Center for Strategic Communication

by Steven R. Corman


Readers of this blog may have followed the story this week of death threats issued by the website Revolution Muslim against South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for their inclusion of supposed images of the Prophet Muhammad in part one of a cartoon first broadcast last week.  In response to the threats Comedy Central bleeped-out mentions of the Prophet’s name and made other changes to part two, broadcast this week.

Part one featured a group of “super best friends” (born in a previous episode that is mysteriously unavailable on the Comedy Central website) made up of other religious figures including Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Moses and Santa Claus.  When the group was shown, Muhammad’s image was covered by a black stripe and the word “censored”–presumably as a poke by Parker and Stone at Muslim sensibilities about showing His image.  He later “appeared” as the unseen occupant of a van and later a bear costume.

That episode resulted in a now-defunct website in New York,, issuing a thinly veiled death threat against the cartoon’s creators, including a picture of assassinated Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh with a knife sticking out of his chest (see what’s left of the post here, H/T Mark Stoudt).

In this week’s follow-up episode, all mentions of the Prophet’s name were bleeped out.  In what can only be regarded as shoddy reporting, the Guardian said this may have been the work of the creators of the series.  But later reports by AP and the LA Times made it clear that the changes were made by Comedy Central executives, without the consent of Parker and Stone.  Besides bleeping Muhammad references, Comedy Central also deleted a segment in which the character Kyle made a speech against intimidation and fear that didn’t even mention Muhammad’s name.

Comedy Central is refusing comment on the incident.  Too bad.  Among other things, I would like to know:

  • If their concerns were for the sensibilities of religious communities in the US then why didn’t they censor the first episode?
  • For for that matter why didn’t they censor the depictions/names of the other religious figures in the second episode, which were surely offensive to the Christian and Buddhist communities?
  • Why did they censor a speech against intimidation and fear?  Because they support intimidation and fear?
  • Why are they kowtowing to a Takfiri fringe group when peaceful Muslims in the US have not complained (as far as I am able to tell)?

Unsurprisingly, said fringe group seems to be emboldened. released a rambling statement on April 21 “clarifying” their position on the South Park episode.  As justification for their complaints about the episode it invokes the master narrative of the crusades and the rhetorical vision of Islam under withering assault from those who would see it destroyed.

Extolling the virtues of free speech they say:

the principle of free speech, as envisioned by the founding fathers of the United States and by wise men and women throughout the ages, is a universal principle that may protect citizens from political, economic, or religious persecution.

Of course they declined to apply this weapon against religious persecution five months ago when their comrades in Africa prayed “Oh Allah, allow the mujahideen to strike Jews, Christians and their apostate agents!” (from, 11/30/2009).

Undermining the claim that their original post was not a death threat, they say:

As for the Islamic ruling on the situation, then this is clear. There is no difference of opinion from those with any degree of a reputation that the punishment is death. Ibn Taymiyyah a great scholar of Islam says, “Whoever curses the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) -a Muslim or a non Muslim- then he must be killed…and this is the opinion of the general body of Islamic scholars.”

So here is a group that hides behind freedom of speech to promote violent ideology and make death threats against people, while denying the same right to others who engage in nothing more harmful than religious satire in an animated cartoon.  And Comedy Central hands them a victory, basically saying that they’re right.  Way to go guys.