Daily Beast's Dean Obeidallah on CNN: Radical Islam A 'Made-Up Idea'

The Daily Beast's Dean Obeidallah denied the existence of Islamism as an ideology during a segment on Monday's CNN Newsroom. Obeidallah, responding to conservative commentator Erick Erickson applauding Saturday Night Live's draw Mohammed skit as "a perfectly humorous way to point out the absurdity of radical Islam's refusal to let people draw Mohammed," wildly claimed that "the [SNL] writers'...goal was not to make fun of radical Islam – this made-up idea." [video below]

The left-leaning commentator later contended that the recent terrorist attack Garland, Texas, which targeted Pamela Geller's draw Mohammed contest, "finally exposed [Geller] for, what we knew in the Muslim community, as a well-paid, well-compensated, anti-Muslim bigot – who demonizes for a living, frankly."

Anchor Carol Costello brought on Obeidallah, an off-camera veteran of Saturday Night Live, for his take on the NBC's show skit on Saturday. The Daily Beast writer underlined, in part, that "among mainstream Muslims – which, in America, that's what we are, except for a few exceptions...it's a yawn. You know, the idea that you're going to draw the prophet Mohammed – you can do that – and the response from the Muslim community, if they were upset, would be to call NBC or send e-mails – just like any other group when they get upset about something you see."

Costello then read the quote from Erickson. After Obeidallah issued his denial about radical Islam, the CNN anchor responded that "Pamela Geller had the right to put that cartoon on....but you have to talk about exactly why she did it. Now, the SNL skit did it, but without the underlying hate – which made it much more powerful." The commentator agreed with Costello's point, and added that the SNL writers "punch up in comedy – and that's the best form of comedy. You're punching up at people in power...Punching down is demonizing minority groups. That's what Pamela Geller did." He continued with his "well-paid, well-compensated, anti-Muslim bigot" line about Geller.

The full transcript of the Dean Obeidallah segment from Monday's CNN Newsroom:

CAROL COSTELLO: A lot of buzz this morning surrounding a skit on Saturday Night Live. It had to do with the drawing of the prophet Mohammed. It was spoofing a game show called Win, Lose, or Draw. Contestants are assigned a person, a movie, or thing to draw; and then, the contestants guess the answers. Watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1 (from NBC's Saturday Night Live): Your category is trend-setters, and here's what you'll be drawing today. (audience laughs)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: Um, wait. I-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: You ready to go, Daniel?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: No, no-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Okay, go ahead – put time on the clock, and go!

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: No, wait! Wait!

COSTELLO: And of course, he never drew it. The skit was powerful, I thought. It showed how many are afraid to draw the prophet Mohammed – which is absurd, right?

Dean Obeidallah is a writer for The Daily Beast. He also worked on SNL, and co-directed the documentary, 'The Muslims are Coming.' Welcome back, Dean.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Thanks, Carol.

COSTELLO: Okay. So you talked to some of the writers who came up with that skit. What did they tell you?

OBEIDALLAH: I talked to one of the writers who came up with the sketch. I mean, I thought it was extremely funny. I praised it. I thought they did a great job. You know, they're making fun of the fear some people have about drawing the prophet Muhammad. And I think SNL, at its highest point, is making you laugh, making you think, and pointing out something in society – or pointing out something in politics that's going on – a hot button issue. And they did that exactly perfectly.

COSTELLO: I have to say, while I was watching that, I kept wondering what would happen if they actually drew the prophet Mohammed.

OBEIDALLAH: Yeah. That's an interesting question – what would happen? And I really hope – and I wrote in my article for The Daily Beast – that we get to that point. I think, frankly, among mainstream Muslims – which, in America, that's what we are, except for a few exceptions – what we saw in Garland, Texas – it's a yawn. You know, the idea that you're going to draw the prophet Mohammed – you can do that – and the response from the Muslim community, if they were upset, would be to call NBC or send e-mails – just like any other group when they get upset about something you see.

Freedom of expression – I made this point over and over – it's two ways. One is, you have the freedom to say things, and I have the freedom to use words to counter what you say if I don't like it. And that's completely normal. Every group has done it. In this case, I posted my article on Facebook, and every Muslim American friend who saw this thought it was great. They thought it was funny – made a good point. And we need to laugh, sometimes, at fears. We need to laugh at ISIS. We need to laugh at some of the scary people out there. It's cathartic.

COSTELLO: I actually agree with that, actually.

There are those who say, though, Dean, the skit also captured the media's refusal to deal with the issue. Red State's Erick Erickson writes – quote, 'History shows us over and over that the moment evil realizes you are scared of provoking it, you have provoked into action. Islamic radicals, under the radar in our country, are now emboldened by the press reaction in Texas. Saturday Night Live's skit last night was a perfectly humorous way to point out the absurdity of radical Islam's refusal to let people draw Mohammed.'

OBEIDALLAH: I – you know, Erick Erickson is known as a comedy commentator – you know, at Red State. I find his stuff very unintentionally funny often. I think what's interesting here is that both liberals and conservatives are laughing at the sketch. So let's look at it from a good side in this hyper-partisan world we live in. I don't think I can agree with Erick Erikson on anything, let alone this. The writers – their goal was not to make fun of radical Islam – this made-up idea. There are radical Muslims, but the idea of radical Islam and this comedy-

COSTELLO: Well, I think he's confusing two separate issues – right? So Pamela Geller had the right to put that cartoon on-

OBEIDALLAH: Absolutely-

COSTELLO: She had the right to do that-

OBEIDALLAH: Sure-

COSTELLO: Nobody is really saying that she didn't – right?

OBEIDALLAH: Right, right, right-

COSTELLO: But you have to talk about exactly why she did it. Now, the SNL skit did it, but without the underlying hate – which made it much more powerful.

OBEIDALLAH: And I agree, and that's what I wrote about. They addressed it in a way – they punch up in comedy – and that's the best form of comedy. You're punching up at people in power – and maybe scary boogeymen. Punching down is demonizing minority groups. That's what Pamela Geller did.

So, in some week – if you look back at the week, it was a great week. Saturday Night Live had this great sketch – we all laughed – and Pamela Geller was finally exposed for, what we knew in the Muslim community, as a well paid, well-compensated, anti-Muslim bigot – who demonizes for a living, frankly. So I'm – I think, overall, a great week. (Costello laughs) I'm really happy. I feel really good about it.

COSETELLO: Dean Obeidallah, thanks so much. I appreciate your being here.

[H/t: HotAir's Noah Rothman]

NB Daily Culture/Society Labeling Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Religion Islam Moderate Islam The Daily Beast NBC Saturday Night Live CNN CNN Newsroom Video Carol Costello Erick Erickson Dean Obeidallah
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