other articles on the matter if you didn’t like that one. Go here for a cache of articles by the Southern Poverty Law Center regarding prejudice against Muslims.

            There have also been numerous articles about the the police profiling of Muslims in New York and the way that has impacted the Muslim community there.

            There have been shootings and beatings of Muslims across the US because of the hatred of Muslims.

            Link.

            Link.

            Link.

      • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

        taken to jail — Guantanamo Bay.
        Congregating — Controversies surrounding the opening of islamic centers in New York and Tennessee.

        There are many different degrees of oppression and discrimination, just because they aren’t being rounded up and sent to camps does not mean that oppression doesn’t exist.

      • Daniel Miller

        Seriously? You think that Muslims aren’t any less likely to be elected to office? That Muslims are no more likely than anyone else to be singled out by law enforcement? That Muslims do not face discrimination in their housing and employment?

        Whether or not someone agrees with the religious views of Muslims is entirely separate from whether or not a group of people – and predominantly people of color – deserve social stigma for who they are.

      • cyb pauli

        Yes Muslims are oppressed… And sadly denouncing Islam wouldn’t change that. They’d just be brown atheist “others”…

    • Vlad Tepesdracula

      I will have to agree here. Conan O’Brien (or an associate) did fuck up. Not because of the joke about religion, but because they didn’t do a complete and quite simple investigation on the character.

      Foot goes in mouth…

      That said, I hope he does NOT apologize. Yes, he did fuck it up, but apologizing would be caving in and relinquishing his free expression. What he should do, however, is to own his mistake and recognize it. It’s not the same to own something and to apologize.

      • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

        So you would consider something let, “Well, I fucked up that joke, and implied stereotypes and degraded communities in way in which I hadn’t meant. I’m sorry.” relinquishing his freedom of expression?

        • Vlad Tepesdracula

          I was very clear in my wording. One thing is to recognize and accept he fucked up in a relatively minor issue, another very different is to vow never to make a single remark about the topic. One, the apology, implies that topic will now be taboo, the other is a silent vow to do things correctly.

          • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

            I guess we have very different meanings of the word ‘apology’. To me an apology is a admission that I did someone wrong, to let the other person know that I acknowledge how they feel, to let him or her know that I feel regret for my action. It does not me that the topic is completely off limits or taboo.

      • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

        That said, I hope he does NOT apologize. Yes, he did fuck it up, but
        apologizing would be caving in and relinquishing his free expression.

        I see. Apologizing for a stereotype-laden joke against a hated group of people is relinquishing his freedom of expression?

        Nice.

        Reminds me of conversations I’ve had with racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic relatives and friends.

    • David S.

      It’s not a stereotype; it is a genuine part of their culture that many Muslims actively believe in. It’s not comparable to your jokes because those aren’t a general part of atheist culture; you can’t point to mainstream atheist writings that say “atheists should spew hatred toward religious people”.

      • Eli

        Yes, it is a stereotype. “Their” culture is not one thing, no more than any other large religion, and particularly since we’re talking about a teenage American character who will likely be portrayed as fairly “average” for an American teen, acting as though it’s perfectly reasonable to assume most Muslims believe in having multiple wives and then criticizing a character for something you’re attributing to her IS a stereotype because it’s simply not true.

      • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

        If you use the estimate of about 2 million Muslims in the US and approximately 100,000 polygamous relationships, that yields 5 percent, a minority of US Muslims.

        Shall we discuss the statistical support for the negative stereotypes of other hated groups to see if we can give the OK to prejudice against those groups and their subcultures in the US?

        Shall we start with atheism? There is a strong undercurrent of antitheism in the more vocal parts of US atheism. What percentage of antitheists compose the whole of US atheism? How does this lead to a subset of atheists actively hating religious believers?

        If the numbers are adequately large, shall we then make jokes about atheists as anti-religious bigots?

        Shall we then move on to some other marginalized group? Jews? Black people? Transgender people? Women?

        • indorri

          Eh, this is one of those grey areas. As a gay guy, I’m (ostensibly) part of such a minority, though our status seems to be growing quickly, which is a good thing, which may be why I say the following. Some jokes made at the expense of gay guys (e.g. prissiness and effeminacy) don’t bother me and, occasionally, elicit a laugh. Jokes usually only bother me when they are clearly mean-spirited.

          • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

            As a trans woman, I was subject to very similar jokes growing up and later, had to survive the prejudice associated with such humor as an adult. Prior to transition, I was frequently misread as a gay male because I didn’t fit into people’s notions of “proper masculinity”. (Ironically, I am a woman who is primarily attracted to other women.)

            When trans women are visibly identifiable as transgender, those attitudes take on a lethal edge regardless of who they are romantically or sexually attracted to. Perceived homosexuality and/or strong gender non-conformity in people who are assigned male at birth are often a ticket to an early grave.

            One thing is very clear to me. Jokes which denigrate femininity in men are based in viewing femininity as an inferior trait. A male human being who is attracted to men is seen as behaving in a way that is womanly and as such, is seen as inferior to straight men. Such perceptions are deeply rooted in not only heteronormativity and gender conformity, but also sexism and misogyny.

            And so, as a trans person, as a woman, and as someone who was once perceived as a feminine/homosexual male, I do not see a grey area in this kind of humor.

            • indorri

              One of the things which I think is hard to pull off, but is possible, is to make such jokes as to not be denigrating, but still be humorous because it relies its context being different from our expectations. Which, yes, is rooted in heteronormativity, etc, but not necessarily in sexism.

              The more troubling thing is that in cases it is actually denigrating but people don’t recognize it because they don’t have a frame of reference to see how it’s denigrating. So we have well-meaning people who contribute to the detriment of minorities unwittingly.

    • cyb pauli

      I didn’t choose atheism… I was born this way. ^_^

    • Brian Westley

      Why is referring to Muslim polygamy per se a negative stereotype? Almost 50 countries recognize some form of polygamy, many due to Muslim influence.

    • LiveFree0rDie

      Those babies were Mmmm… Good.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    I do think that perpetuating a stereotype of Muslims as all polygamists is harmful (even if it is true of particular people, and of their prophet). The stereotype is not true of, for instance, the marvel character or her creator.

    I also don’t think that anyone is ever obligated to “take a joke”. Killjoys unite!

    • anon101

      It’s not a stereotype. See my other comment.

      • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

        Polygamy is not a stereotype. Polygamy is a common practice in many islamic countries and among many muslims.

        But this clearly doesn’t apply to the Marvel character or her creator. The character lives in New Jersey. What do you call overgeneralizing negative characteristics based on superficial similarities? Whatever you call it, that’s what this is.

  • Alexander

    He better not apologize.

  • Jan Kafka

    Not racist but not very funny either.

    • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I failed to find the humor in it as well.

  • Badger3k

    Expect to be called an Islamaphobe by PZ and friends real soon. I agree – not racist, but not really that funny either.

  • NEP

    The joke isn’t that funny, but it’s not hateful in any way, therefor not bigotry. Even if some people didn’t like it and were ‘offended,’ who cares? They need to get over themselves. Religion tends to cause someone to be VERY self-involved because it confuses the belief with identity and puts them as one entity – this makes any comment about their belief seem like an attack on them personally. It’s not, but that’s the thing about conviction, delusion, confusion and irrationality – they’re so afraid that they ‘must’ be right about this. Their entire existence relies on this belief being true.

  • JLou2

    How is is racist? Since when is Muslim a race rather than a religion?

    • cyb pauli

      Since watermelons became a race.

      • Msironen

        Hey, watermelons are a social construct too! You need to get edumacated about this stuff!

  • Donovan W Baker

    Not racist, just being funny. Over reactors.

  • closetatheist

    Funny how you never see Joe Klein deleting offensive material…

    Yes, I AM kicking that dead horse.

  • cyb pauli

    I think it’s cool that she’s Arab but why does she have to be Muslim and why in our culture does Arab have to equal Islamic? It just furthers the cultural concept that theism is somehow inherited with brown skin.

  • Jason Mitchell

    This sort of crap has been tolerated by us for far too long! Is it simply out of fear that we don’t pillory Muslim faith the way we do any other faith? If so then we are pathetic and what’s worse, we’re letting them ‘win’ this implicit war on free speech. No longer should we allow ourselves to be verbally oppressed by an explicitly oppressing culture. Journalists, media stations, etc. should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for not wanting to rock the boat for fear of whatever kind of retribution certain Muslim factions threaten then with! “We will not succumb to that’s.” Aye right you are. Grow a pair western media and lampoon this equally crazy belief system the way you would any other. My battery is running out else there would be more!

    • Mankoi

      Because Muslims have the same privileges and power as any other religions in this country.

      We can treat Christianity differently than Islam because Christians have the power, and the privilege. American Muslims do not. They are not beyond criticism, but we do have to take a different approach. They are not the ones keeping atheists down in this country. In fact, I think atheists are lightly more popular.

  • Guillaume Bérubé

    The problem here is that superhero comics are a very white male hetero centric and seing the introduction of diversity as a bad thing like the tweet implied can be argued as a bigot thing. While on the other side muslim doctrine is a really bad thing.

  • Ibis3

    Race is a social construct. “Muslim” is treated as a race by the privileged class. (cf. women treated as a minority, even though they might include a greater number of individuals). So yeah, bigotry against Muslims can be fairly termed racism–especially when it’s so nicely paired up with xenophobia in predominantly white societies.* If you disagree, you obviously haven’t educated yourself on the subject of race.

    Is this tweet racist? Well, yeah, I think so. It plays into a stereotype, when most Muslim women are in monogamous marriages. It may not be the most egregiously racist statement, but the answer for a binary yes/no is yes. It also seems a bit sexist for what it’s worth.

    *People who want to dispute the semantics of this remind me of people who
    object to the term “homophobic” because people who bash gay people
    might not technically be irrationally afraid of homosexuality.

    • David S.

      Muslims being treated as a race is bigotry. It’s all about treating Christianity as a universal choice, but Islam as something Arabs are born into. It’s about not treating Islam as a real religion.

      • Guillaume Bérubé

        There is a lot of things going on in that tweet. I think there are problems with that tweet because its a white male making it about a subject (superhero comics) that treats non white males poorly. When there is finally a comic featuring a character of a minority and the privileged are making jokes about that character I have trouble not seeing the privileged stamping out positive representation of that minority. In the same way a similar tweet about Marvel revealing a headlining gay character would be homophobic. The diffeeence between fighting christianity and islam is only that one is in the majority and the other in the minority and are oppressed for other reasons. We have to be aware of that if we want our criticism to be different from the usual comments they get.

        • primenumbers

          Skin colour and sexual orientation are immutable characteristics. There’s a very big difference between mocking those characteristics and mocking a chosen religious belief. As far as I’m aware, super-hero characters tend to be religion-less, so although there is a gender and skin colour imbalance to address, I don’t see a religious bias to address.

          • Daniel Miller

            If a religious belief is a choice, one’s cultural background is not. You don’t have to be a follower of Islam to be treated discriminatorily and lumped into a false category based on someone else’s prejudice.

            • primenumbers

              Cultural background is a characteristic you’re born with. That’s why we stick to mocking beliefs and religion, not people or their immutable characteristics.

          • Guillaume Bérubé

            I didn’t say it was racist, it is not, it is bigotted though. When the context is about having positive role models in a usually privileged oriented media like superhero comics and a white male come in and makes a joke about how muslims are all a stereotype (here female muslims are in polygamous marriages). it appears like what he is saying is that muslims shouldn’t be shown in a positive way in comics, and that is probably not the message he was trying to send with that joke..

            As for the religion of super hero character, Nightcrawler is very christian IIRC, but mostly it falls into the general category of “doesn’t come up”. There are quite a few of them that go into the messiah role too, having cults and all that. I believe she is from pakistani origin. From what I remember of the sollicits, the relation she has with her family plays a role in the story.

            What I mean to say is that it’s ok to joke about islam, just to be careful of the context because the message you are sending can easily be confused for bigotry, xenophobia and intolerance when that is what you are trying to fight…

            • primenumbers

              Positive role models in media of people with varied and diverse immutable characteristics like gender, skin colour, sexual orientation is great, and I have not only no issue with that at all but would like to see that kind of diversification encouraged.

              If it’s a stereotype that Muslims are polygamists, is it not also a stereotype that people from Pakistan are Muslims?

