Individuals who dare criticize Islam through any creative medium have faced serious backlash in recent years. Whether an American filmmaker accused of sparking a terrorist attack in Libya or a Danish cartoonist who received death threats for depicting Muhammad, there is no shortage of anecdotes that serve to discourage even playful jabs at the religion.
One of the biggest names in British comedy history recently conceded his work has been stymied by the implicit threat of retaliation. Monty Python’s Michael Palin, who, along with the rest of the comedy troupe, made a career out of skewering a variety of hot-button issues, said Islam poses a potential risk too great to explore.
While he said religion as a whole “is more difficult to talk about,” Palin explained that a “parody of Islam would be even harder.”
He cited the violent threats made against author Salman Rushdie, who was forced to live in the shadows after he criticized the faith in his work “The Satanic Verses.”
Palin noted that “none of us want to get into that,” explaining there are “people out there without a sense of humor and they’re heavily armed.”
Monty Python parodied Christianity in their popular film “The Life of Brian,” which Palin said he doubts could be released in today’s environment. Of course, millions believe the Christian faith is regularly lambasted without any corresponding calls for vengeance.
He said the comedy team’s intention was never to target specific groups; however, he feels the distinction would be lost on many followers of Islam.
“”Python has always been about dealing with things you’re not meant to deal with,” he explained. “It’s like being at school; as soon as the teacher said, ‘It’s not funny,’ you started laughing.”
While Palin and company doubtlessly offended members of certain groups during their respective careers, it is telling that only one community is viewed as off-limits.
–B. Christopher Agee
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