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Mark Steyn

Topical Take

Taking a Joke

Mark continues to be clobbered by ill health. The good news is he's too heavily sedated to pay any attention to desperate Big Climate flack Bob Ward. The bad news is we're in encore-presentation mode for a few days. Still, we thought readers might enjoy this column from 2008, arising from a Dutch novelist's plaintive plea that "Islam must learn to laugh at itself". Seven years later, on the streets of Paris and elsewhere, we're seeing how well that's worked out:

Of late I've been having some sport with a fellow called Oscar van den Boogaard. He's a novelist over in Europe, and, while I'm not the most assiduous reader of Continental fiction, my eye was caught by an interview he gave to the Belgian newspaper De Standaard. Reflecting on Europe's accelerating Islamification, he concluded that the jig was up for the Eutopia he loved, but what could he do? "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."

This seemed such a poignant epitaph for the Continent that I started quoting it hither and yon. And one thing led to another and I started explaining that Mr van den Boogaard is a Dutch gay humanist, which is, as I like to say, pretty much the trifecta of Eurocool. A cheap joke, but it got a laugh. And before you know it Mr van den Boogaard was playing the same function in my act that Elizabeth Taylor does in Joan Rivers'.

Anyway, what with this Internet thingy that the young people are crazy about, it was inevitable that at some point the Dutch novelist wallah would be Googling himself and discover he was now a household name in Cedar Rapids, or wherever I'd last used him as the butt of my Eurowimp mockery. And so it came to pass. The other day in the newspaper De Morgen, Mr van den Boogaard noted that he had recently attracted the attention of "de Canadese oerconservatieve commentator Mark Steyn" who had derided him as "een Nederlandse homoseksuele humanist", which is "de heilige drievuldigheid van Eurocool". And he attempted to put my soundbite in context. It was a sentimental, writerly and contrived meditation on his dad's lifelong service to the Dutch Army, but it ended with what he regarded as the best hope of saving his beloved Netherlands: "De islam moet eindelijk om zichzelf leren te lichen."

"Islam must learn to laugh at itself." Good luck betting the future on that. As the Ayatollah Khomeini lui-meme put it: "There are no jokes in Islam." And, in the event that there are, it's best to make sure the laugh's not on you. As it happens, the British Columbia "Human Rights" Tribunal is about to begin hearing a case brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress into my "flagrant Islamophobia". Among the evidence cited is my review of a Canadian sitcom, "Little Mosque On The Prairie", which I failed to find sufficiently funny, and as a result am now being prosecuted for. Appearing at the Heritage Foundation in Washington last year, I was asked a question about the new sitcom and replied, with the careless insouciance of one who's unaware he's being YouTubed around the planet, "Muslim is the new gay." Alas, this line also appears in the Canadian Islamic Congress' indictment of me. I tried to explain that I meant it as a compliment, but that only appears to have made things worse.

My point was that back in the Nineties Hollywood movies and sitcoms began introducing gay characters who were the most likeable and got all the best lines, and that Muslims were likely to be the lucky beneficiaries of a similar dispensation. In both cases, the intent is the same - to make Islam, like homosexuality, something only uptight squares are un-hep to. But it seems to have gone down about as well as the University of Amsterdam study into the recent increase in gay bashing by Dutch Muslims, which concluded that "the attackers may be struggling with their own sexual identity". Amazingly enough, suggesting that these Muslim chappies are most likely a bit light on their loafers doesn't seem to have done anything to ease inter-communal relations in Europe's "most tolerant city".

Which is by way of saying that, if Mr van den Boogaard is banking on the old Islamic funny bone to preserve his Eutopia, it's a bit of a long shot. More to the point, he's looking at the problem the wrong way round. It's not about "them", it's about him – or, if you prefer, us: much of the western world has a big hole where its sense of identity ought to be. As Ruth Gledhill, the Religious Correspondent of The Times of London, put it: "It feels as if the soul of Britain is dying." She was discussing a new report projecting that by 2050 Christian churchgoers in the United Kingdom will be outnumbered three to one by Muslims. But the hole-in-the-soul line applies just as well to another new report, on the "evolution" of the European family: The marriage rate fell by 24 per cent between 1980 and 2006. One in five pregnancies ends in abortion. One million fewer babies were born in the EU last year than in 1980. Europe has six million more over-65s than under-14s. Two out of three households have no children…

The first comment on the Times story was from "Mark", who wrote: "I may be mistaken, but I believe that Muslims tend to have larger families. If that is the case, wouldn't it make more sense to encourage/accept more Muslim immigrants?"

Why, yes, it would – if you don't mind ending your days in a Muslim society.

You can't beat something with nothing – which in the end is what those grim Euro-statistics represent. Islam reckons it's one almighty something, and that's all it has to be up against contemporary Eutopians. Islam doesn't need to laugh at itself because it's too busy laughing at them.

~the above originally appeared in National Review's "Happy Warrior" column. For more on the nexus of Islam, comedy and "diversity", see the "Last Laughs" section of Mark's latest book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the SteynOnline bookstore.

from Topical Take, February 4, 2015

 

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