The television network Comedy Central has once again this month shown its cowardice and hypocrisy by censoring all images of Mohammed from Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s cartoon “South Park.”
For those with short memories, the “once again” part of that sentence refers to the previous time — back in 2006 — Stone and Parker tried to depict Mohammed on “South Park,” and had the episode censored by network executives afraid of Muslim violence.
Which only goes to show that terrorism works. Because Mohammed had already appeared, with no controversy, on a “South Park” episode called “Super Best Friends” back on on July 4, 2001. Note the exact date carefully. If that episode has been scheduled to appear three months later, it almost certainly would have been canceled or censored too. Tellingly, that original 2001 “Super Best Friends” episode has itself now been removed from Comedy Central’s site and is no longer available for reruns.
|Mohammed, as he appeared in the original 2001 “Super Best Friends” South Park episode.|
The difference between July, 2001 and now is that these days, Muslim extremists threaten to kill anyone who draws or displays an image of Mohammed. Actually, that’s not true: Muslims have for centuries threatened to kill anyone who draws Mohammed; it’s only that now, since 9/11, we in the West are aware of the threats. Before, the warnings and prohibitions were distant bleats which didn’t scare those few artists who even heard them. But with 9/11, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the fatwas against and attempted murders of the Danish cartoonists, and global riots over the mildest of caricatures, the atmosphere has changed: Suddenly, the threats by Muslims are widely publicized and feel quite real indeed.
What mystifies me is the Islamic fundamentalists’ unaccountable obsession with television and newspapers: It is only when Mohammed appears on a TV screen or is printed in a newspaper that the extremists go berserk. But when he appears elsewhere, such as in museums, books, or the Internet — all of which feature innumerable portraits of Mohammed on essentially a permanent basis — there is a general silence. But why? Why does it cause a cultural explosion when a simplistic drawing of Mohammed appears on a TV screen, when anybody can walk into a museum, or open a book, or simply turn on a computer, and see hundreds upon hundreds of Mohammed portraits whenever they want?
I think the answer is simple: Neither the Islamic extremists nor the general public are aware of just how commonplace and numerous Mohammed depictions really are.