South Park's Matt & Trey receive death threats, RevolutionMuslim quotes Boing Boing

When Matt Stone and Trey Parker spoke to me for a Boing Boing Video interview last week about plans for their 200th episode, which would feature a cartoon version of the prophet Mohammed, I did not anticipate what would follow.

Comedy Central, as the duo predicted, bleeped out all references to the religious figure's name (while leaving in Jesus, Buddha, and the rest of their holy ilk), and censored a closing speech which did not reference the figure at all. But they apparently did so in response to death threats against Matt, Trey, and Comedy Central posted on a site called That site appears to be based in New York City, and is said to be run by a Jewish guy who converted to an extremist form of Islamic fundamentalism. A post on the site said Matt and Trey would likely "end up like" Theo van Gogh, the filmmaker who was murdered for making a film about the abuse of Muslim women.

The site embedded my interview with Matt and Trey in that post, and referenced portions of the interview in making the argument that the two should face death for this episode of South Park. Screengrab here (JPEG). Snip from that post:

Here are the authors boasting of their insults and celebrating their complete disregard for what anyone considers sacred: Are you afraid that you would be bombed, she asks? Perhaps they are not, perhaps they should be, only time will tell.

I am saddened that these two artists have been so utterly abandoned by the network that distributes their work. I am saddened that the interview we published about that controversy was used by buliles to justify threats of violence. This is just nuts. Matt says:

In the 14 years we've been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind.  We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode.  It wasn't some meta-joke on our part.  Comedy Central added the bleeps.  In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear.  It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too.  We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it.



  1. “run by a Jewish guy who converted to an extremist form of Islamic fundamentalism”


    Unbelievable. Why does ComedyCentral bow down to some religious fanatic asshole?

    1. FYI – Revolution Muslim ≠ Revolution Islam. They are two separate sites, Revolution Muslim was never hacked (though it seems to have been DDOS’d or taken down). Revolution Islam is a site making an attempt at trolling Revolution Muslim. Be advised that in general The Huffington Post is a TERRIBLE source for news.

      1. Be advised that in general The Huffington Post is a TERRIBLE source for news.

        Yeah, other news sources never make mistakes like that and are far more accurate.

  2. Actually, considering the sheer volume of crackpots in this world, it’s kind of amazing that they got through 199 episodes without any death-threats.

    It is scary, though. I can’t imagine what it’s like to get up in the morning and know that there are people out there who actively want to see you dead. Don’t know how I’d deal with that.

    1. funny enough, they said they got death threats for the episode that was supposed to reveal who cartmans dad was, but instead showed an entire episode of Terrance and Phillip.

  3. I’m not even a fan of the show, but what Comedy Central has done is simply disgraceful.

    Way to empower radical Islam!

    Kudos to Parker and Stone for their courage.

  4. I think the 3 bleeped speeches were funnier than the trite, moralistic schlock South Park episodes normally end with. I assumed it was a big joke about censorship and laughed all the way through it.

    1. It would have been funny if that had been the intention, but it is just sad. Self-censorship due to intimidation is proving terrorism has worked / continues to work. Thanks to Comedy Central, the joke’s on us.

  5. “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty.” -Thomas Jefferson Corporations are nothing if not timid.

  6. What they should have done was to EXCLUDE any mention of Islam and to EMPHASIZE that there are NO OTHER “relevant” religions. And they should continue to do it this way from this point forward. They should henceforth EMPHASIZE in every instance where religion is a part of the storyline, that there are only Christianity, Buddhism, etc., and that there are NO OTHER relevant religions — and in particular that there is NO religion called Islam that exists — at all.

    That should do it……

    1. That would be a GREAT idea.

      I suggest you write to them with this suggestion. A stroke of genius – I’d laugh myself silly if I saw an episode like that…and then laugh more when the responses came in.

      Seriously, write to them. They should have thought of it first!

  7. If the person in question converted to a form of Islam, he is no longer “a Jewish guy.” He is a Muslim guy.

  8. From an oral-historical report of a prohibition against images of any living thing because they might tempt men toward idolatry (and just when in the fuck has any prohibition reduced temptation?) to threatening to kill people over a depiction that is entirely kind to Mohammed. I almost wish Trey and Matt had done a whole “but not that Mohammed; how do you know which Mohammed we mean?” sort of schtick because it would have addressed the problem directly (either threaten to kill anyone who makes any image of a living thing, or get over your hang-ups). In another way, I’m glad they stuck to their guns again and put the ball squarely in Comedy Central’s court. And kudos to Boing Boing for putting up the video with Mohammed in it.

  9. Am I the only person who feels even the slightest bit ambivalent about all this? I’m mean, Comedy Central sucks ass for censoring it, and those annoying guys who ran that website suck ass for the threats (and how do we even know they are who they say they are, why are we equating these guys with all Muslims or even any other Muslims? How do we know these aren’t just rabble rousers, as this would not be unprecedented), and I do love South Park (even when I disagree with them), but… I don’t know… I guess I just feel there is more to this than just the censorship issue. Maybe comedy central just used the threat as an excuse to censor Matt and Trey’s critique of Comedy Central/viacom? Maybe it would be nice for these guys to turn their biting satire on the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and the various atrocities committed there, the detenion policies in gitmo, the banning of the minarets in Switzerland, the banning/attempted banning of the burqa/veil, western imperialism regarding the mid-east, etc. I mean, the pirate episode was a great example of being able to get inside the situation of the piracy in Somalia and just break apart our misconceptions about it at it’s roots. It was the best episode of that season, bar none… Don’t get me wrong, I think that South Park is great, and the 2 episodes were right on the money – and in many ways it’s not aimed at Muslims or Muhammad at all. But, it just seems to ignore the very real asymmetrical battle going on here. I just don’t buy the clash of civilizations nonsense that everyone keeps buying into and this is just becoming another part of it. I’m going to assume here that they do not buy into it either, really (the bin Laden episode with the 4 kids in Afghanistan who are basically just like the SP kids leads me to believe that…).

    I know this is not going to be a popular point of view, but there it is. I’m just so incredibly frustrated over the whole thing and I just don’t know what to do about it. It feels like we are on a very slippery slope, heading straight down to hell over this shit, ya know…

    1. I’m with you mindysan33,
      Let me know when neo-liberal dogma gets the same treatment on SP. As for this: Successful trolls are successful.

      1. Neon Tooth, are you saying Matt & Trey are liberals and they don’t attack liberalism on their show? I’ve seen many episodes where they’ve attacked liberalism. Also there’s this…
        “South Park co-creator Trey Parker is actually a registered member of the Libertarian Party. Fellow co-creator Matt Stone sums up their views with the comment “I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals.”

    2. I don’t feel ambivalent about it at all. We shouldn’t tolerate, not the least little bit, ANY faith who’s followers feel justified in killing over insults to their faith. Check out the Islam section of this entry for a primer:

      I don’t care what flavor you take your all-powerful invisible friend and his corresponding magic book — in this country your freedom of religion is bounded by secular laws. The priest can’t rape children and then cry “it’s a church matter” any more than fundamental Islamists can issue threats.

      Any literal reading of any of the western religious texts leads to complete idiocy and a return to the dark ages.

      I’m done with moral relativism. It’s better to live in a world of laws based on observable fact and principles of reciprocity and fairness than it is to live in a world based upon the interpretation of something supposedly “divine”.

      God told me I am right. No one can prove otherwise…and thus the madness begins.

  10. I can’t believe Parker and Stone still need the network’s permission to put the show on their web site. You’d think that after all these years of making money for Comedy Central that they’d get a little more respect, not to mention support, from Comedy Central.

    Plus, isn’t it time for us to vote religious extremists of all kinds off the island?

    1. Maybe it’s time Parker and Stone pull their IP from Comedy Central and just air all their episodes from their own website and collect money directly from their own advertisers on said site?

      When does their contract end with Comedy Central?

    1. There IS that, and it’s bullshit.

      The idea tht the show’s message–that we NEED as a country, as a system of thought, to be able to say whatever it is that crosses our mind, and fuck whoever it is who can’t take a joke–is hardly reinforced by its having been censored.

      The other point that the Newsweek article makes–that perhaps Comedy Central made their decision in an effort to bolster ratings–may be more valid, but it changes nothing about the decision’s disgracefulness. It in fact makes it worse: the subtext being, yes, we are willing to sacrifice the principles of our Democracy in exchange for coin.

  11. Anybody see Jon Stewart’s takedown of Revolution Muslim last night? Brought a tear to me eye it did.

  12. Was this really a surprise to anyone? Comedy Central did the exact same thing to “Cartoon Wars Part II” in 2006.

  13. Hmmm…censorship does empower the assholes, but I have to sympathize with Comedy Central, which does have to consider the safety of its workers.

