Friday, April 23, 2010

South Park, Mohammad, Death Threats and Jon Stewart


     In the 200th episode of South Park, which was broadcast last week, a proposal to bring the Prophet Mohamed to town is met with short shrift at a community meeting. "Are you nuts?" one character says. "If Mohamed appears in South Park we get bombed!" "We don't know that," another replies. "Maybe enough time has passed that now it's OK to show Mohamed."
     As it turned out, that hope was a forlorn one. The American broadcaster Comedy Central this week censored the programme after the episode's depiction of the Prophet Mohamed dressed as a giant teddy bear drew a warning on an Islamist website that the show's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, would be murdered.
     The warning was posted on the New York-based website Revolution Muslim. In an article that suggested that Parker and Stone would "probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show", a writer calling himself Abu Talhah al-Amrikee listed the addresses of Comedy Central's New York office as well as Stone and Parker's production office. He also posted a link to a piece giving details of the house that the two rent.
     So Comedy Central broadcast the next programme, which concludes the plot of the anniversary edition, with several crucial speeches bleeped out. In Wednesday's episode, Mohamed's appearances were covered with a giant "censored" label, while he was replaced in the bear suit by Santa Claus.
     In response, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show gave this homage to all the satirical commentary that his show has provided concerning all religions, once again calling religions on their hypocritical and hateful calls for the death of those who have different beliefs.
     The Guardian gives this summary of the South Park episode in question:
     The Muhammad furore began last week in the show's 200th episode when the creators introduced the character as a riff on censorship. The joke was that Muhammad was dressed as a bear because he could not be shown as a cartoon in the wake of death threats made against Danish cartoonists by Islamist extremists, who see any depiction of Muhammad as a gross insult to their religion.  In the storyline, the prophet was brought into the show on the demand of previous victims of its satire, led by Tom Cruise, who believed that he could make them immune to further ridiculing. In this week's episode, the bear costume was unzipped to reveal that Santa Claus, not Muhammad, had been inside all along.

Images are from the previously hyperlinked Guardian and Independent articles.

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