Sunday, January 6, 2013
The Qur’an and Tim Minchin
There are naughty words in what follows, so, if you are sensitive, read it with your eyes closed.
The other night I watched a DVD of Tim Minchin at The Albert Hall in 2010. Australians and people from the U.K. might know about Tim, whereas people in the U.S.A. probably won’t. One of his most recent projects has been to write a musical version of the Roald Dahl story, Mathilda. You can get a taste for Tim on Youtube, but I should warn you that he will probably say something to offend you. He is a satirist, who uses mainly songs to get his message across.
In what was a very brave move, Tim brought onto the stage a copy of the Qur’an, together with a copy of a Harry Potter novel, and began to discuss what might make a book “sacred”. I won’t go into details, except to say that it was very clever. What interests me about this was the evident nervousness of the audience, and even of Tim himself. I should emphasise that he said nothing offensive about the Qur’an, unless, of course, it’s very presence on the stage may have been construed as offensive by some. Nevertheless a certain tension was palpable.
The important point here is that Tim did not satirise this book, or any of the beliefs derived from or associated with it. If it had been the Bible, he would have had no qualms at all about describing it as a collection of misogynistic fairy tales, written by bigoted people, and which has generated nothing but hatred and oppression throughout its history (or something along those lines). Not long afterwards, Tim had no problem at all in singing about the Pope as a “mother-fucking fucker”, or words to that effect, in relation to the Catholic Church’s history of paedophilia. Tim said, at one point in the show, that he recognised people’s right to believe whatever they wanted to believe, but that those same people had no right to tell him what he could, or could not, satirise. Nevertheless, as courageous and outrageous as Tim is, there are forces at work in the world which do exactly that: they tell us what we cannot satirise. And even Tim would not (I suspect) be able to set himself against those forces.
This is an insidious hold that another culture has on our psyche, and I am not comfortable about it. I would encourage every other culture to feel free to take the piss out of our culture and our beliefs. Please do. Help us to see our shortcomings. And make us laugh about ourselves. We are, after all, pretty ridiculous. As are you.