One characteristic that Islamists share around the world is that they have no sense of humor. As I had recounted in my October COMMENTARY essay on the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than tackle Egypt’s housing crisis or move to jump start the Egyptian economy, one of the first actions of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt was to seek revenge against the famous Egyptian comic actor Adel Emam, who in the 1990s appeared in several films lampooning Islamic fundamentalists; an Egyptian court sentenced him to three months in prison for insulting Islam.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan likewise suffers a humor deficit. When, early in his government, a cartoonist depicted him as a cat tangled in a ball of string, Erdoğan sued the cartoonist. Alas, that was not the exception but the rule in Turkey today. Turkey’s Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) has just fined a Turkish television channel for broadcasting “The Simpsons”. The problem?
RTÜK said the fine had been levied due to CNBC-E “making fun of God, encouraging the young people to exercise violence by showing the murders as God’s orders and encouraging them to start drinking alcohol on New Year’s Eve night.” “One of the characters is abusing another one’s religious belief to make him commit murders. The bible is publicly burned in one scene and God and the Devil are shown in human bodies,” the RTÜK report said. In another scene, God serves coffee to the Devil, which can be considered an insult to religious beliefs, according to the report, which explained the motive behind the fine.
Alas, so long as the members of the Turkish Congressional Caucus are received as VIPs at the Turkish ambassador’s residence and in Istanbul and Ankara, U.S. officials might still work under the illusion that Turkey is a country on the trajectory for European Union membership, and not a country positioning itself to be the new Egypt.