    I wonder, has there ever been an orchestrated effort for web sites to simultaneously run pictures of Muhammad en masse? A safety in numbers kind of thing? Might put an end to this kind of thing once and for all.

  14. Do you people (attention starved “artists” and concerned citizens) ever listen to what you are saying?

    – “We intentionally piss off lunatics and they threatened to kill us. Why are they so mean.”
    – “Terrorists have won if small number of lunatics can make death threats to people who piss them off.”

    It’s one thing to accidentally happen to piss off some group of people and spark discussion about freedom of speech etc., but doing it repeatedly as method to beg for free publicity is just sad.

    1. So you are saying that they brought it on themselves by antagonizing the Muslim Extremists? Are you really saying this? South Park is a comedy show; the point is that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it. There are no Buddhist Extremists sending death threats for the depiction of Buddha snorting a line of coke.

    2. It’s not about pissing people off for fun and profit… (ok, it is, but so what?) The terrorist DO win if an isolated bunch of lunatics can, through threats of violence, modify our behavior to suit them. That’s what terrorism is about. Frightening others into submission. The only recourse for that is to prove (over and over if need be) that their threats have no power over our actions.

  15. “It’s one thing to accidentally happen to piss off some group of people and spark discussion about freedom of speech etc., but doing it repeatedly as method to beg for free publicity is just sad.”

    I you want to kill me for something I’ve said that you don’t agree with, here’s my philosophy:

    Come and get me.

    I’m a proud American. I will not be intimidated into silence. Kinda sad that Viacom is such a crybaby about it, but that’s their right, too, I guess. The pansies.

    1. >> I’m a proud American. I will not be intimidated into silence. Kinda sad that Viacom is such a crybaby about it, but that’s their right, too, I guess. The pansies.

      Nice of you to speak for the secretaries, janitors, and every other worker at Comedy Central. It’s not as simple as one guy yelling “come and get me”.

    2. Come and get me. I’m a proud American. I will not be intimidated into silence.

      A noble sentiment but it means a lot less coming from an anonymous internet commenter than from a famous person who has actual, credible threats against their life. (Unless “Daedalus” is your real name, in which case I take back the “anonymous” part.)

      1. Daedalus is a known flight risk, so there’s little danger of him sticking around to face the consequences. I even heard that he once let his son, his own son, “take the heat” for him…. For shame!

      2. Agreed, when Bush was in office, we got ritual email death threats when myself and udders had unpopular “impeach bush” website(s) up before it was popular to criticize Bush in such a way.

        We found that they were much more scared of us when we would sometimes be able to find out their real names and let them know we knew where they lived and we didn’t appreciate such threats.

        There’s a big difference between getting a physical threat to your online persona and one to your actual person.

        I respect Trey & Matt tremendously for taking this personal risk. Although, I still wonder how serious it is if it’s only coming from a couple of jewish guys “gone bad”.

        I’m still waiting to hear from any actual terrorist groups on this. And haven’t. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t never compare my experience to how they’ve put themselves “out there”. I definitely think they’re courageous for doing do.

  16. It all brings back memories:

    Though the song held them up to ridicule, the colonials adopted [Yankee Doodle] as their own. Countless versions evolved, as many as 190 verses in all. In a display of irony…. when the British surrendered their forces at Yorktown to end the War, their band played “The World Turned Upside Down.” The Americans played “Yankee Doodle.”

    Parody is in our blood and censoring parody is just about the most un-American thing I can think of.

  17. I think you missed the episode where they said that anyone trying to make money on the internet is an idiot.

    1. Sorry, I forgot everything is about money for some people….

      I wasn’t suggesting it as a money move. It’s about control of the content and freedom of expression. Parker and Stone are very well off already and they don’t strike me as the megalomaniacal type when it comes to money so I’m pretty sure they consider themselves financial comfortable already.

      The point is, I think the move would be a step towards more intellectual honesty between themselves and their viewers. It seems like a logical next step if they really do care about intellectual honesty as they seem to profess in the interview.

      I hope they leave Comedy Central and air it themselves online if possible.

  18. When does their contract end with Comedy Central?

    Based on the quality of the shows relative to the first 2 seasons, I’d guess they’ve been trying to get fired for the last 5 years at least.

    And I honestly hope they laugh all the way to the bank.

  19. Okay, the bottomline for me about this as far as I can see it is this.

    It’s not about what’s been sent out. It’s about how you receive it.
    And if shit manages to hurt you, or piss you off, or affect you in any f³cking way, that does not say anything about the shit, it says something about YOU.

    Apparantly, you have a button there, and they’ve just pushed it.

    In a sense, you should be grateful that they did, because they just taught you something about yourself. Something maybe you weren’t that aware of before.

    So saying bad evil shit about the Prophet Mohammed is something that triggers you into a desire to chop off heads.

    Well isn’t that interesting.

    How did they manage to bring you in that kind of state of mind?

    Because why is there a need to defend a conviction with such rigour and zeal when you are supposed to feel secure in its knowledge?

    I am not disputing its truth. You are, by means of trying to defend it.

    What does it matter what anyone says or does or thinks about anything if you are secure with your own shit?

    And so the conclusion must be that you’re not secure with your own shit, or you wouldn’t be so goddamn f³cking anal about it.

    And that means that those Southpark guys were on a justified mission. Doing you a favour, in fact. By showing you your own vonurable parts.

    Bleep that shit out!

  20. It’s Comedy Central’s house and they have to make business decisions, so there is that. We don’t have to like it in order to understand it.

    13% of Muslims in Turkey support the idea of suicide bombing in defense of Islam–so I’m a bit tired of hearing out people who make these threats are somehow out of the mainstream of Islam. I can be just as tolerant as the next guy but I lose that pretty quickly when it comes to death threats–especially those made over a cartoon.

    Re: Neon Tooth comment #23 : you should really watch the show before commenting. Besides the fact that there is no such thing as neo-liberalism, SP has regularly attacked left-wing issues.

    1. There is such a thing as neo-liberalism. It’s like what happens when sell-outs are unable to get past their vestigial guilt. Or more accurately, it’s a right-wing globalist movement that uses some of the rhetoric of post-FDR liberalism to re-articulate classical liberalism. Think Clinton and his “welfare reform”; a kinder gentler machine gun hand.
      It’s a bit out of fashion as a term in public discourse, but it does still exist out there and is very much an active powerful political movement among political and corporate elites.

      1. Neo-liberalism is actually a form of classical liberalism, or libertarianism, and not the same thing at all as Bill Clinton’s Democratic Leadership Committee-style “liberalism.” This is because the word “liberal” is so semantically overloaded as to be almost meaningless (and because, like “neo-progressive,” it has been hijacked by conservative movements to carry their water). Besides, South Park is politically conservative (yes, really; in the sense of neo-con, not Religious Right, obviously).

    2. Roughly the same number of Americans think obama is a secret Muslim (12%, according to Pew)… 13% is hardly “mainstream”, Eric, especially in a place like turkey which sort of has a history of religious oppression. Perhaps it’s what is happening in places like Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention the actions of our allies in the region, many of which are very anti-democratic, more so than Turkey) is what pisses them off, not whatever is on American television.

      And yeah, I agree with ultranaut about neoliberalism. It’s real.

      1. 13% of Turkey is about 9 million people, but I took a closer look at the poll after I cited it here. Here is what I discovered:

        If you look at the question with the typical 5 across spread, the number jumps to around 20% in Turkey–the amount that believe it’s SOMETIMES justifiable to suicide bomb in defense of Islam. The number in Lebanon skyrockets to almost 85%.

        Yes, we’re talking mainstream. Those who take a more liberal approach to their Islam are in the minority I’m afraid.

      2. Dude, Turkey is known for its comparative moderation in matters Islamic. So if it’s 13% there . . . .

        And there might be an 11% whackjob presence in the US that thinks Obama is a Secret Muslim, but I guarantee you that 11% is not so whackjob it thinks he should be murdered.

        It’s two different levels of dangerous.

    3. I have watched the show many, many times. It can be very funny and very great at times. Still, often their own politcal dogma (Libertarianism) shows itself, and predictably doesn’t get the same skewering. Yes *social* conservatives get bashed as do limousine liberals and so on, I’m with them on that, but their brand of conservatism, which is just as easily ridiculed and a good source for comedy as any, gets a free pass.

      “Neo-liberalism” read about it here. It has nothing to do with any “left wing”.

      Anyway, to sum up:

      As a Western atheist I find nothing appealing or challenging in jabbing Muslims with a stick and hoping for a reaction (face it, these two would be sorely dissapointed if they had any less of a response). In the Christian dominated world that South Park exists in, the same Western world that’s currently killing Muslims by the thousand, the Western world where Muslims are a tiny minority and have little power, I find this all a little like kicking a person when they’re down and that does zero for me. No thanks.

      1. their brand of conservatism, which is just as easily ridiculed and a good source for comedy as any, gets a free pass.

