Muhammad has been in the South Park opening credits for years. Although the prophet of Islam isn’t exactly front and center, he is there, and it’s really a case of once seen, you will always see him.
Sometimes the warriors of freedom are the most unlikely of people. In a lot of cases, when I think of someone fighting for the rights and privileges that I take for granted, I think of a soldier fighting on the front lines. The next image in line is of a lawyer, arguing the case before a panel of judges. A lot o the time however, the people who resist censorship and political injustice are the very same people who you would least expect. They are the publishers of pornography, the creators of politically incorrect films and books, and writers and comedians. This is where the two creators of South Park enter the picture. Unlikely heroes who are better known for upsetting everyone are the very people who are fighting for our right to publish what we want.
As you may know, it is forbidden in some sects of Islam for followers to depict the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran doesn’t explicitly forbid the depiction of the Prophet, but some sects, such as Sunni Muslims do forbid the depiction. Even in more liberal leaning sects, such as Shia, some Shia scholars, and followers who believe in a stricter interpretation of the Quran. These followers who do have the strict view believe that anyone, even non-Muslims, should be forbidden from any such depictions, regardless of the subject. This of course is at odds with the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which enshrines the principle of free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, among others. A graphic example of such a depiction of the Prophet occurred on September 30, 2005, when a Danish newspaper published a cartoon depicting Muhammad. Strong, fiery and at times violent protests erupted around the world. It seemed like even though the Danish have similar rights to freedom of speech and the press that US citizens have, this depiction had huge ramifications.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the creators of South Park and other crude, but funny movies. In South Park in particular, they are renowned for criticizing, rather harshly any religion that they feel fit. One of the most hardly done by “religions”, if you can call it that, is Scientology. They absolutely rubbish the religion, and a few of their more famous followers. So you could see why Comedy Central, the principle backers, and the channel on which the show is run had reservations for showing Muhammad in the show. The outrage in 2005 was not the kind of attention that they had sought.
However, in 2001, before the world took a turn in a direction that was a little violent, the Prophet Muhammad had already appeared in one episode of South Park. Comedy Central were all too happy for the Prophet to appear alongside Prophets from other religions, and it wasn’t even a bad depiction. It was brief, but certainly pretty respectful, especially when considering who makes the show. But as we know, on September 11, 2001, the world changed.
In 2006 an episode called “Cartoon Wars” aired. Part of the sub-plot was to show an image of Muhammad. Comedy Central feared a backlash, especially as tensions were already high, and forbid Parker and Stone from showing the Prophet. Instead, they showed a black screen saying that “Comedy Central has refused to show the image of Muhammad on their network.” Obviously, the two writers and comedians were not very happy with the outcome, but let it rest for the time being.
In 2010 they once again tried to show Mohammad. This time it was over the course of two episodes celebrating the 200th episode of the show. Once again, much of the sub-plot centers around Muhammad, and this made Comedy Central nervous. The two episode, 200 and 201 make fun of Comedy Centrals refusal to allow images of Muhammad.
But this is the weird part. The 2001 episode of Super Best Friends, which depicts Muhammad still has the image uncensored. It is also shown from time to time in reruns. But Parker and Stone had the last laugh. While the image is prohibited by Comedy Central, the two have placed Muhammad in the opening sequence of South Park in many episodes over the years.
We’d be so hypocritical against our own thoughts, if we said, ‘Okay, well let’s not make fun of them because they might hurt us. Okay, we’ll rip on the Catholics because they won’t hurt us, but we won’t rip on [Muslims] because they might hurt us.
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