The Smearing of Robin Williams

Robin-WilliamsRecently, comedian Billy Crystal presented a tribute to the late Robin Williams at the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards. During the tribute, Crystal said:

It is very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives…..For almost 40 years he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy…. . He made us laugh. Hard. Every time you saw him – on television, movies, nightclubs, arenas, hospitals, homeless shelters for our troops overseas. And even in a dying girl’s living room for her last wish, he made us laugh. Big time.

After Crystal’s message, a montage of some of Williams’ performances was played. The tribute ignited a firestorm on social media due to the inclusion of a clip of a Williams sketch involving the hijab in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In the clip, Williams borrows a scarf from an audience members, wears it covering his head mimicking a hijab and says, “I would like to welcome you to Iran. Help me!”

A frenzy of commenters on Twitter quickly criticized Williams’ performance and his joke as “racist,” according to the Independent and other outlets. “The person putting together the Robin Williams segment for the Emmys decided to use his racist material,” Hannah Story (@hannamstory) tweeted. Another person wrote, “I’m still so shocked that the #Emmys would include such a racist bit in Robin Williams tribute. Out of all his great work, really?” Another disgruntled commenter said, “I love Robin Williams but he really had some not okay racist jokes and they even put it in the tribute tonight.”

Leftists have quickly jumped to conclusions, unfairly viewing and labeling Williams’ criticism of Iran’s oppression of women as completely “racist.” To shed light more on this issue, several points need to be addressed.

Not only have I studied the Islamic Republic of Iran, its politics, and Islam for many years, but unlike the leftists who are quick to condemn and label Robin William’s hijab joke as racist, I have also lived in this repressive and authoritarian Islamist country that views women as instruments, slaves, and second-class citizens.

From my perspective, it is critical to point out that Williams’ stand-up performance did not have any links to racial or even to religious issues. His words were more aimed at the repressive government of the Islamic Republic, giving voice to women, exercising freedom of speech, as well as bringing a smile to the faces of many.

If you live in the Islamic Republic and if you are a girl, you will be forced to wear a veil when you reach nine years old. Among the millions of Iranian girls — who are coerced against their will to wear a hijab — was my younger sister. After she was forced to wear a scarf at school and in public, she began having nightmares, waking up frightened in the middle of the night at her young age because she was told at school that Allah (God) would hang girls from their hair for eternity if they showed even a strand of hair to a stranger, according to the Hadith.

If a woman dares to take off her veil in public, she will be arrested, jailed, and lashed. I personally have seen girls be humiliated, beaten, and dragged into the street to a police car by the morality religious police because they did not wear the veil according to the Iranian regime’s Islamic code. In my previous articles here and here, I illustrated the details of the repression of Iranian women by the Iranian regime and their dreams for freedoms. One of their simple but seemingly impossible dream is to have the freedom to wear what they like, and to have the option to choose whether they want to wear a hijab or not. Polls have repeatedly shown, and I have encountered many Iranian women, who would take off their scarf if allowed.

As I mentioned before this simple individual freedom might be taken for granted by women in the Western democratic world. And some might find it comical, ridiculous, or bizarre to have such a simple dream. But this is truly a dream for millions of Iranian women.

From a political perspective, the purpose of these repressive Islamic laws in Iran is evident. These laws are aimed at dehumanizing and subjugating women, treating them as second-class citizens by taking away their power over basic daily activities and even their bodies through this mechanism of control. In order to achieve this goal, the Iranian regime employs Islamic Sharia laws, Shiite codes, and sovereign power (i.e. hard power, police, judiciary system, etc).

The second topic to tackle is connected to freedom of speech.  The leftists, who portray themselves as advocates of freedom of expression, are displaying a significant contradiction in their statements by condemning a Robin Williams joke. Are the leftists prescribing that people should not be allowed to criticize or even make a satire about dictatorships, authoritarian and vicious regimes, which are torturing, suppressing, and killing thousands of their own people?

There is a double standard when it comes to political correctness, and the left is perpetuating that idea. The “politically correct” left is suggesting that criticisms of tyrannical, autocratic and undemocratic regimes by comedians and other individuals should not be allowed. This is a risky approach due to the fact that it undermines those who are attempting to give a voice to oppressed and subjugated citizens, including women who live under repressive laws. I believe any individual, including leftists, should refrain from stamping every statement as racist and quickly demonizing and condemning people.

As Robert Spencer articulately points out regarding the condemnation of Williams and the crucial impact that leftists and Islamists have had on our society and culture,

[A]ny reference, even a joke, to Sharia-related oppression or jihad violence is immediately denounced by the programmed and dutiful as “racist.” This is the same impulse that led the teenager who stumbled upon the Fort Dix jihad plot to hesitate about reporting it to police — he was afraid it might be “racist” to do so. The comfortable, self-righteous Leftists who are denouncing the Emmys today will be congratulating themselves on not being “racist” right up to the moment that the knife sawing through their throat brings an abrupt end to their conscious thoughts.

During his life, Robin Williams attempted to bring laughter to millions of people around the world. We should contemplate more whether it is genuinely fair to completely and quickly label him as a “racist,” for this stand-up comedy performance and joke did not have anything to do with race, but was aimed at giving a voice to women in Iran and comically criticizing the Iranian regime.

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