              “What I mean to say is that it’s ok to joke about islam, just to be careful of the context because the message you are sending can easily be confused for bigotry, xenophobia and intolerance when that is what you are trying to fight…” – good point, but it’s going to be nigh on impossible to achieve for as we can all agree Islam is not a race and attacking Islam is never racist, it’s the first thing that we always get accused of no matter how careful we are.

      • Ibis3

        All race “is” bigotry.* Why is it more legitimate to class someone as this race or that according to skin colour, say? Or country of origin? Or continent of some of their recent ancestors’ origin? The whole thing is ultimately arbitrary. That’s one reason why it’s so pernicious. In one context “Arab” is white while “Irish” is not, and in another time and place the opposite is true. Is “Jewish” a race, or religion? Or both? And, by the way, I’m not the one equating Islam with Arab. In the UK, for example, where most Muslims are from the Indian subcontinent, “Muslim” as a race is generally tied up with bigotry toward South Asian immigrants. In the US, “Muslim” is code for “Arab/Middle Eastern” (they usually fail to distinguish between Arab and Persian for example). Indonesians and Malaysians on the other hand, are usually not considered “Muslim” for racialist purposes, but “Asian”.

        None of this precludes legitimate criticism of the tenets of Islam, just as criticism of Israeli policy isn’t automatically anti-Semitic.

        *which isn’t to say that there aren’t actual self-created cultures and advocacy for groups socially constructed as races for other reasons.

      • cyb pauli

        Im educated enough to know that religious beliefs have no physical component and that religious beliefs do not come packaged with hair texture, facial features and skin color.

        One can be Muslim and not Arab or Arab and not Muslim. Because Islam is not a race. Kamala happens to be both.

    • anon101

      It’s not a stereotype. See my earlier comment.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Eh… I’d say it’s bigoted as fuck, because it is, but I wouldn’t call it “racist”. You’re conflating an unchangeable trait (one’s DNA) with a trait that is, in fact, changeable (one’s beliefs).

      People change religions all the time.

      I’ve yet to see someone change their DNA in such a fundamental manner.

    • indorri

      Race is a social construct. “Muslim” is treated as a race by the
      privileged class. (cf. women treated as a minority, even though they
      might include a greater number of individuals).

      You’ll have to elaborate on this, because I’m confused to how this works.

      a) Race is a social construct. Accepted.
      b) “Muslim” is treated as a race by the privileged class. Not accepted.

      Could you elaborate what particular properties such a classification entails that are used by privileged classes that aren’t used with, say, Catholicism?

  • Dave

    Is it bigoted is the correct question. Hell yes, but not bigoted enough to make me laugh. As a white male heterosexual atheist I love jokes that make fun of everything I am not.

  • Mankoi

    The question I’m hearing here is “Why is it okay to make a joke about a group of people who are generally white and have large amounts of power and acceptance in this country, and not okay to make a joke about people who tend to be non-white, marginalized, and victims of racism and stereotypes that wind up causing active harm?”

    Is it even worth answering?

    We can attack Christianity more freely here because they are the majority. They have the power. I’m not saying we stop criticizing religion, but we do have to be more sensitive to American Muslims. We can’t subject them to the same mockery we do majority groups here. We can’t attack them the way we do privileged people because they aren’t. It’s not the same.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      Mock the people in power, it’s a joke. Mock the powerless, and you’re just being an ass.

    • LiveFree0rDie

      Sorry, no affirmative action practiced here. Now to play Muhammud dress up!

    • Guillaume Bérubé

      And we are mocking the belief sbecause we want them to stop taking them so seriously. When we mock the muslim in the same way we are only adding our voice to the choir of intolerance they are used to.

    • primenumbers

      It’s not the people that are being mocked, it’s their beliefs and the religion.

      • Mankoi

        The target of this joke was an American Muslim, albeit a fictional one. They are, as a majority, nonpolygamous. We mock the beliefs and religion of the privileged because it has a privileged status. It’s silly, and mockable, and yet it holds weight, and is used against us. Muslims in this country are not privileged. There is no function in mocking their beliefs, because their beliefs do not oppress us. It’s not a push for social equality against a privileged group. It’s a pointless shove to a group that’s already in the gutter.

        • primenumbers

          Whether to mock a belief is based on a property of the belief, not on the people who hold it.

          • Mankoi

            Only if you’re mocking simply for the same of mockery. If that’s the case, I suggest you seriously re-evaluate your attitudes.

            • primenumbers

              Religion is mocked because it is not rational. I don’t see how you arrive at the point that mockery is somehow immoral.

              • Nick

                The wise man mocks the man, the mocked man mocks the mocker!

                • primenumbers

                  Actually, we don’t mock the man at all – we mock the religion or the belief.

                • Mankoi

                  Do you? Because this joke is aimed at a person. It’s falsely attributing values to a person they don’t hold on the basis of their religion. When we mock Christianity, we mock the idea of a guy coming back to life and doing silly tricks. When we mock Christians, we mock their behavior, and attitudes, because they are the privileged class. When you draw a stick figure Mohamad, you’re mocking the belief that the prophet can’t be drawn, and, yes, the violent behavior of some people. When you go “Look at the Muslim girl, I wonder how many other wives her husband has!” You’re not mocking part of her faith. You’re mocking her. And when you’re mocking the people who are already down, it’s not acceptable. Learn the difference.

                • primenumbers

                  Polygamy is part of Islamic law. It’s a belief. How is that separable from other religiously held beliefs? “You’re not mocking part of her faith” – I don’t get that – how is polygamy not part of the faith of Islam?

                • Mankoi

                  Because you’ve reduced it to a generic “Faith of Islam” is how. That’s part of the whole problem. Most American Muslims (like the character) aren’t polygamists, and don’t necessarily want to be. You’re unfairly attributing extremist views to moderates, who already get enough crap as it is. If you want to mock the fact that it’s in the book, you mock the people in the book who do it. Or the passages that condone it. That is mocking the faith. Mock the Prophet, mock Allah, mock every character in the damn book. That’s mocking the faith. When you mock a character by using inaccurate stereotypes, you mock a person.

                • primenumbers

                  But you’re arbitrarily saying that polygamy is an extremist view, whereas I say it’s part of Islam. I don’t see how you can go through their religion and pick and choose which subjective beliefs you deem moderate and which beliefs you determine extremist. That it is a part of the religion (that a man is allowed 4 wives) is enough for me to see it as attacking religion, not the person. That it is not necessarily a view held by the so-called “moderate Muslim” is important as it exposes the hypocrisy of religion where followers claim their religion is absolutely true, yet they pick and choose which parts to follow, which parts to ignore, which to believe, which not to believe.

