Photo from South Park StudiosIn a bleep-filled episode last night, South Park bowed to pressure from Comedy Central and blacked out -- visually and audibly -- any potential negative references to the prophet Muhammad. And I'm guessing a heck of a lot more given the abundance of black bars and bleeps.
Whether the network was reacting to the threatening message on the website, Revolution Muslim, after last week's episode showed Muhammad in a bear suit, or the potential fallout from skewering the religious leader is unclear.
The author (blogger seems a little too benign here) of the websites threats, Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, implied that Matt Stone and Trey Parker would wind up like Theo Van Gogh, the filmmaker brutally murdered after making a film surrounding a Muslim woman's rejection of Muhammad as a spiritual and moral leader.
If you missed the 201st episode, you can catch it online as the censored version from creators Stone and Parker, but it's somewhat different from the censored version released on Comedy Central. Seriously, so many bleeps.
In addition to the jihad-inspiring references to Muhammad, (spoiler alert!) Cartman discovered that his father was also Scott Tenorman's father. Of course Cartman killed his own father, as seen in the episode Scott Tenorman Must Die. Oh, the tragedy.
Of course, the actual tragedy here is the rampant censorship for a show that regularly shows Jesus in degrading positions (and Santa Claus, Barbra Streisand, and Tom Cruise ...). While any references to Muhammad that might be deemed offensive are bleeped or blacked out, the man who made the threats is taking phone interviews with CNN, giving out Parker and Stone's home and work addresses, and talking about his support of Osama bin Laden.
What's wrong with this picture?
I don't want to become a target for Muslim extremists any more than the next guy; but artists, writers, and cartoonists simply can't start bending to the will of terrorists. Albeit, the creators of South Park weren't the ones to have the final say, it was the television network.
If these guys were willing to risk threats to their lives for their art, why not let them?