Is it ever OK to satirize religious leaders or beliefs?
Answer: With this question, we
encounter, not the clash of civilizations, but the clash of values.
Those who would defend “freedom of speech” would argue that nothing
short of a criminal, i.e. an exclusive legal definition, should be
exempted from satire. But the religious who revere the
sacred, would naturally not countenance the satire of their holy
figures or cherished beliefs. By definition, satire is
mockery and abasement. It follows that it is not appropriate
to ridicule what another holds dear, be that God, your family, country,
race, ethnicity, religious leader, or beliefs.
What other ethical principles should we invoke in order to clarify the
answer? The Golden Rule comes to mind, as does that princely virtue,
common courtesy. One adage says “to give no offence.” Another
says “to take no offence.” These precepts would clearly exclude the
ridicule of religious leaders or beliefs.
Now jokes are appropriate if the joker and the target of his mockery
are both laughing. If both parties are laughing, we can conclude that
harmless fun and comic relief are at work. Both parties feel
comfortable enough to laugh and to be laughed at within the comfortable
walls of friendship. But the satire of religious leaders or beliefs can
start a raging fire that will prove impossible to extinguish, as recent
events have shown.
Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith,
revealed: “For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a
deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of
the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former
lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a
His son and successor, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), emphasized: “Beware!
Beware! Lest ye offend any heart! Beware! Beware! Lest ye hurt any
soul! Beware! Beware! Lest ye deal unkindly toward any person! Beware!
Beware! Lest ye be the cause of hopelessness to any creature! Should
one become the cause of grief to any one heart, or of despondency to
any one soul, it were better to hide oneself in the lowest depths of
the earth than to walk upon the earth.” -