                  I think it would have been more effective and less open to this kind of discussion if the joke had been that the super-hero’s side-kick is a flying horse – or that in the comic books the character is never actually seen because there’s been a fatwa against drawing it.

                  On the issue of stereotypes, it’s probably more a stereotype that characters adopt the dominant religion of their culture, and in this case that someone from Pakistan is a Muslim.

                • Mankoi

                  This was a joke about an AMERICAN Muslim. I know it’s an extreme view, because most American Muslims aren’t polygamists. Only the fringe extreme. Just like how most Christians don’t approve of slavery. It’s in the book, but no one says they hold slaves.

                  Again, the majority of American Muslims are not polygamists. This is a stereotype. Advancing stereotypes on already disadvantaged groups is bad.

                  Saying she’s Muslim isn’t a stereotype, because we are TOLD she’s Muslim. We are not told she believes absolutely in the 100% pure truth of her faith. You’re accusing her of being a hypocrite when you don’t know that. Many people, of many faiths, admit that their holy books are outdated. We criticize when they tell us that we have no morality when they pick and choose. We criticize when they pick and choose, and still say their truth is absolute. When they make no such claims, it’s not that big a deal.

                  This is especially true with Muslims who are often believed to be extremists and fundamentalists. Even your mockery of the hypocrisy only works because you assume fundamentalism. Because Muslim fundamentalists ARE violent, stereotyping the majority, non-violent ones as fundamentalists is directly harmful.

                • primenumbers

                  From my reading, it’s a cartoon character, 16 girl from Pakistan (who is now living in the USA?) who gets super powers. We really should be referring to such a child as a child of Muslim parents or a child from an Islamic culture. You’re right, she’s not a polygamist in the story, and Pakistan frowns on polygamy. If you’re going to make a joke about Islamic beliefs, polygamy probably wasn’t the right one to pick in this context, but as the founder of the religion was a polygamist and polygamy is part of Islamic law, it’s not like attacking Anglicans for transubstantiation.

                  If the character identifies as a Muslim and doesn’t believe all of Islam, then they’re a religious hypocrite who picks and chooses as they see fit. If they do believe all of Islam then that’s not a character we should be putting up as a role model in a comic book. That is the two horned dilemma – there is no middle ground.

                  Fundamentalism isn’t equivalent to violent though. Fundamentalism is a about belief. If you believe the Koran is perfect and written by God, you are a fundamentalist Muslim – as in you totally adhere to the fundamentals of your religion. I’ve met many Muslims who are integrated into our society, nice people, not a violent thing about them I trusted them to look after my kids, but I have no doubt they had fundamentalist beliefs in the nature of the Koran.

                • Mankoi

                  For one thing, a 16 year old is really adult enough to decide her religion for herself. While I never really believed in god, I start actively identifying atheist around that age. So, yeah, actually, we can call her Muslim all we want.

                  What I’m getting out of this is basically you feel it’s okay for you to mock anyone with any faith as a hypocrite, or a fundamentalist, regardless of if you’re promoting stereotypes, being harmful, or stomping on already downtrodden groups. If your sole reason for mocking the religious is that they can be mocked, I’m not happy with you representing atheism. Almost everyone is a hypocrite in some way. You seem to find it justified to mock those with a particular hypocrisy, regardless of if they’re actually in a position to cause you any harm. If I recall correctly, Muslims are about the only people an atheist is more electable than. If you mock the privileged religious, fine. They can take it, and need to be shown their privilege. If you mock the idea of not being able to draw a particular figure, fine. They need to see we’ll keep our freedom of expression, even if they want to threaten it out of us. If you mock the text itself, fine. It’s pretty laughable.

                  If you mock a person of a group that’s already downtrodden, even more than you, by assuming they must have a particular mockable trait because they are a member of a religion, or must otherwise be hypocrites, and your justification is simply because you can? That’s kind of nasty, to be honest. At best, a self indulgent exercise in intellectual superiority. It’s not helping anybody. It’s pointless, empty, and hurtful.

                • primenumbers

                  I don’t see why any girl or woman on this planet would choose to follow such a misogynistic religion as Islam of their own free will. The issue of polygamy just puts how misogynistic Islam is right to the forefront of the discussion.

                  ” If I recall correctly, Muslims are about the only people an atheist is more electable than.” – Actually – it was the other way around, wasn’t it? So by your privilege theory it’s ok for atheists to mock Muslims in the USA?

                  What is being mocked here is the absurdity of religious belief.

                  It’s not a problem of my making that there’s the twin horns of religious fundamentalism and hypocrisy. That’s just the way it is – you either believe it all and you’re fundamentalist, or you pick and choose and you’re a hypocrite. That’s just tough for the religious.

                  Religious people do cause harm, especially what you’d think of as “moderates” because they normalize non-reality based beliefs. When we accommodate moderate beliefs it makes it all the harder to tackle the less moderate aspects of belief.

                  “by assuming they must have a particular mockable trait because they are a member of a religion,” – but we’re not saying a 16 yr old cartoon character is a polygamist, we’re saying she’s a member of a religion that has polygamy as part of it’s belief system.

                • Mankoi

                  ” but we’re not saying a 16 yr old cartoon character is a polygamist, we’re saying she’s a member of a religion that has polygamy as part of it’s belief system.” Actually that is the literal text of the joke. That is, at the most basic and literal level, what’s being said.

                  We shouldn’t mock “the absurdity of religious belief.” We mock the the absurdity of religious BELIEFS. We respect people, we don’t respect their beliefs .When you mock someone for believing, you mock the person. When you mock the belief, you mock the thing that is being believed. Even Dawkins acknowledged that, while we do not pay the beliefs themselves respect, we need to respect the people. When you mock beliefs, you’re pulling down sacred cows. When you mock people for believing, you’re being a jackass.

                  “Religious people do cause harm, especially what you’d think of as “moderates” because they normalize non-reality based beliefs.” This is true. For the Christians. Because their beliefs are constantly normalized. That’s not an issue for the Muslims, their beliefs are constantly seen as alien. I may have got the poll numbers mixed up, but they’re either second place, or last place. Doesn’t really matter. They’re not the group whose silly beliefs are being normalized. No one is trying to pass Islamic messages into our government. The way you choose to mock disrespects them as people, and is pointless anyway. It’s just mocking for the sake of mocking.

