Now and again I get sent links to reports published by far-right hate sites and I routinely bin them.
However, today I was compelled to dig deeper into a Front Page report which mocked the Swedish authorities for wasting valuable resources by employing clowns to help integrate ‘mostly Muslim’ refugees. This, proclaimed writer Bruce Bawer, was ‘tragically idiotic’.
The Swedish Migration Board has managed to find an unspecified number of kronor – apparently in the millions – to spend on the services of an organization called Clowner utan Gränser. Translation: Clowns without Borders … CWB plans to ‘play’ its way to better integration.
I had never heard of Clowns without Borders, so I hopped over to its website, where I found a robust response to Bawer’s piece. “Naomi” wrote:
Mr Bawer’s main critique of the program is that Sweden’s Migration Board is using laughter to integrate Syrian refugees, and claims that ‘Swedish authorities still don’t know the first damned thing about Islam.’
This is based on Khomeini’s proclamation that, ‘There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam.’ This, like the rest of Khomeinism, is the founding ideology of the Republic of Iran. In fact, many Syrian refugees have left Syria because of rising Islamic extremism, such as that embraced by Khomeini. CWB’s program to use laughter to promote integration is in no way in conflict with the audience’s faith.
All chapters of CWB are sensitive to the culture and cultural norms of the audience. Performers never make jokes at the expense of audience members’ faith, culture, ability, or gender.She added:
It is unclear from Mr Bawer’s article if his concern is for displaced people living in Sweden, or the high financial cost of delivering services to those people. CWB-Sweden’s program to use laughter to integrate Syrian refugees is for the post-traumatic stress benefit of laughter and the trust and community that is built through watching a live performance. CWB works diligently with partner aid organizations to make sure that our programs are supporting other aid efforts. Our programs do not take away from essential services, such as food, water, and medical care.
Mr Bawer goes further to say that the real humor would be if a clown was beheaded by one of the refugees. Commenters on the post have shared this sentiment, and also complained that Sweden is focusing resources on refugees, and not its own citizens. One commenter wrote: ‘It is high time for the self-loathing traitors amongst the White race to be expunged from the gene pool, and if that means whole nations of said traitors must be destroyed then so be it.’
At Clowns Without Borders International, we uphold an ethical pillar of solidarity. We take this as an opportunity to reject the racism and violence of Mr Bawers article, and to say that we are humbled to serve people on the run from war all over the world.
The Swedish government is attempting to implement a holistic approach to integrating their newly arrived community members. It is inevitable that our communities transform and change as we give refuge to diverse populations fleeing violence in their home countries. This holistic approach, which incorporates trauma support and seeking creative means to develop trust, may be a path forward to a more diverse and peaceful community.
Clowns without Borders, founded in Spain in 1993, is a secular organisation that eschews any form of evangelisation. I would say that any initiative that seeks to bring about better social cohesion is to be applauded, not derided. Our efforts are far better directed at exposing individuals – yes, that includes you, Mr Bawer – and organisations that seek to spread hate and sow disharmony.