I have known a number of Muslims in my life, and the curious thing about them is that I can't remember ever hearing one of them laugh. Telling them a joke is a waste of time and effort. The Arab race seems to be devoid of humor. They seem to view all of life – and their religion most especially – with a dour and somber seriousness. It has been suggested that the source of this humorlessness is Islam itself.
Islam teaches that man has no will of his own and that he is created to conform to the will of Allah. Muslims are also taught to believe that they are unique in that Allah has chosen them to advance his kingdom on earth, and that his directions for that conquest are contained in the Koran, a book which Allah gave to the Arabs exclusively. The grave seriousness of this weighty responsibility would seem to preclude levity in their lives.
Not that we don't have humorphobes in our own culture. I learned early in life that it is not a good idea to tell a lawyer joke to a lawyer or a politician joke to a politician. They don't find them humorous. I have also been warned against the advisability of telling a queer or lesbian joke to a queer or lesbian. And one can imagine the response you would receive if you were to tell a Negro joke to Al Sharpton or Louis Farrakhan.
I have no reservations, however, about telling a Catholic joke to a Catholic. They will not only laugh, but in most instances, they will regale you with another Catholic joke in return. Maybe Catholics are secure enough in their beliefs that they can afford to laugh at their foibles.
Some people, it seems, are so insecure in their faith or in their profession or in their value as a human being, that they find humor threatening. The tragedy in this is not only that they miss one of the greatest enjoyments of life, but also that they become a danger to themselves and a real threat to the rest of us.
Someone (maybe it was me) once said that man is the only animal who laughs – or has a reason to. And the reason for laughter – the reason our ancestors evolved it – is sanity. Laughing at life puts its troubles and sorrows in perspective and enables us to maintain our mental equilibrium and the momentum of our lives. Without humor and laughter, we would become introverted, hate-filled monsters, angry at life and at the world – like Muslims.
Maybe Islam is not the source of humorlessness in the Arab race. Maybe it's the result.