                • primenumbers

                  When you mock an absurd belief, we mock it not just because it’s absurd but because people believe it. We don’t see many people mocking the belief that the earth is flat because there’s just not enough people believing the earth is flat to actually matter.

                  Mocking commonly held religious beliefs that are absurd or even just un-evidenced and irrational is automatically going to ridicule the person that holds those beliefs. I don’t see how you can so neatly separate out the believer from the belief allowing the mocking of an absurd belief but protecting the believer from ridicule. I agree with you in principle that we shouldn’t be directly ridiculing people, just as we shouldn’t attack people’s cultural background, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation or any other immutable characteristic. But neither should we hold back from mocking beliefs, even though the mockery of that belief will undoubtedly be perceived by the person as ridicule of them for believing.

                  ” I may have got the poll numbers mixed up, but they’re either second place, or last place. Doesn’t really matter.” well, it matters because on your theory of privilege, atheists are at the bottom of the pile, and Muslims come above us on the list.

                • Mankoi

                  “What is being mocked here is the absurdity of religious belief.

                  It’s not a problem of my making that there’s the twin horns of religious fundamentalism and hypocrisy. That’s just the way it is – you either believe it all and you’re fundamentalist, or you pick and choose and you’re a hypocrite. That’s just tough for the religious.”

                  This is a mocking, not of beliefs, but of the believing. We don’t mock flat-earthers, yes, because they aren’t around. So they aren’t causing much of a problem for us. Similarly, there’s no point in mocking Muslims. Privilege isn’t a rank scale. They may be slightly more electable, but the instant they try to push religious belief on us through the government, they’ll get smacked down. Not so with Christians. Privilege isn’t a rank scale. They’re in no position to harm us.

                  If someone perceives a mockery of the belief itself as mockery of them, sure, their problem. That’s why we have Draw Mohamad Day. We’re saying “Ha ha, you’re silly because you believe this” we’re saying “This belief is silly, and I won’t have anything to do with it.”

                  Almost everyone believes something silly. Intelligent people believe silly things. Often. Even atheists. If we mock the thing that they believe in, and they take it badly, their problem. If we mock them for believing, for being either fundamentalists or hypocrites, then we’re the jerks. I might tell my friend his bell bottom pants look stupid, but I won’t say he’s stupid for putting them on.

                • primenumbers

                  “Similarly, there’s no point in mocking Muslims” – I was talking numbers. Flat earthers are not numerous. Muslims are.

                  “Privilege isn’t a rank scale” – it’s subjective, and depending on what you want to argue, whether you want something to be lesser or greater privilege you can pick a metric to support your case.

                  Can you check your Draw Muhammed example and make sure you’re saying what you want to say? Reading it I read you’re saying both “you’re silly” and “the belief is silly”.

                • Mankoi

                  The “You’re silly” in Draw Muhammed is not “You’re silly because you believe this.” Rather it’s “You’re silly/horrid because you believe this, and expect everyone else to go along with it, and become violent when they don’t.”

                  That’s a pushback against an expectation that we should bend to someone else’s religious beliefs. That’s fair. For the most part, Muslims don’t get to push their beliefs on us though. They don’t get to put Praise Allah on government property, on currency, in the Pledge, or whatnot. We pushback against Christians a lot because their beliefs are the mainstream and constantly being pushed on us. Muslim beliefs aren’t. They don’t have religious privilege in this country.

                  Really, we shouldn’t mock Christians for believing either. Beliefs, yes. Believing, no. The thing is, if you unfairly mock a Christian for believing… they’re still the privileged religion. They still get more respect for their beliefs, and their believing, than they are due. When you unfairly mock an oppressed group, that’s much nastier.

                • primenumbers

                  “You’re silly/horrid because you believe this, and expect everyone else to go along with it, and become violent when they don’t.” – isn’t that the kind of mocking and stereotyping you’re objecting to though?

                  “Muslims don’t get to push their beliefs on us though.” – they demand and get Mosqueterias here in Ontario, where they get to do gender segregation and tell girls they’re unclean.

                  “They don’t have religious privilege in this country.” – I’m sure you can find examples of religious privilege that Muslims can partake in if you look far enough. They get the same tax exemptions as other religions, for example.

                • Mankoi

                  No, it’s not stereotyping, it’s not an assumption that all Muslims will get violent. It’s a specific pushback against a specific subset that actually DID threaten and attempt violence. Really, it doesn’t matter what the intent is anyway. The act itself is tearing down a sacred cow. It’s a mockery of the idea that we can’t draw a stick figure and label it Muhammed. It’s motivated as a pushback, but it’s not really targeted at anyone. If someone gets pissy that we refuse to respect their thing, it’s their problem. If someone gets pissy because we made fun of them, yeah, we’re jerks.

                  Muslims do get special privilege due to religion, yes. But they’re still widely hated, distrusted, and victims of religion based prejudice in ways that Christians are not in this country. I’m all for removing the privileges. And, as I said, mocking the beliefs is fine. When someone mocks a Christian for believing, it’s still bad. We just don’t care as much, because Christians are not victims of discrimination here. When someone mocks a Muslim for believing, it’s bad, and we do pay attention, because they’re already victims of discrimination and prejudice.

                • primenumbers

                  “I’m all for removing the privileges. And, as I said, mocking the beliefs is fine. ” – agreed. I just don’t see how you can mock the belief itself without simultaneously ridiculing the believer. After all, beliefs on their own, being mere concepts and ideas do no harm at all. It’s only when a believer believes them do we get into trouble. I really don’t see how we can divorce the believer here.

                • Mankoi

                  Mocking a belief is not an end all solution to everything. The only real function it serves is pointing out the belief is silly. Many reasonable believers will agree that, yeah, it would sound silly if you didn’t believe it.

                  The idea is that these things that we take oh-so-seriously don’t really deserve to be taken seriously. There’s no reason that everyone else needs to respect the things you do.