        Yeah, I’m still waiting for the South Park episode where libertarians take over and dismantle the government and all the fire departments are privatized and the whole town burns to the ground because many in the township couldn’t afford fire department insurance and/or fees.

        Don’t know if they’ll ever get around to that episode. Hahahaha….

      2. If South Park were only picking on Islam, you might have a valid point. The problem is, they are known to go after pretty much all mainstream religions equally. Islam doesn’t get a special seat at the table just because their particular flavor of mythology says they can kill you for depicting their prophet.

        1. Perhaps I’m missing the genius, biting and well thought out social commentary here. I’m trying to figure out how the sentiment is any different than posting a jpeg of Mohammed with a cock to his mouth on 4chan. Apart from the venue or course. Anyway, for something clever, check out the Chris Ware cover just put up. That’s serving as my unicorn chaser for all this.

          1. I’m trying to figure out how the sentiment is any different than posting a jpeg of Mohammed with a cock to his mouth on 4chan

            You saw that too? I think that was originally made at 420chan by duckspeak. Small world. Then again, I saw the glorious animated one where there’s a happy ending if you know what I mean. Maybe there’s static versions as well out there?

          2. Wait.. any depiction, to you*, is the same as an offensive depiction? You honestly dont see how a non-offensive* depiction of Muhammad is different than showing a picture specifically designed to enrage?

            SP wasn’t talking to the extremists when they tried to show Muhammad, they were talking to us, the people who value our freedom of expression, and pointing out that we have lost a part of it.

            And you think that challenging an assault on freedom of expression, in a non-aggressive way is somehow dumping on Muslims? They showed the one thing that cannot reasonably be shown in the land of the free, that also happens to be an important symbol to Muslims.

            *I’m not talking about Muslim doctrine

  21. OK, so we know that Comedy Central, the South Park folks, etc were threatened by a group headquartered in NYC, right?

    So….isn’t there a law against threatening acts of violence?

  22. I am saddened that these two artists have been so utterly abandoned by the network that distributes their work. I am saddened that the interview we published about that controversy was used by buliles to justify threats of violence.

    Oh, come on. Matt and Trey knew exactly what they were doing when they created that episode. If they hadn’t get some death threats, they might have even been tempted to make some up. If you think any part of this, including the death threats and the network’s reaction, was not calculated in advance, you haven’t been paying attention.

    Two words: free publicity.

  23. >>Nice of you to speak for the secretaries, janitors, and every other worker at Comedy Central. It’s not as simple as one guy yelling “come and get me”.
    So let me get this straight.
    If I express an opinion that pisses off violent extremists, who then threaten to kill people involved in broadcasting my speech, then I’m the problem for having pissed off the extremists and placed others in their line of fire?
    I’m fairly certain the root problem here is that some extremists think violence is the proper way to respond to my speech, not the fact that I said something they found offensive. The self-censorship approach you seem to advocate (albeit in the name of protecting secretaries) is what’s known in polite circles as ‘appeasement,’ and on the internet as ‘begging others to fulfill Godwin’s Law.’

  24. Why does Comedy Central hate our freedom?

    Seriously though, I am unsurprised but disappointed that they cower before theocratic extremists like this. It’s how American business generally operates. It really seems like being a total coward is a prerequisite to become a corporate executive, or maybe it’s total amorality.

    As an aside, what is the big deal about pictorial depictions of Mohamed? Seems like a pretty minor thing to kill someone over. Here is Mohamed sticking his tongue out at these assholes -> :p
    Here is Mohamed and Allah french kissing -> :pd:
    Now I must die.

  25. Yeah, I’m sad that two white guys don’t get to bash on more of them orientals, too. Gee, maybe one day my children will live in a world where two white guys have the right to insult women, the handicapped and every ethnic group equally. I’m sure it’s what MLK wanted.

    Two white guys, oppressed again.

    1. Islam isn’t an ethnic group. It’s a mythological belief system regarding deities and afterlife. To compare that to racism or sexism is just, well, wrong.

      1. Oh sure, it just happens to have a membership of mostly non-white peoples, what a coincidence. Frankly, I’m exhausted with the concern for oppressed rich white guys and their troubles. To make this into some kind of noble, enlightened battle against extremism is, in my mind, just plain goofy.

        1. So you’re saying that Islam has the same status as race? In that attacking Islam is attacking black people? That’s like saying you’re anti-semitic if you criticize Israel.

    2. Rugs are “oriental”.

      Some people are “asian”.

      Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.

      1. The definitions of “Oriental” and “Asian” differ regionally. For example, in the UK, calling a Chinese or Japanese person “Asian” rather than the locally-more-correct “Oriental” might get you the same punch in the mouth that you might get in the US for calling them the locally-incorrect “Oriental”.

        This is an international forum, so you’ll find yourself faced with some linguistic usages you might not understand. Wikipedia and Wiktionary are there if you need any further clarification on this, or any other regionally-varying terminology.

        Thank you for your kind (albeit misguided) attention to this matter.

        1. Dewi,
          I’m not sure I agree with you’re assessment of oriental vs Asian. I regularly hear Asian used in conversation, and am not sure I’ve ever (outside of old tv) heard anyone refer to an Asian person as oriental, in an on-the-level conversation.

          Maybe it’s even more regional than just UK as a whole.

          1. Transatlantic English is a fun, fun topic.

            To help you with “oriental”, here’s the wiki page:

            See the sections “American English” and “British English”.

            Other examples of language that might not translate too well between regions: “Can I bum a fag?” can mean “may I borrow a cigarette?”, or “may I have anal sex with a homosexual man”, or maybe even “can I rub a passing beggar on a piece of firewood?”.

            And one I heard on TV last night: “can I come in your house” said to an American lady by a Londoner (who pronounce “house” as “ahs”)… the date might not end well.

            Wikipedia has a great list of words which mean different things in different English regions:

            (Asian is listed here)

            (Oriental is not listed here, but imho should be)

            Some to beware of on international fora, as they are potentially offensive only on one or t’other side of the pond:
            Anorak, ass, balmy, bender, bird, blow off, bottle, bugger/booger/bogey, bum, chink, cowboy, cracker, crumpet, dirt, dogging, duff, fag, faggot, fanny, French letter, fringe, frog, gangbanger, gas, geezer, graft, hoo-ha, hooker, hooter, loaded, lush, mad, mono, napkin, nappy, natter, nonce, pants, parking, pecker, period, piss, pud, pull, rubber, schoolgirl, shag, skivvy, sod, spook, spunk, stuff, sub, tap, tit, tom, tosser, trick, trim.

        2. The definitions of “Oriental” and “Asian” differ regionally.

          Well, in the US, ‘oriental’ is what people in the UK might call a Prince Phillip word.

  26. Have any real islamic extremists in other countries, etc. threatened South Park or Comedy Central at all? Or has it just been jewish guys in the U.S. who now say they are islamic extremists?

    I’m not trying to troll, it’s a sincere question I’ve been wondering about. Has Al Qaeda screamed, “respect ma authoritah!” yet or just these jewish guys in islamic outfits?

    Just wondering.

      1. Explain all the non-religious Jews or Jews for Jesus then — as they still identify as Jews, don’t they? I’m not saying the guy is a Jew, but others who haven’t been within a mile of a synagogue in years still consider themselves culturally Jewish. Where does Jew as an ethnic identity and Jewish as a religion begin or end? Only when one converts to Islam? Of course, I think ethnic identity, just like other identities formations, is a construct.

        1. Getting OT here, but my feelings are that if your religion is Jewish, then you’re a Jew. If you worship Jesus, Buddha, Allah (as in Allah whose word comes through Mohammad the prophet), Vishnu, or Xenu, you cease being a Jew. And I’m not excluding Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Lubavitch, or any other sect, lapsed or otherwise. And yes, I am one.

          My issue is with the wording of the comment from cowicide I originally replied to. If you want to say “lapsed Jew”, or “former Jew”, or “Jew who decided that his religion was wrong and converted”, that’s one thing. But to say it’s “jewish guys in islamic outfits” is misleading at best.

          1. Jewish Muslim? I don’t know about that… but… actually, I do have a friend who is half arab & half jewish (as he describes himself) and he always jokes that he throws rocks straight up into the air to hit himself. Funny guy.

            Ok, screw it… I’ll just say it. I don’t believe this to be true, but under the high profile circumstances I kind of wonder (a little)…

            Given their background and ludicrous statements, etc… these guys seem more like Israeli Mossad provocateurs than your typical Muslim extremists to me. Like “Borat meets James Bond meets G.G. Allin” type of guys. They called Gawker despicable, Triscuit eating, darwinist f-gg-ts?? Really? Triscuits? Do only heathens eat Triscuits? What about Wheat Thins? Are those kosher.. er [cough], er… I mean, are those a righteous snack?

