South Park offends Muslims, Jews, Christians? No Sh*t

South Park offends Muslims, Jews, Christians? No Sh*t

Courtesy of our great friend Wikipedia

Muhammad may have been a prophet, but he didn’t see this coming

Didn’t the 16th Century happen like 500 years ago? Are people still scared of ideas? What’s going on?

In case you haven’t heard, about ten people got angry about a recent South Park episode which pictures the Islamic prophet Muhammad (think tarot cards, astrology, crystal balls, tea leaves…etc) wearing a bear suit. Fair enough-bear suits deeply offend me as well.

The episode hasn’t aired yet in Australia, and in such a secular society it may well go unnoticed. But with the sh*t hitting the proverbial fan overseas, I somehow doubt it. If you want the episode to play in Australia, check out the Facebook group to support.

If you haven’t seen any South Park, you should. But for now, the Media Know-all sums it up nicely:

It’s possibly the cleverest thing on American TV and regularly confronts the hypocrisy of a nation that sanctions violent murder as entertainment but shies away from naked nipples or the word “shit”.

Created by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in 1998, it takes on some of the glaring hypocrisies in (American) society, like people touting freedom of religion in the Constitution then spewing unreflective hate towards Islam and other ideologies. The cartoon take on celebrities, religions, politicians, ‘community standards’ and confronts the audience with every taboo possible. It is exhilarating.

Courtesy of The Guardian
Parker + Stone = Stoner (Granted- they are much better at comedy than me)

America’s Fox News contends that:

Religion in general hasn’t become taboo — just Islam.

Maybe in this instance, but some Christians do not take well to criticism. The same people who oppose the ‘extremists’ who made death threats/warnings against Trey and Parker are the same people who can’t handle seeing Jesus portrayed in the same way. Think about the opposition to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ when it came out in 1988. If you were too young, or don’t remember, see the video at the bottom of the page: people speaking freely, about why Scorsese shouldn’t have.

South Park’s Muhammad episode, which also featured Jesus, Moses, Buddha, and Joseph Smith (Mormon Church), was offensive to most superstitions and medieval myths. And as you would expect, some looney was willing to defend their choice of fairy tale with violence. They took the site down, but they told Trey and Parker they would wind up dead, throats slit Qu’uran (and Bible) style in the street, like Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who made a film about some Islamic men beating their wives.

The star of that film, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has taken refuge from the violence in her home country. She speaks to CNN about the show. This is a must watch:

This is Ali’s personal site. Her story is harrowing but inspirational.

Islam is an idea, a way of life, just like being an athlete or gastronome.People are condemned to make a choice. Unfortunately, many people chant to themselves that they are 100% right and their particular religion is the one true. How many times have you heard that pearl of wisdom? Of course, violent fanatics are an embarrassment to anyone with a serious view on the limits of free expression. But it’s funny how ‘atheists’ have significantly fewer protests about having their ideas challenged or their feelings hurt…I’m just sayin’.

The Guardian reckons Revolution Muslim is a group of probably fewer than 10 extremists based in New York who hand out leaflets outside the moderate 96th-street mosque. But from the infinity of videos on YouTube and other video sites of certain ‘scholars’ talking about certain religious rules, it would seem they have more support than a bunch of whackos on the street corner. Americans especially know the supreme sadness of religious violence.

Freedom of expression is under attack. Christians will be reminded that Jesus was killed for challenging the popular idea at the time. Jews have faced unspeakable horrors. And today Islam seems to be the scapegoat of the insecure. These ideas are not immune from scrutiny and ridicule. It is common in Australia, and other Western countries, to criticise politicians, cultural traits and celebrities. The Chaser’s War on Everything did it the best. The same goes for religions.

So maybe you are religious and don’t agree with my views on the subject. That’s cool. But think about freedom of expression for a minute. Religious ideas are usually fundamentally different to my view of things, but they seem to get a pretty good gig. The Australian media broadcast religious festivals, ideas and direct messages from preachers. They also broadcast, though not in proportion, secular ideas. The SBS should extend the courtesy granted to religions to South Park.

Ok, so here’s the philosophical part:
Salman Rushdie once wrote a book with Muhammad in it, The Satanic Verses, saying “there can be no taboos.” He almost died for writing that book. I stand with him though, and I reckon you should as well. Quietly, of course. We must not become the hatred we denounce! But this issue is more than a trivial point of journalistic integrity. Remember, your ideas are certainly offensive to somebody else. Don’t presume they are any better without first challenging them. It’ll be like therapy: Just talk it out!

South Park, for all its ‘vulgarity’ and ‘obscenity’ demands we take a look in the mirror. Clearly some people don’t like what they see.

Feel free to comment below. I love this topic.

Here are some articles, videos and cool and not-so-cool sites:

Ed Pilkington in The Age (originally from The Guardian) is my favourite one.

Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian is equally valid and eloquent.

Access Now is the best site for internet freedom.

News Busters is a cool site, a lot like this one.

Get Religion talks about how the media portray religions. They’re sponsored by the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.

ACT for America! is borderline ‘Christian soldier’ but seems pretty well-grounded.

Child Care Action Project is a fundy Christian site full of the usual hypocritical stuff like denouncing hatred, violence, killing, and then telling kids to read the bible! Endless amusement.

Interview with Stone and Parker after the threats were made:

For media buffs, Noam Chomsky talks here about hypocrisy, Islamic terrorism, US terrorism and media reporting:

If you have read his book 9-11, please let me know if it’s a good one. I’ll get it.

Christopher Hitchens debates about freedoms of speech. This is my favourite discussion on the topic. (To spoil the ending, Hitchens wins)

Reaction to The Last Temptation of Christ:

Feel free to comment about how far the media should take free expression. Go ahead, no topic is taboo!



