by Dr. D ~ January 25th, 2012
(Cover of Jay Leno)
In American comedy everything is fair game. If I told you that Jay Leno had offended a whole religion while telling a joke on Mitt Romney you would probably assume that Mormons were the offended party but you would be wrong. After all what connection does Gov. Romney have with the Sikh religion?
During one segment of his show last Thursday, Jay Leno was poking fun at how rich the GOP candidate was by showing a supposed picture of one of Romney’s ‘vacation’ homes. The shot was actually a picture of the Sikh holy shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
The Sikh’s were offended and Sikh leader Dalbeg Singh demanded an apology while India’s foreign ministry lodged a formal complaint with the US State Department concerning the incident.
Now comes the word that a Sikh group in California filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Leno and NBC over libel. The suit charges that Leno’s use of the temple image was an intentional and deliberate slight of the Sikh religion and they seek general, special, and punitive damages as well as court costs.
Response: Obviously this is no longer a joke. Also it should be obvious to most that Leno did not intend to offend the Sikh religion. His target was Romney’s wealthy lifestyle.
I find the story interesting because it points to an obvious disconnect between the approach most Americans have toward religion and that of those in other parts of the world.
Americans are use to making fun of religion and tolerate a great deal of ridicule when it comes to their own religion. Freedom of speech is highly valued in our culture and protected by the Constitution. Religion is fair game for the comedians, and TV and movie script writers. Nothing is considered so sacred that it cannot be the object of humor in America. Conservative Christians are the usual favorite target and sometimes it is offensive but a lot of the time one can see the humor in it nevertheless.
The rest of the world outside the the West is far more serious about the portrayal of their own religions. In many countries there is no ‘freedom of speech’ when it comes to religion. We have already documented many times how Muslims react to any kind of criticism, slights, or even cartoons involving their prophet or Quran. They are even seeking to have an international law against ‘blasphemy’ of Islam passed by the United Nations. Make fun of Islam and violence and even death can follow in some parts of the world.
The American culture is far different, at least it has been. One can bet that Leno and NBC and other related media are now looking for ways to avoid future troubles with world religions. Islam is already on the ‘do not go there’ list and now the Sikh religion just made it. Fortunately there are still plenty of Christians to make fun of in America. *Top