If you’ve ever watched South Park, you know the show is unafraid to go after anybody. Its their satirical look at all walks of life and topical events that has kept the show fresh and maintained its high viewership for 14 seasons. But on their 200th episode special, they have sparked the anger of a radical Islamic organization that have posted a veiled threat against the creators of the show, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. (UPDATE: Summary from last night’s show at the bottom)
Last night on Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper had an informative segment summarizing the events around the episode and some background CNN has previously done on the group. In the episode, the creators depict the Muslim prophet as a stick figure, with a black CENSORED box, and in a bear suit. Before each mention, characters ask “Is this okay?” teasing the fact they have been forced to remove him from prior shows because of Islamic backlash against Comedy Central.
In the beginning of the video, Cooper reads a part from a posting on Revolutionmuslim.com website. It reads: “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show, this is not a threat, but a warning of what will likely happen to them.” Elsewhere they post a video with a sermon by the radical U.S. born, Yemen-based preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki — the same preacher who spoke to the Forth Hood terrorist Malik Nadal Hasan — discussing assassinating individuals who defame the Prophet Muhammad. Also they give a link showing where the creators of South Park live and show pictures of the savagely murdered Theo Van Gogh (Dutch film director murdered in 2004 by a radical muslim after releasing a film showing the plight of women in Islamic countries) as an example of what they are talking about. The author of the post says it was a warning and a call to protest, not a threat. A very detailed warning, I’d say.
As the CNN story points out, the Revolution Muslim group based in New York has made these threats before and CNN covered them. The CNN reporter who interviewed Younes Abdullah Mohammed, founder of the group, is still receiving extra protection in fear of retaliation. In their 2009 interview Mohammed outright says his religion commands them to terrorize the disbelievers. Mohammed claims to terrorize doesn’t mean to kill someone, but to make them fearful and think twice before committing a blasphemous act against a Muslim.
I think Anderson Cooper does a nice job summing up my feeling about the threats against the lives of Stone and Parker in his monologue:
We live in a country which prides itself on its freedom of speech, in which we can say whatever is in our hearts, in our minds, as long as it’s not threatening to someone else– as long as it’s not calling for violence against somebody else. Now, you might not like South Park the cartoon, you might think it’s offensive, you might decide it’s not something you want to watch– that’s up to you. But the notion that some radical Islamic group in America would make a threat, even a veiled one, against two men’s lives because of it is chilling. And for the people making this threat, that is precisely the point– to chill discussion, to chill debate.
It’s fine to disagree with the content of South Park, the satirical depiction of religious deities, or any speech you find incendiary. As a Catholic, I don’t necessarily like all the millions of jokes thrown at Jesus Christ or the Catholic Church, but I appreciate the freedom that has been blessed upon me to live in the United States – to allow people to speak their opinions on any topic. By abusing the teachings of the Koran, it is reprehensible that the radical muslims/terrorist sympathizers feel they have the right to spark fear in anyone using their national rights. Especially from within our own country and since it’s the same First amendment that gives them the protection to make such horrific threats in the first place.
**Part 2 of the episode airs tonight, 4-21 on Comedy Central which will probably further this storyline
**UPDATE** Most news outlets are reporting on this story now, but last night the second part of the episode aired heavily edited. Beyond larger CENSORED boxes around the Mohammed character, they also bleeped any mention of his name or discussion around the character. This additional censorship appears to be handed down by the network after the South Park creators handed in their final edited copy. Furthermore, you cannot view this episode on the South Park Studios website which is where they have freely streamed all of their episodes the day after for years. I usually watch their episodes through the free stream, so I have not yet watched the episode. Hopefully the knee-jerk reaction to this threats will cease and they will be able to publically air this episode in its entirety. Sadly, it appears Younes Abdullah Mohammed has successfully “terrorized” the Comedy Central team based on his definition.