            Anyway, that’s what I was hinting at all along. Hopefully your confusion is now gone and now your thoughts are replaced with just thinking I’m nuts for pondering that idea.

            That said, before anyone goes off on me, I have very good friends who are jewish and/or part jewish and arabs as well. I don’t throw rocks at anyone except mental lobs at dumbshit conservatives of any faith, creed, race or hidden sexual orientation.

            [cow kisses jacques45 on the forehead and dances sexily out of the room]

            [there’s now an orange spot on jacques45’s forehead from all the Frito Lay Cheeto dust that was on cow’s lips]

          2. Yeah Jacques, I think I do disagree. If you accept that there is a difference between Jewish culture and Jewish religion, I’m not sure you can be so categorical.

            You could certainly be a Muslim Buddist, or a Muslim Scientologist.. (I appreciate the differences in the examples I’m offering, but I hope you can see the similarities too).

          3. I don’t think one could be a muslim buddhist, nor a muslim scientologist.
            One could certainly proclaim himself to be a jewish muslim satanic pagan christian fundaligionalist hindu, or any such mix, but as soon as you veer from the true teachings of one, you’re no longer a true believer and have strayed from the path.
            And if you do ascribe to many dogmas (or even one)you’d just be considered a bit of a nutter frankly.

          4. My point was, that Buddhism is both a religion and a philosophy. So one could identify with the philosophy and retain one’s other beliefs.. Like being Jewish has both religious and cultural sides.

            And I was fairly certain of having heard it said (prominently, I had thought, by Tom Cruise or someone) that Scientology was completely compatible with peoples’ “base” religion. But looking now, all I can see is indications that that is either completely untrue, or just said to new recruits to get them in.. eg:

            Scientology’s claim of religious compatibility to entry-level Scientologists is soon modified by the additional teaching that the various levels of spiritual process which can be reached through Scientology are more advanced than those attainable in other religions.

            ~ from the wikipedia link below.

            However, in Scientology’s tax-exemption claim, they state:

            Although there is no policy or Scriptural mandate expressly requiring Scientologists to renounce other religious beliefs or membership in other churches, as a practical matter Scientologists are expected to and do become fully devoted to Scientology to the exclusion of other faiths. As Scientologists, they are required to look only to Scientology Scriptures for the answers to the fundamental questions of their existence and to seek enlightenment only from Scientology.


            So I don’t know what that adds up to, except a weaker example than I thought I was offering :(

      2. Once again, I’m just wondering if there are any NON-american-jewish-converted-to-radical-islam-extremists who are threatening South Park creators, etc.?

        You know, the usual suspects overseas? Seems like it is ONLY american-jewish-converted-to-radical-islam-extremists who are threatening South Park creators.

        Is that worded better for you?

    1. Why is someone who converts to Islam an “X” wearing a Muslim outfit? Lots of people who are Islamic have converted. Are they always just fakes?

      Are people who have converted to Christianity just non-Christians wearing Christian outfits?

      What does the original religion of the guy have to do with anything?

      1. Lots of people who are Islamic have converted. Are they always just fakes?

        No, but then again they all certainly don’t act like this guy, m’kay?

        I think Anon handled you quite well here.

        Once again. my POINT is that the threat doesn’t seem entirely credible to me at the moment. That would change if Al Qaeda or other entities joined the fray however.

        Please. Wipe that orange Chetto dust off your forehead and relax.

        1. Yup, I get your point now, Cowicide. As you know, it took you a while to explain what you were getting at, and I had already written my reply before I saw your point.

          Anon was wrong, of course, but that’s not your point (right?), so I won’t argue it here.

          There is a danger in saying that converts are really Jews wearing outfits, and I guess that’s what riled me up. Whether you meant to or not, you brought up a huge history of persecution and ill-feeling centered somewhere around “once a Jew always a Jew,” and the idea that if a convert behaves badly, it’s the Jew in him coming out.

          I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m telling you why I reacted.

          By the way, you’re right that I think you’re nuts for pondering your theory. But the nuts are sometimes right, so I don’t mind having them around.

          1. “once a Jew always a Jew,”

            Um, who the heck are you quoting there? I never said anything remotely like that. Did you calm down and wipe that Cheeto dust off your forehead yet?

  27. South Park walks so-called ‘neo-liberal dogma’ right into the same muck as everybody else! I love these guys. They have made a complete mockery of my own experience from several separate and very detailed angles. I have come to believe that the truth cannot even be suggested by any other means than mockery when we hold court with no facts.

    Catholics appear to be better than Muslims because they showed temperance at the war-worthy insults that were nailed to their door in the last two weeks. If I am forced to accept this double-standard with respect to Islam, I will be forced in kind to be more partisan when weighing the worth of religions. This is the stuff of the struggles to come, and the veil of the East is heavier far than the beeps which chafe me in my own land.

    Thank you radical Islam for helping me to resolve a question. Enemies of truth are the infidels now, and mockery is only vessel that can hold it. We will punish you to the ends of your petty dogma with laughter, as we do with our own errant churches! And when at last we all forgive each other, the strident and the temperate will all share a potluck together and it will have the most interesting dishes the world has yet been blessed with.

    Peace is and Environmental concern as much as anything else. We really burn things up fast when we fight. I don’t care for a lot of you other humans, truth be told, but popping each other’s self-importance bubbles, mine included, really brings you all a lot closer. And since I’m stuck with all you beep inserting, bomb-chucking caricatures of common sense(all sides of course) I will happily make fun of you for as long as I may!

    One love!

  28. I understand if that extremist person doesn’t get the humor and the point of the show ( it wasn’t Muhammad after all in the bear suit ! ).

    What I don’t get is why they are lukewarm cowards who warned they could wind up like Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was killed by a Muslim extremist.

    It’s sad that these people could have just voice their disagreement over the content, instead if hiding behind insinuations of violence.

    Face it, you are hiding behind “insinuating” but you are encouraging violence and that should be approached from a judicial stand point. Since that comment did have a repercussion and it wasn’t in the name of the first amendment. It was in the name of your retrograde views towards other people’s point view.

  29. Hey, Comedy Central’s assets were threatened. They moved to preserve them. They’re just practicing responsible capitalist behavior. Right?

  30. Show you support for South Park and grab a pic of SP’s Muhammad from the internet and make it your profile pic on Facebook. The Million Muhammad March.

  31. What is with people?

    Here’s a bit of folk wisdom:
    “Never poke your stick into a hornet’s nest.”

    Question for the class: how does this adage apply to this situation?

    AS to the “free to say anything I want whenever I want without fear of consequence” school of public speaking: without the laws against slander and libel, there would be a whole lot more violence arising from so-called “free” speech.
    As I recall, dueling was a time-honored American way of settling questions of slander and dishonor suffered through the speech of others: without any need for governments or courts of law.

    1. “Never poke your stick into a hornet’s nest.”

      Let’s face it. There’s a fucking hornet’s nest in the room.
      Several people have already been stung.
      If only one or two people poke the nest, there’s gonna be some more stingings.
      If we all get out our sticks and give it a good thrashing there may be one or two more stung, but we’ll finally be rid of it.
      Otherwise what’re you going to do? Coe-exist peacefully with a bunch of angry hornets?
      That’s never going to work.

  32. Am I the only person who feels even the slightest bit ambivalent about all this?

    If by ambivalent, you mean questioning the knee-jerk reactions of fanboys, then no, you’re not alone. In the case of some of the Muhammed cartoon uproars, the cartoons were really racist, jingoistic garbage. And not funny. South Park, on the other hand, is very even-handed in their distribution of scorn, generally uses humor to foment a deeper discussion of the issues. And is high-larious.

    13% of Turkey…

    Dude, this post really isn’t about Turkey.

  33. if someone recored the episode the bleep parts could be fixed with a bit of editing and add the missing parts…

    This would be a nice way to send a message to comedy central and those maniacs…

  34. Aright, now I want you to go back to that period when you had a Moslem guest blogger and there was that great kerffufel over veiling. And you made great point of chastising us about how uncool and intolerant boingboing readers were being.

    It’s not like we were making s**t up. This was just so predictable. I just hope that Stone & Parker survive having been noticed by Islam.

    1. Yeah, that’s what we really need. A written policy on how to talk about Muslims. Because they’re all exactly alike. Or maybe there’s really only one Muslim and he makes a lot of costume changes.

  35. I think there are better ways to stand up for freedom of speech than to paint a target on yourself and endanger all the people you work with.

  36. Well, I generally like South Park, but I honestly thought the bleeps were intentional at some points, like the 3 series of speeches at the end of the episode. It just made the episode that much more ridiculous and funnier when one of the boys tilts his head and says “yeah…” after the speeches end like something profound was said.

    I’m not sure knowing the bleeps weren’t intentional diminishes that for me, since it’s funny (and a bit sad) for other reasons now.

