Fringe Muslim group’s threats cause Comedy Central to censor South Park
The producers of “South Park” complained recently that Comedy Central censored a portion of their popular cartoon after they had received threats from a radical Muslim group.
Producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone expressed disapproval after their bosses bleeped out a portion of the usual wrap-up speech of South Park character Kyle. The speech didn’t mention Muhammad.
The censorship was done in response to threats from Revolution Muslim, a fringe group which complained that `South Park’ insulted their prophet by depicting him in a bear costume in last week’s episode.
Many Muslims believe that Islamic teachings forbid showing images of Muhammad.
The Muslim group didn’t explicitly threaten the producers. However, they warned that Parker and Stone could end up as Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh did, who was slain six years ago for making a film that criticized Islamic society.
Their Web site, revolutionmuslim.com also published Stone and Parker’s work address.
The Web site said, “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.”
A photo of Van Gogh’s body lying in the street was included with the original posting, which has been unavailable to some Web users since news of the item broke earlier this week.
The extremist group is relatively small with about a dozen members. It was formed in 2007 and is based out of New York.
It is mostly known for posting inflammatory and often threatening comments on its Web site, including a poem last October during the Jewish High Holy Days asking God to kill all the Jews.
Its members also stage protests in front of New York mosques, advocating a more fundamentalist form of Islam, said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
South Park, in its 200 shows, has satirized Christianity, Buddhism, Scientology, the blind and disabled, gay people, Hollywood celebrities and politicians of all persuasions.
Some of those who were satirized protested, or threatened to boycott.
Regarding Comedy Central’s self censorship, experts call it a dangerous precedent which also stirs up a free-speech issue that, while dormant for years, has now opened again.
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh said to the Los Angeles Times that the network has potentially empowered other extremists by how it has chosen to handle the situation. “The consequence of this position is that the thugs win and people have more incentive to be thugs,” said Volokh, who teaches free speech and religious freedom law.