South Park has been censored again after attempting to mock some its favourite targets, including religious figures and Tom Cruise. The controversy came after they showed Muhammad in a bear suit, which led to two people posting a death threat on a well-known extremist Islamist website. Given the history of agent provocateurs on Muslim websites who stir up trouble, there was always the possibility that this was just an attempt to make Muslims look bad, but it seems that the posters were ‘genuine’ Muslims. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, pointed out the hypocrisy of some (including Comedy Central) when they noted that they had depicted Muhammad before, in an episode where the Islamic prophet teams up with other religious figures in order to defeat an out of control David Blaine, without stirring up much anger. Only after the publication of the Danish ‘Motoon’ cartoons did non-Muslim depictions of Muhammad become a lot more controversial.
People have rightly focused on the threat to free speech that this represents, and the need to re-emphasize that religious beliefs are no more entitled to protection than any other point of view. Yet it also is another excuse to smear Muslims. Comedy Central, which broadcasts South Park, censored the episode after one death threat on one website. Understandable from their perspective, but it is the equivalent of censoring something because a drunkard in a pub was overheard threatening the show’s creators. I doubt that many Muslims like that Muhammad is being depicted, but neither are millions posting death threats and rioting. As Zahed Amanullah points out, the threats were made by two converts who apparently aren’t even welcome in most mosques.
The right to mock and satirise has to be absolute; there cannot be compromise on this even if people are offended. No one has a right to have their views placed beyond satire, but nor should the reaction of less than a handful of fringe extremists be used to demonstrate that all Muslims are rabid killers who want to murder anyone who mocks them or their religion.
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Filed in: Culture,Muslim,Religion