  37. If you’re a registered IMDb user, you can vote in today’s poll:

    This week Comedy Central censored an episode of “South Park”, subsequently pulling it from the air and the Web, after receiving veiled threats from a group called Revolution Muslim. What do you think of the channel’s decision?

  38. I wish countries today were run by people like those that founded USA.

    Any of you who have read the words (and about the actions) of the founders of USA and some of your old timey presidents know that they would not stand for this sort of fear mongering censorship society.

    Three quotes for fun:

    A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
    Thomas Jefferson

    The way to silence religious disputes is to take no notice of them.
    Thomas Jefferson

    Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
    Thomas Jefferson

  39. I’d like to speak up for the Hymenopterans invoked multiple times in this thread.

    Do not feel compelled to destroy a hornet nest when you see it.

    Be advised that harassment of said hornets or their nests, with or without a stick, is inadvisable.

    My clients would like to inform you that stinging is a risky business and that the production of venom is costly. They would prefer to be allowed to go about their lifecycles without interference from humans. If you’d just leave the nest alone, things would go more easily. Also please don’t be so careless to grab the soda can where we are innocently enjoying a corn syrup binge and shove it in your mouth. It is terrifying!

    They would further like to inform you that, as stings are modified ovipositors, the only hornets, wasps, bees or ants that can sting you are females and that they resent being used as a metaphor for sociopathic homicidal patriarchal fundamentalist religious fuckwads.

    On behalf of arthropods everywhere, thank you.

  40. Lets dispose of that claim that any portrayal of Mohammed is sacrilege. There are thousands of depictions of Mohammed throughout history that haven’t caused any rioting, including a sculpture in the north frieze of the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC. I direct your attention to The Mohammed Image Archive, including many Islamic paintings and miniatures showing the mug of Mohammed in all its bearded glory.

  41. Look, there is 1,5 billion Muslims who simply don’t care about south park. Unfortunately there is a little group of powerful extremist, who will use this episode for propaganda purposes. No Muslims in the third world will get the points made in this episode. The only thing they will pick up, is that their prophet is getting mocked.

    If the creators are so obsessed, with being able to say anything at any time, without pissing of some locos. Then why don’t they mock Martin Luther King?? I guess because that wouldn’t sit to well with allot of people. People would totally miss the point, in their fury.

  42. Thank God there are still people out there that refuse to commit to a “victim” culture. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are clever, potty-mouthed cartoonists, but as people, they’re fighting terrorism and oppression like true heros. Laugh if you want at the concept, but it doesn’t take a grand and violent resistance to be a hero for the cause of free thought and basic human principle. As a servicemember dedicating my life to do what I can to protect the free world and the very idea of life free from any form of tyrannical control (the most relevant here being seizure of one’s personal freedoms by fear of violence), I’m overjoyed to see US Citizens standing up for themselves and their ideals like any soldier would be expected to do. Matt and Trey refused to sell America to ease their threat like so many others do. When I do my military service, I do it for that America. Thank you Matt and Trey for continuing to give me something worth fighting for (and plenty to laugh about!)

    1. As a servicemember dedicating my life to do what I can to protect the free world and the very idea of life free from any form of tyrannical control (the most relevant here being seizure of one’s personal freedoms by fear of violence), I’m overjoyed to see US Citizens standing up for themselves and their ideals like any soldier would be expected to do.

      Good. Please come back to the US and bomb the FCC, because they seem to be the source of much of the problem. I personally feel tyrannized by the absence of prime time, network gay porn. I will accept cable, but only if it’s really hardcore. Anything less means that we’re living in a fascist dictatorship.

      Thank you for your stand against tyranny. Please apply it in an even-handed fashion or I might think that it’s just xenophobia wearing a George Washington mask.

  43. I’m sure that episode 201 was censored by Trey and Matt and not comedy central. The timing was spot-on for all the bleeps and what would Tom Cruise have become had Mohamed not been censored? The whole “comedy central censored us!” is a joke. That episode gets a solid percentage of it’s humor out of the censorship, and it would not have been nearly as funny at the end if Stan and Jesus had actually made speeches.

    I’m impressed. It’s not often a show can make fun of censors, censorship and also have a laugh at people who get so outraged over it (which, I’ll admit is a group I’m a member of)

  44. It’s times like this that I remember the two-part “Who is Cartman’s father” thing. You know, the one where they had the cliffhanger at the end of the first part and then the second part wasn’t the conclusion but instead was a half-hour “Terrance and Philip” show? Best part of that was how badly the fans of this “edgy” little show lost their shit completely when it was essentially them being mocked. Lost their shit so badly in fact that they pretty much forced the air date for the real conclusion forward. They couldn’t even stand tall against their own fanbase, but we’re supposed to believe that now they’re courageously putting their lives on the line for free speech and against Islamic fundamentalism. Sure, just like those wanna-be Blackwater/Xe fanboys here in the US waddling around at the range wearing their “Infidel” t-shirts.

    They’re not worried about a fatwah being issued against them. They’re worried about keeping up the pretense of being some brave defenders of free speech because they, in their boldness, mock the powerful and the powerless alike. They’re worried about making money for Matt and Trey and they’re doing it by tapping into the kind of vicious idiocy that spawns rape jokes and encourages people to continue to use “gay” as a pejorative. And now it continues with this whole “See, it’s true! Them scary Muslims is threatenin’ Matt an Trey” bit, the undeniable proof of which is apparently some website for a group of less than a dozen people. Scary.

    Oh and good job guys, let’s give the bigots in this country more “proof” to justify their vile attitude towards ALL Muslims, I’m sure they didn’t have enough all ready. And yes, those same bigots have all ready latched on to this “controversy” as yet more evidence of why we need to just wipe out all Muslims everywhere and be done with it. America, Fuck Yeah! No other country in the world can do such a train wreck of privileged stupidity half as well.

  45. Wow, a lot of ignorance in this thread! Judaism is an ethnicity as well as a religion. If you are born Jewish, you are always Jewish, no matter what you worship.

    If you aren’t born Jewish, and you convert to the Jewish faith, then you can also claim to be Jewish.

    1. Some people who I disagree with claim that someone born Jewish is always Jewish. But if a person doesn’t self-identify as Jewish, and instead identifies himself as Muslim, then he’s not Jewish in my book.

      It’s true that Judaism is a culture and a religion.

      But it sounds as though you’re saying: if non-Jewish woman converts to Judaism, then has a kid who later converts to Islam, that kid is ALWAYS Jewish. Why? Because he was BORN Jewish. That may work for the fanatics, but it doesn’t work for me.

      A person who converts to Islam is joining in neither the culture nor the religion, and there’s no point in calling him Jewish.

        1. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be agreeing with or not. Are you expecting me to read that article?

  46. If the censorship were deliberate, it should have involved a message saying: “The following minute was deleted because it contained false allegations of the absence of freedom of speech in Islam.”

  47. ok- longtime bb’er, first time posting. did anyone else hear that these blognuts also posted an address to a home reputedly co-owned by trey and matt? people need to take a deep breath and realize just how batsh*t crazy this stuff is. it’s HUMOR. if you don’t like it, turn it off or try to open a reasonable dialogue with those you disagree with. don’t threaten their lives or families or livelihoods. free, open society where we can exchange different points of view without (too much) government suppression or threat of physical violence might seem like a utopian dream to many, but i’d like to think that it’s what america can still represent to the world even as we f**k up everything else about this little planet that WE ALL SHARE.
    to conclude, a hypothetical scene:

    TOWELIE: you’re a towel.

    FUNDAMENTALIST ZEALOT: no, i’m far more important and powerful, protecting my own narrow worldview and fragile ideology by lashing out at anything that threatens me. i should be feared and respected without any dissent. YOU’RE a towel.

    (end scene)

    -i have no idea what’s going on right now…

  48. Joseph Cohen, currently going by ‘Yousef al-Khattab’, is indeed Jewish, both ethnically and according to Judaism. He has a history of zealous and irrational religious fervour. He went from crazy Hasid to crazy settler to crazy Palestinian Muslim to crazy American Muslim cab-driver. He’s even argued with Richard Dawkins. Give him another decade, and he’ll become a Catholic, Buddhist, or whatever else he’s now “certain” of. Speaking as a Jew, I hope he never comes back to Judaism. We do not need any more wackos influencing others, that’s for sure. Comedy Central should not be reinforcing his self-righteous delusions; it should be helping destroy them (and him).

  49. Though I’m reluctant to wade into these troubled waters, I feel a need to point out one thing re whether this guy is a Jew or a Muslim: Part of the problem seems to stem from the fact that the terms “Jew” and “Jewish” can refer either to a religion or to an ethnicity. If I’m not mistaken, if your mother is (ethnically) a Jew then you are considered to be a Jew, ethnically speaking, regardless if whether you practice the Jewish religion or not. Thus, you can have secular, non-believing Jews (like, for example Jon Stewart), who still self-identify as Jewish in spite of not subscribing to or practicing the religion.

    Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, there was no real distinction between nationality/ethnicity and religion. Each “nation” of people had its own national religion. If you abandoned the religion of your nation in order to “worship foreign gods” you were seen as a traitor to your people. But in more modern times, religion has largely been separated from nationality in the West (though perhaps somewhat less so in the East). That’s largely because of the influence of Christianity. Christianity began as just a sect of Judaism; and the earliest Christians were all ethnic Jews. But Christianity began to seek converts among non-Jews. And it was this, more than anything else, that caused Christianity to split away from Judaism to become a distinct religion of its own, totally separate from (and often hostile to) Judaism.

    In its early days, Christianity spread mainly by attracting converts from other faiths. So, unlike most other religions of its day, Christianity was not a national religion but was a “universal” religion that sought to convert everyone, regardless of their ethnicity. (BTW, the word “catholic” literally means “universal”.) The spread of Christianity is what really broke the link between religion and nationality/ethnicity in the West. But that link remained strong among the Jews (and was actually strengthened by Christian anti-Semitism, which forced Jews to live in Ghettos, wear distinctive clothing, and socialize only with their “own kind” rather than being fully integrated into the larger society).

    Islam, like Christianity, is also a universal religion that seeks converts from all nationalities. One of the biggest mistakes that Westerners often make is to equate Arabs (or Middle Easterners and South Asians in general) with Muslims, and vice versa. That would be just as daft as assuming that all Europeans and Americans are Christians and all Christians are Europeans or Americans. Islam and Christianity are both “universal” religions that welcome converts from all nationalities. Judaism, on the other hand, is an old-style national religion — it’s the national religion of the Hebrew people — and therefore it doesn’t send missionaries around the world trying to convert people in the same way that Christianity and Islam do. Many Christians would agree with the notion that God wants everyone to become a Christian. Many Muslims would agree with the notion that God wants everyone to become a Muslim. But Jews would find it absurd for anyone to claim that God wants everyone to become a Jew.

    For us in the modern Western world, which has been shaped largely by Christianity, religion and nationality/ethnicity naturally seem like two completely separate and distinct things. But that was not always the case, and it’s still not the case everywhere in the world today. It’s certainly not the case for Jews, where the line between ethnicity and religion can be quite fuzzy. So, yes, a Jew can convert to Islam and still be (ethnically) a Jew, while also being (religiously) a Muslim. It’s no more absurd than someone (like Jon Stewart) being a “secular Jew” — i.e. an ethnic Jew who doesn’t practice any religion.

    1. I agree that it’s fuzzy, which is why I disagree with the other stuff you said.

      I don’t think that someone born of a Jewish mother is “technically” Jewish just because certain (not all) rabbis say it’s so. If my mother is Jewish, but I was raised Catholic and converted to Islam, I don’t care at all what those rabbis say about whether I’m Jewish. I consider it nonsense to say that I’m Jewish.

      And considering that Judaism DOES allow converts, it’s especially silly, since my mother may have been born of a Hindu/Buddhist couple. Where’s the ethnicity?

      By the same token, if my mother wasn’t Jewish, but my dad was, and I was raised in a Jewish house, practice the faith, and consider myself Jewish, I don’t care what certain rabbis say about my NOT being Jewish.

      There’s no great authority of Judaism that decides these things, so there’s a lot of room for argument and not much room for sweeping statements.

      1. But that’s the thing about identity labels of any kind: They’re never purely objective; nor are they ever purely subjective. They’re “intersubjective”. In other words, they only work to the extent that we agree about what they mean.

        Each of us has some flexibility in choosing which labels we want to apply to ourselves; but there are limits to that flexibility. For example, I could choose to call myself a 98-year-old Chinese woman; but, given the fact that I physically appear to be a middle-aged white male, and that I don’t speak Chinese, and have never been to China, I can’t really expect other people to think of me as a 98-year-old Chinese woman, no matter how much I insist on being thought of that way. But if I chose to call myself a “Christian”, I might have some justification (I was raised in that particular faith tradition; and I still find a lot of value in its ethical teachings, even though I’m not a fan of “organized religion”). But there are many self-labeled “Christians” who would refuse to apply that label to me, because I don’t measure up to their criteria of what it means to be a Christian. If I chose to call myself a “Liberal” (which I do), most people would take my word for it (though I have gotten into more than a few arguments over the meaning of the word — usually with self-labeled “conservatives”). I could (and do) call myself a “panentheist”, a “Pragmatist”, and a “Stoic”; and I usually don’t get many arguments — though I think that’s mainly because most people either don’t know what these things are, or don’t care. But I can’t really insist that other people use these labels when referring to me. I could (and do) choose to call myself an “American”, and most people are willing to accept that because I live in the United States, was born here, speak American English, and have legal identification proving that I am an American. But the President of the United States lives here, was born here, speaks American English, and has legal identification proving that he’s an American; yet apparently about 1 in 5 Americans refuses to acknowledge him as an American.

        We can choose what labels we want to apply to ourselves; but we can’t force others to use them. We can say we don’t like a particular label; but we can’t prevent someone from applying it to us. Personal identity labels work by consensus; and that’s the only way they can work. I can’t prove to everyone’s satisfaction that I am a Liberal any more than the president can prove to the satisfaction of the “birthers” that he’s an American. If someone of Jewish ancestry doesn’t want to think of himself as a Jew, that’s fine. But he can’t prevent others from thinking of him that way. By all means, choose your own labels rather than simply accepting the labels that others impose on you. But don’t expect others to use the labels you have chosen unless they fit within the prevailing intersubjective consensus about what those labels mean and who is entitled to wear them.

        1. That was a really long reply, but I just skimmed until where you said something about Judaism. I’m not trying to get everyone to agree with my label.

          Stating that anyone with a Jewish mother is Jewish, no matter what, ignores what the majority of Jews would feel on the matter in favor of the label that some fanatical Jewish rabbis would use.

          Your best example is the one about Obama. People who don’t recognize him as American are wrong, but sure, we can’t force them to be right. But do you want to argue that they ARE right? That’s kind of the side you’re picking in this discussion on Judaism when you say that technically the guy is Jewish.

          For me, the first thing to do is accept the self-identification unless there’s a good reason not to. Some nutty fanatics think that having a Jewish mother makes you a Jew, regardless of your religion, culture, or even genetic heritage (if your mom, or her mom, or her mom converted). I don’t think they’re right. You seem to. “Technically.”

          “Technically” doesn’t mean squat. Judaism is built on argument and discussion. The Talmud itself has disagreeing points, and even fairly religious Jews might say that the guy is always welcome back to Judaism, but not that he’s a Jew.

          1. No, I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean to suggest that the “birthers” get to decide whether or not Obama is a real American. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was suggesting quite the opposite. My point was simply that you only get to choose how you label yourself, not how other people label you. They’re going to label you according to their understanding of how the world works, not yours. You can try to persuade them that your way of looking at the world is better than theirs, of course. But they are under no obligation to accept your worldview, even when they are labeling you.

          2. Sapere, I can see that you’re a thoughtful person, and I agree with your main point about Jews being a culture beyond mere religion.

            I’m trying to say that the label that most Jews would accept for this guy is: Islamic. Jewish descent. You can believe that or not.

            As I said, there’s no “technically.” It’s a matter of how most Jews would label the guy.

            Just think about a line of mothers, all having daughters, all raising their kids as… Christian, let’s say. 500 years ago, one of them was Jewish. You see what I’m getting at? Who would say that these people are Jews? The implications are a little scary, and that’s my point.

          3. Okay, first of all, I know nothing about this particular guy, what his background is, what his family tree looks like, or how he chooses to label himself (e.g. whether he self-identifies as being of Jewish ethnicity or not). According to some of the previous commenters, this guy was a practicing Jew — apparently pretty devout — before he converted to Islam. So, assuming that what these commenters said is correct, this doesn’t appear to be a case of someone who just happened to have a Jewish mother (or a mother who converted to Judaism) but never really considered himself a Jew.

            But I’m basing that conclusion entirely on what some of the previous commenters have said about this guy’s background. I have no independent knowledge of his situation. Nor do I really care about this guy’s individual situation. The only reason I chimed in on this discussion at all was because some of the previous commenters (not sure if it was you or someone else) seemed to be saying that if a Jew converts to Islam he is no longer a Jew, much in the same way that if a Christian coverts to Islam he is no longer a Christian. But that’s utter nonsense, since the label “Jew” refers to both an ethnicity and a religion, whereas the labels “Christian” and “Muslim” refer only to religions, not ethnicities. If a Jew converts to Islam he can still be considered ethnically Jewish, even though he is no longer an adherent of Judaism.

