A few days ago the Guardian ran an article "What sport suits which belief?" sparked by the publication of a book by a french buddhist on the spiritual benefits of petanque.
As this was in the "Open thread" series it goes on to invite comments by asking "But what sports suit other faiths?
"Fly fishing is no good for vegetarians, but is just about perfect for contemplative carnivores. The extraordinary number of Jewish grandmasters suggests that chess is a natural fit with Judaism. Atheists might prefer shooting fish in a barrel. But who would be best suited by cricket? Football? Poker? What's the sport for Plymouth Brethren? Suggestions, please."
A fellow blogger, the anti-theist, promptly posted the following jokey comment which seems entirely to suit the mood of the thread:-
"Islam could be compared to WWE wrestling:
1. Both blatantly made up;
2. Men are allowed to hit women;
3. What they wear is unnecessary;
4. Every argument ends in violence (or at least threats of violence);
5. Neither will accept homosexuals."
The comment was equally promptly removed by the guardian moderator.
Surely this was a gross over-reaction? What exactly is the matter with the comment? Isn't every statement either arguable or can be found in the Koran? Even were it overly blunt and exaggerated isn't that the very essence of comedy? Isn't stuff like this, and much worse, aimed everyday at other religions, other stereotypes? What is so special about Islam that it must have its sensibilities ring-fenced in this way?
If it is considered desirable that a minority religious group should gain acceptance and integration in the community, such marginal suppression of free comment will surely be counterproductive. On the one hand it engenders in the host population a sense of grievance that their free speech is being suppressed in the interests of an over-precious minority: in the muslim community it must reinforce a sense of apartness from the general population and encourage the isolationists in their midst.