                  Let’s say I like… I dunno Twilight. I don’t. But let’s just say I do. You say that you think Twilight is stupid and horrible. If I get offended, that’s too bad on me. I shouldn’t expect you to respect something, just because I like it. If you say that people who like Twilight are stupid and horrible, then you’ve insulted me (along with others) and I’m perfectly right to be offended. You insulted me.

                  You may point out that Twilight depicts relationships badly, and promotes bad values. That’s still you criticizing the negative aspects of the work, but NOT the fans. If everyone hated Twilight, it’d be pointless. Since many people like Twilight, it’s a valid thing to point out. Which you can point out without criticizing the fans. They might get offended you’re dissing their thing, but that’s their problem.

                  As you say, they’re mere concepts and ideas. Because someone believes them, we can criticize the concepts and ideas that are being believed. I don’t make fun of bell bottom pants because no one wears them. I might start saying they look stupid if people did start wearing them, but I wouldn’t say that the people are stupid for wearing them. The point still gets across, without me insulting a person. You can even say to a person in bell bottoms that they look stupid. The person might consider it and decide that you’re right, and take them off. Because the bell bottoms are a metaphor for religion, that’s unlikely. But sometimes it does happen. It’s worth pointing out that, yeah, those pants look dumb on you. You can do it while understanding that the person had a good reason for putting on the pants. Maybe they’d always been told that bell bottoms were the best pants, because their parents grew up in the 70s and didn’t change with the times. Maybe they just never saw how stupid the pants look. But you can respect someone’s decision to put on the stupid looking pants, and still say the pants look stupid.

    • Ophis

      You may not be saying that we should stop criticizing religion, but you do seem to be saying we should stop mocking it, and mockery is a useful part of criticism. The mockery O’Brien used was pretty mild, and mocked a specific doctrine (polygamy).

      I’m a little uneasy at the suggestion that we should change the way we criticize an idea based on the ethnicity of the people holding it. Frankly it seems disrespectful of them, suggesting that they are more thin-skinned than white people, and I doubt that treating people differently based on their ethnicity will do anything but reinforce division. If we want to eliminate racism and bigotry we should encourage people to treat others the same irrespective of skin colour, and that entails subjecting their beliefs to the same types of mockery and criticism.

      • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

        I don’t think that we should stop mocking religion. However, when mocking religions which aren’t in power, such as islam in america, we ought to be more careful of how we mock. In this case, I think the object of the mockery wasn’t so much the specific doctrine (polygamy) but was at the expensive of the arab female character in the comic.

        The message is, if you choice to mock, then you ought to take the time to make sure that your mockery is aimed at the intended target.

        • Ophis

          It may have been at the expense of that character, but it made no mention of her ethnicity, and the joke makes sense even if we don’t know her ethnicity. So what else can he do to make it clear it’s not aimed at Arabs, and aim it “at the intended target”? The character’s gender is mentioned, but the joke contains no misogynistic material, so I don’t think it can be accused of hitting the wrong target on that count. The joke only makes sense if it’s aimed at a group of people who support a particular doctrine he disagrees with, and it doesn’t even contain an insult against those people.

          • Mankoi

            Essentially it’s pushing a “Muslims are polygamists” view that is, in the US, a stereotype, and a harmful one. Seeing how the girl is a Marvel character, it’s a fair bet she’s American or European in terms of where she lives. You’re not mocking someone’s beliefs if it’s not part of their beliefs. It’s like mocking a protestant about communion wafers. So, in this case, the joke is pulling on a stereotype to make fun of a character that might help members of a minority group feel more included. So, yeah, this is badly placed mockery. Similarly inaccurate or unfair jokes about Christians aren’t as bad because they aren’t harmful, given Christians are the privileged group.

            • Ophis

              You have some good points there I think. As I said to someone else in this thread, if the joke had been made about Mormons they could have said it was based on a misunderstanding, as they no longer permit polygamy. Something similar could be said regarding Protestants and communion wafers. With Islam the problem’s a bit more difficult, since the religion permits polygamy, so while Muslims do not generally engage in it, they can be said to support it insofar as they support their religion’s permissiveness towards it. So the joke may be wrong in supposing that Muslims generally engage in polygamy, but right in supposing that they generally support it.

              • primenumbers

                And if they don’t support it, they’re religious hypocrites for being pick’n’choose with which of their religious beliefs to follow and which to not, which to believe and which to not.

            • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

              The character is 16, and lives in New Jersey. The creator also grew up Muslim in New Jersey. She talks about people
              treating her differently because she was Muslim and Pakistani.

              http://www.pri.org/stories/2013-11-11/meet-new-ms-marvel-female-muslim-pakistani-superhero

              I think it would be cool if the comic did a shout out to Conan O’ Brien by having someone on the street heckle her with similar comments.

          • Guest

            Conan referred to Marvel’s new superhero. Even if you hadn’t heard of this before, the briefest of google searches would let you know that he is specifically referring to Kamala Khan. To say there no mention of her ethnicity is to make a false claim of ignorance. It would be like making a joke about Obama using stereotypes of African Americans and the claiming that since the joke did not specifically say that Obama was black, it couldn’t be racist.

            If Conan wanted to mock Islam the more power to him. Hell, I do it all the time. But he used a crude stereotype to mock a character that rebukes the stereotype. Instead of insulting Islam, his joke stereotypes Muslim women.

            • Ophis

              If this is a racial stereotype, what race is it stereotyping? South Asians? If it’s about race, should black, Arabic, Persian and white Muslims feel unoffended, since they are not of the same ancestry as the character in question? And should Indian or Pakistani Hindus, Christians and Sikhs feel that Conan O’Brien’s joke is aimed at them, since they have a similar skin colour and ancestors from the same area?

              Conan O’Brien’s joke mocked Muslims. Muslims do not constitute a race; they are a group of people of widely differing appearance, culture, language and ancestry, who have a common belief in a set of ideas. Calling the joke racist is no more sensible than calling anti-Christian or anti-atheist jokes racist.

    • LesterBallard

      “We can attack Christianity more freely here because they are the majority. They have the power. I’m not saying we stop criticizing religion, but we do have to be more sensitive to American Muslims. We can’t subject them to the same mockery we do majority groups here. We can’t attack them the way we do privileged people because they aren’t. It’s not the same.”

      If I move to an Islamic country can I mock Islamic beliefs? I mean, I know I probably wouldn’t get to do it for long.