            Now, whether it’s right to label this particular guy an ethnic Jew I can’t say, since I know nothing of his situation beyond what has been written here. But, unless there is some evidence to suggest that this guy’s Jewish ethnicity ought to be questioned on some grounds other than his conversion to Islam (e.g. his parents or grandparents were converts to Judaism rather than ethnic Jews, he never considered himself to be a Jew, he was never accepted by the Jewish community as a Jew, etc.), then I can’t reject the claim that he is, ethnically speaking, still a Jew. You can’t simply change your ethnicity by means of a religious conversion. Religion is mutable. Ethnicity, not so much.

    2. No, I don’t think I agree with that assessment. National identity is a newish thing in history. Read Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities on nationalism in SE Asian colonies, Mark Mazower among others on the Balkans, A short History of the Balkans, (in general good scholarship on the Balkans, not bound up with national politics, tends to illuminate some of the issues of the modern period) and there is the book about making peasants into Frenchmen. There seems to be little recognition on your part that constituting national communities was often violent and it eliminated many alternative identity formations that were just as valid, including some religious ambiguity. The ideal in Europe is an ethnically pure state (even if this is no longer explicitly stated, but can be implied by things like the EU’s policies in places like Kosova, where what they are doing is actually aiding in the cause of ethnic cleansing of the place, by enforcing the Kosovar Serbian sense of distinctiveness in the face of the Albanian majority). And it’s Europeans who tie religion to ethnicity as well, historically speaking. Sure, it’s often today put into terms of secularism, but secularism is like it or not, a European notion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m for a secular society here, because that is part of our cultural heritage now, but I also like diversity in the world, and religion does not always mean backwardness and intolerance. I can happily live along side those who are religious as long as I get the same respect I give them, as this happens everyday here. I also have no need to see all states like the US.

      Now, this might be how you feel about your particular ethnic identiy and national status, I don’t know. I do know that the “ancient and forever” argument is incredibly hard to make historically. Assuming that religion is the same over time ignores historical context, frankly. If there is a question why there is a very strong distinctive Jewish Identity, it probably has more to do with the ghettoization of Jews in Europe for so very long, which gave rise to a distinctive culture. The Jews that had remained in the Mid East were more likely to be assimilated (and not necessarily in a bad, violent way either – certainly many converted to other religions out of conviction, etc). Though, post-15th century, when many Jews and Muslims fled spain, a distinctive Jewish culture not only survived but thrived under the Ottomans. Disparate Religious groups did quite well under the Sultanate, and had a good deal of power of over their individual groups, as long as the taxes came in on time.

      Overall, by biggest problem with some comments here has been certain group assumptions about all the groups in question. That all Jews identify the same way, that all Christians are the same, and most of all that all Muslims are equally offended by the SP episode and are equally pissed and supportive of violence. You just can’t generalize about a billion people. So, why not condemn the individuals who promised violence instead of assuming a “clash of civilizations”? Why not try to understand the diversity of Islamic culture rather than assume that they “hate us for our freedoms” and the modernity and Islam are mutally exclusive?

      1. Perhaps I chose my words poorly. By “nationality” I was not referring to the modern notion of a “nation” (as in the basis of the “nation-state”), but rather to a self-identified “people” (if you prefer, a “tribe”, an “ethnos”). And, in ancient times, before the rise of the great empires and the modern nation-states, religion was tribal. You are certainly correct to point out that our modern notion of nationality is a comparatively recent construction. But the notion of people having an “ethnos” is quite ancient. (When the Greek word “ethnos” appears in the New Testament is usually translated into English as “nation”; so my use of the word “nationality” was justified; though I see how it might have been easily misconstrued.)

        The modern nation-state is quite unique; but there have always been distinct “tribes” whose members self-identify as a single “people”. They usually share a common heritage, culture, language, and religion, and they also usually share a lot of DNA, since they tend to marry their (distant) relatives rather than marrying outside the “tribe”. Religion has always been closely linked to ethnos. Yet, in the modern Western world, this linkage has become weakened. There are many reasons for this; but chief among them has to be the fact that the dominant religion in the West — Christianity — was never really a tribal religion. It may have started out as a Jewish sect; but it quickly became a separate religion that sought converts among all “the nations”. I’m not suggesting that Christianity can never become a feature of ethnic or national identity. Clearly it can. You mentioned the case of ethnic conflict in the Balkans; but there’s also the rise of Christian nationalism in the United States (i.e. the right-wing notion that America is a “Christian nation”). My point was not that tribes and nations can’t embrace Christianity as one of their defining characteristics. Rather, my point was that Christianity can’t limit itself to any one particular tribe or nation — it is a “universal” religion that seeks to convert the world (in the same way that Islam does).

        Judaism is different because, while it is willing to accept converts, the religion does not define itself by the mission of converting the world. It is content to remain the “national” religion of the Hebrew people. The point I was trying to make is that many people from a Christian background seem to have trouble grasping the notion that the word “Jew” can refer to a member of a particular ethnic group as well as to an adherent of a particular religion. Calling someone a “Jew” does not necessarily imply that he or she is an active practitioner of the Jewish faith. So, for example, there is such a thing as a “non-believing Jew” whereas there is no such thing as a “non-believing Christian” or a “non-believing Muslim”. That’s because belief is what defines someone as a Christian or a Muslim; but it’s not necessarily what defines someone as a Jew. That’s the only point I was trying to make. Perhaps I made it a bit awkwardly, and caused some unnecessary confusion. If so, I apologize.

        1. Glad we can agree about nationality and the modern nation-state!

          But, I am curious — what evidence do you base your notions of how people thousands of years ago thought about their identity and group practices? Just the translations into English of writings of the Greeks and the bible and the Talmud? Other sources? I’m not saying that there was not group identification of some sort built around the Jewish religion — of course there was — but I do think that group identity was amorphous and changed over time due to circumstances. It’s kind of hard to talk for an entire self-identified group now, so how can you propose we do that for a collective group thousands of years ago when the records, even for a group of people who are sort of known for a culture of discussion, writing, and engagement like the Jewish people, is probably spotty at best? Plus, all we do have to go on, really, are elite writings, and that is going to be slanted and give us an incomplete picture of how the majority of the group saw themselves (plus interpretations of people with an agenda distorts the picture). I still think, even with your caveat, you are still viewing things through the modern national identity and the “ancient and forever” argument. Maybe I’m wrong on that? This also ignores how Judaism changed due to various circumstances, including the diaspora. Modern Jewish identity is indeed just that – modern. That is not to say that it’s wrong or not inherently Jewish. But we have to recognize that nothing comes to us from the past unchanged. Humans do not live in some sort of vacuum where the reality of the culture around them leaves them untouched and able to transmit some purity of culture. Judaism as a religion and culture was changed by its interactions with non-Jewish people, mostly in Europe. There is nothing wrong with that (well, there is plenty wrong with the treatment of the Jews in Europe for most of the past thousand years, of course!). Nor should it negate the religious connection one feels with those who called themselves Jews/Israelites. I just think that one should not assume the purity of the religion in terms of a reconstructed past… Jews assuming they are practicing some pure Judaism from the time of Moses or David are just as wrong as Muslims who think they can practice Islam in the same way as the first Muslims. Christianity and Islam were affected in the same way.

          I’m also not crazy about the use of tribes, given its modern colonial veneer.

          I guess my point is that identity is and always has been contextual and complicated and it’s hard to make broad generalizations about any group, especially as one as large and complex as any religious community… Nor should we ignore modern political uses of ancient history to support claims of nationalist, whoever they might be.

  50. Here’s my proposal for the next SP episode. A species of bonobo-super-Humans, up until now being invisible to us because, frankly, we were too insignificant for them to care, decided to invade us because we were harboring WMDs (witticism of mass delusions). So, they invade us, liberate us, and mock us for being so parochial. One pair of Bonobians create a mindfuck satire. Using their advanced technology, they beam their program directly into our brains, which depicts us behaving like them. Because their tech uses our memory, the actors in this mindfuck are the members of our own family. Jihad anyone?

  51. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” they say. (They even say that here in the U.S.; which is kinda weird when you think about it.) I wasn’t planning on commenting on this particular thread because it is such a complex and controversial topic that is too easily reduced to outraged shouts of righteous indignation (on both sides). But, since I’ve already been enticed into posting comments relating to tangential aspects of the discussion, I might as well go ahead and post my views on the main topic.

    I believe in freedom. I believe in freedom of conscience. I believe in freedom of religion. I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of artistic expression, freedom of enquiry. I believe that in a free society you ought to have a right to think, and feel, and believe, and even preach anything you want, no matter how radical, or offensive, or extreme, or delusional. What you DON’T have a right to do is to deprive others of their equal right to do the same. What you DON’T have a right to do is to silence those who express opinions you don’t like. What you DON’T have a right to do is to use violence against people whose beliefs and values conflict with your own. Or to threaten violence against them. Or to encourage others to use violence against them. Or to preach that violence against them is justified. Or to imply that violence ought to be done, and then facilitate it by providing information that would aid and abet those who might be willing to commit acts of violence.

