Thursday, April 5, 2012

Listen carefully...

Sick jokes  “What the hell?!” I was talking, shouting, screaming in my car, at its NPR radio station that was broadcasting an interview aired by the BBC on its show, PRI’s The World. PRI, Public Radio International, was interviewing three Pakistani comedians in its piece, “Standup Comedy in Pakistan Gains A Following.” (Please see: Standup Comedy in Pakistan Gains A Following | PRI's The

What shook me were the comments of comedian Sami Shah. Although I had missed the first part of the interview, I was very sure my reaction to what I was hearing wasn’t due to a lack of context. This is what greeted me. Shah was speaking:

“I’m trying to understand why people become suicide bombers. I can’t understand the virgins thing… I do not understand it. Like why 72? Why 72? Why not 71?” [my italics] Shah asked in his act. As Shah explained, sometimes jokes about subjects familiar to Pakistanis – like suicide bombings – don’t make sense to outsiders. [my emphasis]

That’s when I made my feelings known to the airwaves that were fouling my front seat. For Shah to think that suicide bombings “...don’t make sense to outsiders” is absolutely wrong, dead wrong.

But there was more, an amazing continuation that sent ripples of disgust and sadness and horror through me. How I wished I could transmit them, shape them to send as a shock wave directly back to Sami Shah and PRI! Here’s what followed:

“...I have this bit about suicide bombing. And every comedian in the world has a suicide bombing bit, but mine had a detail, that I didn’t realize, only Pakistanis would know, which is that when the suicide bomber blows himself up, his head is always found. Every Pakistani knows that, they always find the frickin head,” [my emphasis, enlarged, as an indication of my indignation] Shah said with a chuckle.

“Said with a chuckle?” Astounded, I pulled over. Outraged and offended by a man laughing about the disconnected head of a duped Muslim murderer and the sick god/prophet he (or she) worshipped, I wondered whether Sami Shah had a one-liner about the lifeless victims of his oh-so-funny headless miscreant.

In other words, Sami wasn’t funny. On TV and the Net, I had seen those monstrous heads and their splattered remains; for years, I have cried for the innocent men, women, and children who died due to an inane act of criminal and explosive jihad. Indeed, to laugh at such jokes, if that’s what they can be called, is tantamount to conspiring.

By then, I was panting, trembling as I listened to the end of the report:

“Like, will you look the way you did the moment you died?” Shah asked an audience at his show. “Because most suicide bombers you’re just a head at that point. Or will you look the way you do when you’re alive? Because I don’t want to meet virgins looking like this, without a head.”
[my emphasis]

“I did that bit for BBC recently,” Shah reflected, “and everyone was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s such a random detail, that’s so Pakistani, that detail.’ And I was like, ‘yeah, I guess so’. So the things that make us different are our details are slightly more bizarre and maybe more morbid than someone else’s.

Morbid, perhaps, but Pakistani humor is growing ever more sophisticated, and popular. [me, again. That Islam transforms once ‘normal’ humans into psychopaths is more than troubling; it’s disgusting. And to Sami and the BBC, I must ask whether this is truly a laughing matter...]

                             B. Koplen 4/5/12

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