"On April 14 Comedy Central broadcast the 200th episode of “South Park,” a cartoon that Trey Parker and Matt Stonehave produced for that channel since 1997. In honor of the occasion, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone populated the episode with nearly all the famous people their show has lampooned in its history, including celebrities like Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand, as well as major religious figures, like Moses, Jesus and Buddha.
Cognizant that Islam forbids the depiction of its holiest prophet, Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker showed their “South Park” characters agonizing over how to bring Muhammad to their fictional Colorado town. At first the character said to be Muhammad is confined to a U-Haul trailer, and is heard speaking but is not shown. Later in the episode the character is let out of the trailer, dressed in a bear costume.
The next day the “South Park” episode was criticized by the group Revolution Muslim in a post at its Web site,revolutionmuslim.com. The post, written by a member named Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, said the episode “outright insulted” the prophet, adding: “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.”
Mr. van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker and a critic of religions including Islam, was killed by an Islamic militant in Amsterdam in 2004 after he made a film that discussed the abuse of Muslim women in some Islamic societies." NY Times
I am not a Muslim, but I have been a student of the religion and the civilization influenced by it for many years. I often lecture on these subjects. I lecture from the point of view of a respectful but skeptical outsider. I would expect a Muslim lecturer to take the same approach to speaking of Christianity or any other religion. Prince Hassan of Jordan's excellent book, "Christianity in the Arab World" would be a good example.
Having said that, I, nevertheless, think that "Revolution Muslim's" posting of Talhah al-Amrikee's statement is a thinly disguised death threat intended to intimidate free speech. The sub-text here is that some speech should be freer than other speech and that speech with regard to Islam should not be free at all, but, rather, should be limited by the opinion of Muslims as to what Islam really is and its applicability to all people.
I think "South Park" is sophomoric and vulgar. John Stewart and Colbrt are true political satirists. Stewart's show is gradually divesting itself of some of the gross thematic material and language of the past. I have not heard him cry out "NAMBLA" for a while. Colbert is a formidable adversary for anyone who wants to debate. The only time I have seen him flustered was the occasion when Jane Fonda sashayed to his side of the table, sat in his lap and nibbled on his ear.
In short, "South Park" is a "dog's breakfast," but in a secular, religion neutral society that believes that speech must be free if people are to be free, threats like this should be taken seriously by prosecutors and police. If this kind of thing is tolerated, how long will it be before some zealot stands up in an audience to threaten me for describing Islam as I understand it?
"Crying fire in a crowded theater" is outside the limits of free speech but this is not that. pl