Filed under Censorship

10 responses to “South Park offends Muslims, Jews, Christians? No Sh*t

  1. Eric Cartman

    They didn’t want to give Muhammad to the gingers, so they just said it was him, when it was actually Santa Claus in the bear costume 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed this post and found it very insightful. However, in a blog that intends to scrutinize media is it not ironic that you mention September 11 in what should be a discussion about the portrayal of Mohammad?

    I just find it funny that coversation about Islam cannot flow freely without mention of terrorism, which I suppose is the reality – but then how do everyday muslims move forward from these stereotypes (if even the watchdogs perpetuate the typecast)?

    • Lachlan McKenzie

      It’s true, most conversations about Islam in the West involve its bad aspects. This piece discusses censorship because of religious sensitivities and does not portray any religion as better or worse than another. See the reaction of Christians to The Last Temptation of Christ.

      The ‘perpetual typecast’ of terrrorists, no matter what the ideology, is apt. You cannot deny there are Muslim terrorist, just like there are Christian and Jewish and Atheist, Communist, Hindu, many others.

      Just because a cartoon happens to offend someone does not mean it should not be aired. Especially if it is funny like South Park.

      This blog does not perpetuate a ‘stereotype’ of Muslim people.

  3. Greetings from another South Park fan 🙂

    Enjoyed your post a lot.

    btw I’ve seen a quote recently and was wondering if anyone has anything to say about it:
    “When u attack Black people, they call it racism.When u attack Jewish people, they call it anti-semetism. When u attack women,they call it sexism. When u attack homosexuality,they call it intolerance. When u attack a Country, they call it treason.When u attacka religious sect, they call it hate. But when they attack the Prophet Mohammed, they call it freedom of speech?”

    • Sure I agree. There is strong evidence people are drawing Muhammad with the intention of offending Muslims. I think this is atrocious

      But I draw a distinction between including depictions of Muhammad which are funny, and depictions with the sole intention of offence.

      A lot of people respond to criticism by labelling it by another name – so if I were to criticise some of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, they would call it anti-Semitism. This is just ridiculous because it makes them untouchable. There will always be fools who compare you to Hitler etc. But this is often a ploy to hide from the fact that some Israelis intend to commit genocide, just like many Palestinians, Iranians, intend to commit genocide as well.

      Muslims can and do criticise the West and this is good. It makes us look at our flaws. But to then say we cannot do the same is hypocritical.

      • FunnyMan

        I think that’s a fairly flimsy distinction (between ‘funny’ and ‘intentionally harmful’ depictions of Muhammad).

        I am strongly against the formation of social taboos over critiquing minority groups as I think it perpetuates a double standard which essentially exacerbates tensions, and I, like you Lachlan, oppose intentionally derogatory material. But I don’t think that potentially offensive material deserves publication simply due to comedic value.

        Certainly, the line between healthy satire, and degrading propaganda, is obscure, especially when certain groups indulge in self-victimisation. But let’s take a moment to consider why groups might react in ways which seem out of proportion.

        For moderate Muslims, demonised by the Western world since 9/11, ready defensiveness against religious slurs is perhaps unsurprising. For moderate Jews, constantly villified by a media which generalises the terrorist acts of a radical few onto the entire diaspora, again impatience at inaccurate representations seem appropriate. What if you were a moderate Christian who disagreed with the Pope’s views on homosexuality and contraception, and you had to endure generalised diatribe from radical atheists?

        I am thoroughly unsurprised that sometimes, people find it hard to identify objective social satire amongst the torrents of hateful bigotry which uniformly flow their way.

        As comedic value is a highly subjective measure, I think that your claim that it can serve to differentiate between these two is dubious at best.

        As a strong advocate of free speech, and a member of a minority myself, I think that people need to suck it up sometimes, accept that not everyone conforms to your own view of the world, and discard the destructive stance that plurality of opinion should not be tolerated.


        • Freaky Man, Funny Man’s comments were wordy, perhaps wanky, but welcome.

          What I agree with:
          – being tainted by the the same brush as radicals is annoying for the less enthusiastic from both the atheist and theist perspectives.
          Where I disagree with you:
          – historical persecution of those who vaguely identify with you makes you immune from criticism.

          Yes, I deplore hatred based on race and religion. Stereotypes don’t help, they divide.

          A cartoon of a historical figure should not be illegal, even if it offends. If someone drew a picture of a person I greatly respected I would not call for their execution. There are at least thousands, if not millions, who would advocate death to those who offend them. That seems like a weak position to me.

  4. Freaky Man

    Hmmm. Funny Man – your response was fanciful, wordy, but alas, wanky. Please allow me to indulge in such high parlance…

    A plurality of voices would be grand, but a plurality of conviction is dangerous. Moreover, those ready to die for such beliefs, being both numerous and antithetical, would fight in perpetuity, until dominance.

    This is how one could analyse much of armed conflict today.

  5. skai

    Lachlen, ” Yes,I deplore hatred based on race and religion.Stereotypes don’t help,they divide ” I agree with you but there are people who hate other based on their race and religion From Muslim’s Quran Sura 5:51 ” Believers,take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends and protectors, for they are friends and protectors of one another.Whoever of you seeks their friendship and supports them shall become one of their number.Allah does not guide the wrong doers” So you see the hatred of others ie,non muslims go back to the times of Mohammad and to this day. Go to YouTube and type in “Egyptian cleric ; it’s our duty to hate the Jews as part of our faith” The sooner American realise that Islam has declared war on us the better. see

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