Friday, May 18, 2007

The Chaser and Sheik Taj

It’s not everyday that one can find lessons in religious and community leadership in an episode of The Chaser’s War On Everything. But the response of Sheik Hilaly to a good-humoured 1.5 minute skit entitled “Sheik Gaffe Tape” hardly warranted the response he gave.

The show was broadcast on Wednesday 16 May 2007. Lawyer and comedian Julian Morrow approached the Sheik to see if he’d prepare to wear gaffe tape on his way overseas, in accordance with a previous offer he’d made last November. The Sheik’s response spoke volumes. He told Morrow:

Your tongue has no manners. I’ll punch you in the face to teach you some manners. You are stupid. Your tongue’s getting you into trouble. You’re racist.

At one stage, Sheik Hilaly even lifted his arm as if to assault Morrow.

The Chaser is the most popular comic team on Australian TV. It has in the past used sharp humour to take the piss out on our attitudes toward national security, terrorism, Arabs and Muslims. So many young Muslims I know love raving on and getting themselves into hysterics over superb Chaser skits – Chas Licciardello dressed as bin-Ladin crashing Jack Thomas’ house after the control order, differing responses to tourists dressed as Americans and those dressed as Arabs visiting Lucas Heights, and the hilarious “World’s Biggest Muslim”.

Over 50% of Muslims are aged under 30. The ratio of Muslims born in Australia to those born in Lebanon is at least 3:1. This is a very young community, many of whom are quite frustrated with media and politicians bagging them out. The Sheik should know all this. Had he been aware of what kinds of shows many young Australians (including Muslims) watch, he should have been able to recognise Morrow straight away. He could have played along quite easily and had a few laughs on Morrow. He should have known that Morrow’s intention was satire, not insult.

Instead, a very ugly side of the Sheik was shown. The audience picked this up immediately. The Sheik’s inability to lighten up when faced with a comic situation shows to me he simply isn’t in tune with how young people entertain themselves. And so a bunch of comics provide yet more evidence that Sheik Hilaly should consider retiring and writing his memoirs.

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

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