South Park offends Muslims, Jews, Christians? No Sh*t
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.
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 revolutionmuslim.org 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.
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!