      • Mankoi

        You can mock Islamic beliefs here! Just be careful you mock the beliefs. Don’t assume an individual holds a specific belief or property because of his/her faith. Muslim Person = Polygamous is bad. Muslim Holy Book Advocates Polygamy is fine. Although lots of people in the bible also have multiple wives, and we don’t tend to bring it up much.

        Want to mock the Muslims with actual power, who can hurt people? Knock yourself out! Really!

        This isn’t cool though. If we made fun of a Christian superhero… well, most of them are either assumed to be, or outright are. When you level an unfair and stereotyping comment against a minority character who is the only representation some people have in comic book media? That’s just kinda… pointless and nasty. It’s not like she’s Muslim Girl, who gains super powers from her Super Muslimness. She’s just a character who belongs to a different faith than many of the others. A bit of representation for people who have little. Dumping on that is just petty meanness.

        This character is not the place to criticize Islam, basically. And yes, you should handle that mockery with more care. Christians already get more respect than they’re do. Muslims get none, here. You don’t have to add to it. It’s not too much to ask you stop and consider if what you’re going to say is hurtful here.

        For Islam, yeah, mocking there is a bad idea. It’s good to remember that our ability to mock people is a privilege. We’re lucky to have it.Worth thinking about when you see a Muslim immigrant is why they might have left.

    • Erik Johansson

      Sorry, but in Sweden real, believing Christians is in a minority, and they really don’t have much power to speak of.

      By this logic, I’d have to stop making fun of stupid, ignorant creationists and other fundies, because in my country, secularists and atheists are the privileged ones? Nah screw that.

  • Justin Russell

    I just find it funny that Americans, who are VERY prejudice against Muslims, actually said anything. I bet they are actually just upset that a Muslim would be seen as a hero. How quickly they change to suddenly call someone else a bigot for saying something they wish they had thought up.

    Fact is, most of the Christian community would say this. My guess is it is actually atheists that spoke up.

  • Tor

    I want to know what her costume is. The mind boggles with possibilities.

    • LiveFree0rDie

      It’s a SUPER stealth costume. She fights crime at night and the only way you can tell she is there is if you can see her eyes. /sarc
      I want to know if she gets to actually drive any of the vehicles or does she have to move to the back.

      • https://soundcloud.com/eddieboydmusic flyb

        See, you should be writing Conan’s tweets.

  • riddles

    If anything the real racists are the ones claiming it’s racist. They are the ones who see a joke about a certain religion and instantly think it’s about race.

  • The Captain

    Great, another story and comment section to remind me that way, way to many fucking people in the atheist/skeptic community are humorless, oversensitive drama queens.

  • DaneIlario

    I think the reason that Conan got so much backlash, at least here in the States, is due to the fact that Muslims have faced a rather staggering degree of prejudice, if not outright hatred, since 9/11. Muslims have had difficulties in dealing with that but by the same token, I don’t believe Conan posted that joke in any attempt to purposely harmful.

  • primenumbers

    Islam isn’t a race. There’s plenty to criticize Islam about -polygamy seems rather tame in comparison to the comments that could have been made….

  • Mikko

    In Sweden muslims are a race and you can get prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred if you say something that they don’t like

    • primenumbers

      Sweden is wrong then.

      • Mikko

        Swedish law considers different

        • primenumbers

          It’s going to come back to bite them then….

          • Mikko

            btw the same law says that christians are a race

            • primenumbers

              Ouch. That’s double wrong then. What on earth are the Swedes thinking?

              • Mikko

                8 § Those in statement or representation made threatens or expresses contempt for a group or other such group of persons with allusion to race, color, national or ethnic origin, religious belief or sexual orientation, is convicted of incitement to racial hatred to imprisonment not exceeding two years or if the crime is petty, to a fine.

                Serious offense shall be sentenced to imprisonment of between six months and four years. In assessing whether the crime is gross, special consideration shall be whether the message had a particularly threatening or abusive content and spread to a large number of people in a way that was likely to cause significant attention. Act (2002:800).

                • primenumbers

                  Ouch again. That’s an atrocious law, not least in that it makes martyrs if it’s actually used, thus further stirring any racial tensions.

                • Mikko

                  It’s used when someone does something against muslims like throwing pigs meat into a moscue

                • primenumbers

                  So what would normally be covered under vandalism or other public order offences gets elevated to a super-crime of racial hatred. No doubt that Christians, Jews and Muslims publish hate literature in the form of their holy books is ignored….

                • Artor

                  Hmm… A dumb law, but while it includes religion in the same category as race, it doesn’t say that Muslim & Xian are races.

          • Erik Johansson

            It already has, a recent example brought up by our local Swedish humanists was when a Muslim man was awarded damages for discrimination when he didn’t get a temp job after refusing to shake the hand of the women who did the hiring. The woman got a reprimand for her discrimination, and the muslim man got around €3000 in compensation…

            This isn’t the only case either, we’ve had several similar cases the last few years.

    • Erik Johansson

      Sorry but your flat out wrong here. I don’t know if you’re simply ignorant or actually lying, but the Swedish laws that prevents racist hate-speech does not define religious groups to be races.
      Our law against hate-speech is called “hets mot folkgrupp”, which translates roughly to “incitement against groups of people”, and it covers hate-speech against people based on their sexual-orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or skin color.
      Nowhere in the law does it say that hate against for example homosexuals is “racial hatred”.

      • Guest

        Go fuck yourself!

        • Erik Johansson

          8 §
          Den som i uttalande eller i annat meddelande som sprids hotar eller uttrycker missaktning för folkgrupp eller annan sådan grupp av personer med anspelning på ras, hudfärg, nationellt eller etniskt ursprung, trosbekännelse eller sexuell läggning, döms för hets mot folkgrupp till fängelse i högst två år eller om brottet är ringa, till böter.

          Please, be my guest, point out where this law say that religious groups, like Muslims, is a race.

          Now, if you can’t read Swedish, that’s your problem, for those who can, it’s in black and white that nowhere does it say that religious affiliation = race. It does however say that religious affiliation get the same legal protection against hate speech as ethnicity, skin color, nationality, and sexual orientation, but only a grade A+ moron would think that that meant the same thing as muslims being defined as a race…

          • Guest

            Go fuck yourself!

            • Erik Johansson

              Brilliant argument you have there… Also classy to edit your reply after someone has responded to you, trying to pretend that you weren’t the one who started throwing snarky insults around.

