Travel Stories »

Islamic Iran is a Bunch of Laughs

The president rigged the elections, the nuclear program is putting Iran on collision course with NATO and the Ayatollahs have no plans to go anywhere soon. So have a chuckle.

There was a feel-good article in the Guardian the other day about laughter classes in Tehran.

God knows there’s lots to laugh about. Here’s a comic speech given by the infamously deadpan Ayatollah Khomeini:

Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.

Like orthodox Jews who say that a woman should never sing in the presence of men for fear of inciting desire, or Christian sects who still think there’s something sinful about theater, humans have often tended to make life miserable for one another under the flag of purity.

When I was in Iran in 1997, people were too nervous to play any kind of music in the street unless the undercover morality police would turn up. Music led to dancing, soon boys and girls would be meeting and the whole moral fabric of society would be threatened. The rather embarrassing effect of this was that each time I got out my clarinet or harmonica to practice, a crowd would form within minutes.

“I’m sorry, I’m really not that good.” I’d tell them but they looked at me as though I was a rock star.

Iranians have been living under the choking grip of a puritanical regime for 30 years now and the only real reason to laugh about it is so as not to cry.