One of the UK’s top comedians, satirists and impressionists, Rory Bremner, says he’s afraid to write jokes about Islam because he fears death threats.
Bremner was discussing the future of satire with David Frost on Frost on Satire, a BBC documentary.
“The greatest danger now is that one of the toughest issues of our time is religion,” says Bremner, as quoted in the Daily Telegraph.
He says that, when he’s writing a sketch about Islam, “I’m writing a line and I think, ‘If this goes down badly, I’m writing my own death warrant there.’ Because there are people who will say, ‘Not only do I not think that’s funny but I’m going to kill you’ – and that’s chilling.”
Bremner cites the case of a Danish cartoonist, who isn’t named in the Telegraph article, but is likely to be Kurt Westergaard, who drew a cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. His life changed after that and other cartoons appeared in Jyllands-Posten, and Muslims reacted with violence.
“If you’re a Danish cartoonist and you work in a Western tradition, people don’t take that too seriously,” Bremner tells Frost in the interview, to be aired Thursday.
“Suddenly you’re confronted by a group of people who are fundamentalist and extreme and they say, ‘We’re going to kill you because of what you have said or drawn.’ Where does satire go from there, because we like to be brave but not foolish.”
Frost comments that he finds it surprising that Bremner thinks a joke could put his life in danger.
Fear of reprisals
Fear of reprisals from Muslims has led to much self-censorship in the mainstream media. Notably, no British newspapers reprinted any of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons when they were at the height of controversy.
And recently the makers of the satirical animated cartoon show South Park found themselves on the receiving end of Muslim threats when they depicted Mohammed in a bear costume.
Keith Yost in The Tech’s online edition of June 11, says: “The target of their satire was not Islam itself, but instead the media and [their] practice of self-censorship in matters concerning Islam.
“Much as Jyllands-Posten was responding to the fallout of the van Gogh murder, South Park was responding to the fallout from Jyllands-Posten – it was a meta-response to a meta-response.”