              • Guest

                Go fuck yourself!

                • 3lemenope

                  Complaining about ad homs and then turning around and giving rude, anatomically implausible commands…there’s got to be a word for that.

  • jbrisby

    It’s a bit naive to think that the people complaining about the joke are humorless Muslims. It’s the callout culture festering in left wing academia, the bluenosed witchhunters who are never happier than when taking offense on someone else’s behalf.

    • Daniel Miller

      Waaaaaaaaaait a second… aren’t you using pejoratives and stereotypes while sidestepping concrete arguments in order to take umbrage with someone’s statements on behalf of others?

  • gg

    My thoughts exactly. Substitute Mormon, and no one would have made a peep.

    • Ophis

      To be fair to them, the Mormons no longer permit polygamy (at least the mainstream Mormon church doesn’t). If this joke was made about them they’d have a case for saying that it was based on a misunderstanding/stereotype of them.

      • JohnnieCanuck

        Well, to look at it one way, they still do believe in it. They just postponed it until they get to Paradise.

        Each good Mormon man will have his own planet and have god-like powers. If his wife was adequately pleasing in this life, he will want to exercise his option to have her with him in the afterlife. That’s along with all the other wives he will accumulate for himself from some unspecified source.

  • FreeThinker

    First of all, Islam is a religion that spans every race. Therefore, it is impossible for this to be racist. Secondly, who gives a shit if Muslims are offended by this? Every ethnicity and cultural group in thr worlf is made fun of by somrone on a daily basis now. And even if they weren’t, who cares? People should have the right to be as widely and intensely offensive as they want, it’s called freedom of speech. Say what you want and be proud of it.

  • cyb pauli

    So is the joke supposed to be funny because Kamala Khan is a brown-skinned, female, cultural “other” or is it supposed to be funny because she holds improbable beliefs?

  • anon101

    Polygamy is not a stereotype. Polygamy is a common practice in many islamic countries and among many muslims. And the difference to Mormons is that the representatives of national muslim organizations in Europe actually publicly defend that practice.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=543oihNUnys

    http://www.mopo.de/promi—show/hitziger-maischberger-talk-verhuellte-schweizerin—viel-ehe-ist-eine-erleichterung-,5066870,20561490.html

  • axelbeingcivil

    I’d normally make a more thorough case than I’m about to; talk about how we shouldn’t flinch at making jokes about a culture but should also try to remember that the culture in question is one that has suffered a lot of not-so-light-hearted barbs. Context and all that.

    Honestly, though, am I the only one who thinks Terry’s coming off as a complete jerk? This whole piece reads as angry tribalism, which I can understand but can hardly endorse. “You guys can’t take a joke, let’s talk about how evil you are” is pretty much exactly the sort of thing I hear in a lot of political and religious discussions and it’s as toxic from an atheist’s mouth as it is from any religious person’s.

    • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

      You’re not the only one. I think that Terry is being childish, petty, and hypocritical… as are many people on this comment thread. It reminds me a lot of high school where people were more than happy to mock anyone who was an outsider, and thus, an easy target. And if you were one of the kids who got picked on frequently, you could gain some incremental increase in status by joining in on picking on another unpopular kid.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    #facepalm Does this mean I have to stop making jokes about Scientologists too?

    There’s nothing racist in this joke. And no religions or group is above being part of a joke. In fact, I’m going to argue that being treated as off limits does more to make them outsiders than this silly little joke which wasn’t at all offensive.

    Also, Islam is a religion, not a race. Claiming racism is just dumb.

    • primenumbers

      Hemant’s going to get into real trouble from the Scientologists if he labels an obtuse angle with theta, or uses theta to represent an irrational or imaginary number in an equation in his math classes.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        If our newest troll is to be believed I’m racist for watching South Park. They make fun of EVERYBODY (including every group I belong to).

  • Pseudonym

    I thought it was a joke saying that Marvel couldn’t make a Muslim superhero without falling into a racist stereotype. Boy did I read it wrong.

    I still like mine better because the other interpretation of Leno’s joke makes it out of date by seven years.

  • DougI

    If the people who are calling Conan racist because of a joke against Muslims are probably the racist ones since they are thinking only people of a certain skin color are Muslim. What are they thinking? Hey, he’s White so clearly he can’t be a Muslim, that’s a Black religion (or throw in Asian, Pacific Islander, or whatever).

  • Guest

    Everything is ok to make fun of, EVERYTHING. No one, not Muslims or Islam or even the great prophet himself is or should be immune from humor. #Comedyjihad

  • WingedBeast

    I gotta disagree with you here. Okay, Islam is a religion and not a race, but this was reducing all Muslims to a single stereotype and making those that aren’t that stereotype essentially invisible.
    -
    Could he have gotten away with making the same joke about Mormons? Probably. But, in the US they’re hardly in the same danger as Muslims of being made invisible. And, the joke would still have been in bad taste.
    -
    Consider if the super heroine in question were a Christian and O’Brien had tweeted that she’ll be able to fight crime “just as soon as her husband says she can”. Or, consider if the super heroine in question were an atheist and the tweet joked that “she’ll fight the forces of Christianity and America” or “she’ll have all the power necessary to fight Christmas” only without the kind of double-irony that might make that joke funny.
    -
    And, it’s important to note that this joke did not mock the religion. It mocked the people who believe that religion. There is a difference.

  • skwerl

    The people who think all Muslims are from the same race are the racists. They’re simply projecting.

  • ThePrussian

    The rapidity with which dhimmified infidels jump to Islam’s defence is one of the creepiest things I’ve seen.

  • Jason

    Introducing? Funny, I already own a comic with her in it (Captain Marvel 17). It seems, while folks are busy complaining or being offended about her, she was introduced and debuted with little to no fanfare, and no one noticed.

    The world didn’t end because the new Ms. Marvel is a 16-year-old Muslim.

    Anyway, The Gutters has it right:
    http://www.the-gutters.com/comic/the-important-things/

  • ConureDelSol

    I giggled at that joke more than I should have.

  • Brian Hogg

    Why isn’t anyone pointing out Marvel as the source of racism in this, even though racism isn’t the right term? They’re the ones hyping the Muslim character, like they’re being so wonderfully socially progressive, and in doing so being “racist” almost by accident?


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