Friday, April 23, 2010

South Park and freedom of expression

It is not clear whether the censoring of Prophet Muhammad in a recent South Park episode was intentional or not (he appeared in a bear suit). But despite the lack of physical description on Prohet Muhammad, the show's creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are being "warned" by, an extremist muslim site. A recent post written under the name of Abu Talha al-Amreeki stated:

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. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.

Appended with the post were pictures of a murder victim, the address of South park  as well as a video claiming that the "dust will never settle" (the video was later removed from YouTube).


I have many issues with this. First and foremost, as a fan of South Park (and a Muslim) I not only watched this episode but thoroughly enjoyed it as well.  Considering that he last few episodes lacked intelligent humour and were overworked with toilet jokes to the point of boredom, I was glad to finally see the return of the trademark satire which made me a South Park fan in the first place. I did not find the appearance of Prophet Muhammad in a moving van, followed by a bear suit offensive in any way. The tongue in cheek reference to the whole Prophet Muhammad cartoon incident was right on as well the allusion to the Muhammad Teddy in Sudan. I understand that from a religious Muslim's perspective putting Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit is disrespectful, but I don't see how this would be offensive. If you are going to be offended, then I would suggest that you don't watch the show.

(Note: Prophet Muhammad is the brown guy in the turban)
(Image Credit: Huffington Post)

Secondly, using the first amendment to defend the right to threaten people because their views offend your religious sensibilities is plain hypocrisy. Either you believe in freedom of expression or you don't. It's mind boggling that these individuals are so quick to hate the system that they are in, but are not above using it to further their own aims (yes Anjem Choudary, I'm talking about you). And then providing justifications for this behaviour is just icing on the cake.This ignorant rage would be understandable if the individuals in charge of were extremists madressah educated ideologues born under corrupt Muslim dictatorships with crippling poverty and no opportunities for a better life. But this is not the case. The individuals propagating violence and threatening freedom of expression are products of a society which guarantees their basic human rights. This is what scares me the most.

Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of modern western democracies.It is essential for healthy pluralistic societies to exist. And while the threats against Matt Stone and Trey Parker by represent an attack on this right, shutting down this website would be equally abhorrent. Let them shoot themselves in the foot. Sooner or later these individuals are bound to screw up and commit an act with legal consequences. Until then, let's just ignore these idiots and continue to enjoy our South Park episodes