    I don’t care what your religion is. I don’t care what your political views are. I don’t care what thoughts you harbor in the deepest recesses of your soul, whether good or evil, compassionate or hateful, sane or delusional. As far as I’m concerned, this is an open society, so you are welcome. Feel free to live here, and to enjoy all of the freedoms and all of the benefits that our society has to offer. Feel free to speak your mind. Feel free to express your opinions in writing. Blog to your heart’s content. Feel free to put on a silly costume and march on the nation’s capital holding up a crude handwritten sign, with a misspelled message comparing democratically elected public servants to totalitarian dictators. Feel free to make offensive cartoons. Feel free to condemn those cartoons. Feel free to exercise the freedoms that patriots of a bygone age fought so hard to secure on your behalf. The rest of us may not like what you have to say; but you still have a right to say it. We may not agree with the message; but we will not kill the messenger. You may not be able to persuade us to take your side; but you are free to try your best. We may laugh at you. We may yell at you. We may curse you and call you names. And you may do the same to us. But that’s what freedom is all about. Embrace the freedom that our society grants you, and use it for whatever purpose you see fit — for good or for ill. Say something hateful. Say something stupid. Say something shocking and offensive. Say anything you want. We may cover our ears; but we will not cover your mouth. Speak your mind. Exercise your freedom.

    BUT, know this: There is a line. And this line must not be crossed. If you cross it, you are no longer welcome in an open society, and all the freedoms you enjoy are forfeit. It’s a clear line. It’s a fixed line. It’s not fuzzy and hard to interpret. It’s not arbitrary, or movable at anyone’s personal whim. It’s the same line for everyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what they stand for. It’s a line reasonably drawn, carefully positioned so as to allow the greatest level of freedom for everyone, shared equally, without discrimination. It is a line that is easy to avoid, and hard to cross unless you intend to do so. And the line that you must not cross is simply this: Do not attempt to deprive others of their legitimate rights and freedoms through violence or coercion. It’s as simple as that. Use violence against those who you do not agree with or approve of, and you’re out. Threaten violence against them, and you’re out. Conspire to commit violence against them, and you’re out. Solicit violence against them, and you’re out. Aid and abet violence against them, and you’re out. Preach that it is justified to use violence against them, and you’re out. Hint that violence ought to be used against them, and you’re out. Insinuate the possibility that someone might use violence against them if they don’t do as you wish, and you’re out. Commit an overt act of intimidation that would make any reasonable person fear that violence might be used against them (e.g. waiving a gun while you are railing against them), and you’re out. That is the proper limit of freedom. Believe as you wish; but respect the rights of others to do the same. Speak your mind, but let others speak theirs. If you let others live in peace, we will let you live in peace, no matter how strongly we disagree with your views. That is what an open society is all about. That is what freedom means. Respect the freedom of others, and your freedom will be respected. But if you treat our freedom with contempt, you forfeit your own.

    So, bottom line: To Trey and Matt: While I don’t necessarily approve of deliberate attempts to provoke, to offend, or to “push the envelope” just to test how far you can push it before it snaps back and slaps you in the face, I respect your rights to do all of those things. KBO! To anyone who is making death threats, or who is trying to justify such threats, no matter what your motivation is or how righteous you think you are: STFU!

  52. As far as I can tell, showing Mohammed is the only thing left which is still too… taboo, controversial, inappropriate, whatever you want to call it, for people of the world to do. anywhere and under any circumstances, it just doesnt happen. its got that perfect combination of religion, politics, and fear to deter just about anyone. I was blown away watching episode 201 last week. it floored me that after all south park has been allowed to do, they couldn’t do that. that show pushes the envelope like none other, but it seems theres just that one last thing thats too controversial. cant wait to see them succeed.

    1. The Funniest thing about the threat is that it wasn’t mohammed in there, it was Santa! XD

      Yeah, but was it Mohammed dressed as Santa in the bear suit? Hmmm……

  53. Okay, I never suggested that the Jewish religion, or any other religion for that matter, is unchanging or pure. Obviously, modern rabbinic Judaism is very different from the Judaism practiced during the Second Temple period, which is quite different from the Israelite religion of the First Temple period. Likewise, modern Christianity bears little resemblance to the religion practiced by the early followers of Jesus. And the same holds true for every other religion in the world. No religion is ever unchanging or “pure” (much to the annoyance of the fundamentalists).

    Nor did I suggest that any ethnos or culture is unchanging. (BTW, I’m not a fan of “tribe” either, which is why I originally used the word “nation” instead; but, as you pointed out, that is too easily confused with the modern notion of the nation-state. I think I’ll stick with “ethnos”.) In fact, I wasn’t making an argument about ethnic or religious identity at all. I was merely pointing out that, in the ancient world people didn’t think of religion in the same way that we think of it in the modern Western world. There was no clear dividing line between a people’s religion and their ethnic culture — between the sacred and the secular. The very notion of the “secular” is a modern invention.

    We in the modern West like to separate religion from “secular” culture and treat them as totally distinct things. So, when we look at a given cultural practice (e.g. marriage, the observance of holidays, dietary practices, clothing styles, music, art, taboos, rituals, traditions, etc.) we like to try to classify them as being either “secular” or “religious”. You can’t really do that with ancient cultures, since there would have been no clear dividing line between the secular and the religious — religion permeated all aspects of culture. So, why do we try to draw that distinction in the modern West? Partially it has to do with the secularization that occurred in the Western world after the Enlightenment, when people basically got tired of religious leaders meddling in politics, science, the economy, and the intimate details of people’s everyday lives. But it really began long before that. Because Christianity was not the religion of any one particular ethnos, but actually had a mission to convert people from “all nations”, it helped to drive a wedge between the religious and the secular aspects of culture. A convert to Christianity from an ethnos that practiced paganism could no longer, in good conscience, participate in the pagan religious activities of his native culture. So, he had to decide (or the church had to decide for him) which aspects of his native culture he could continue to participate in, and which he had to abandon on religious grounds. And as Christianity spread, it came to include people from many “nations” (ethné), each of whom embraced the Christian religion while still continuing to follow many of the cultural practices of their own ethnos (at least those practices that were not in conflict with their Christian faith). So, the spread of Christianity in the West helped to give us Westerners the notion that religion is somehow distinct from other aspects of our culture.

    So, those of us who have lived most of our lives in a modern, Western, “Christian” culture tend to think of religion as being distinct from secular culture and ethnicity. But that was not always the case; and, even today, it is still not the case with all religions. The most obvious example of this is Judaism, where there is still a very close connection between the Jewish religion and the Jewish ethnos and culture. The problem is that many people from a Christian background don’t seem to understand that. I’ve encountered many Christians who seem to think that being Jewish is simply a matter of one’s religious beliefs, apparently not realizing that there is also an ethnic dimension to being a Jew. I’ve heard people ask how it’s possible for someone to be both a Jew and an atheist. I’ve had students who seem to think that the State of Israel is some sort of theocracy because it is a “Jewish state”. They don’t seem to get the idea that the Jews are an ethnos — a “people”, a “nation” — and not just a religious group.

    1. I’ve had students who seem to think that the State of Israel is some sort of theocracy because it is a “Jewish state”. They don’t seem to get the idea that the Jews are an ethnos — a “people”, a “nation” — and not just a religious group.

      It is a theocracy. You can’t even get married without proving that you’re Jewish and you can’t prove that you’re Jewish unless your family is orthodox. The mechanism of the state is strongly geared to support orthodox Judaism.

      As to the ethnicity issue, I’d be interested in hearing how Ethiopian Jews, Chinese Jews and Russian Jews are all in the same ethnic group. They all have rights under the Law of Return, which strongly suggests that Israel defines Jewishness by religion.

      1. I think you’re mistaken on Israeli marriage laws. The State of Israel doesn’t treat marriage as a civil (secular) institution, but rather treats marriage as a religious institution that the state ought to stay out of. And this system was actually set up by the Ottoman Empire long before the creation of the State of Israel, and was continued under the British Mandate. When the State of Israel was established, it simply chose to keep the system that had been in place in Palestine since time immemorial. It allows established religious authorities to regulate marriage without interference by the state; and that includes Christian and Muslim religious authorities as well as Jewish religious authorities. Now, you could certainly argue that this system gives religious authorities too much control over the institution of marriage; but that hardly makes Israel a theocracy.

        As for your point about the right of return, all of the groups you mentioned claim ethnic descent from the original tribes of Israel. None of them is a community of recent converts to the Jewish religion. Whether they are, in fact, true descendents of the ancient Hebrews, I can’t say. But what’s clear is that they did make such a claim. So, their acceptance by Israel as Jews with a legitimate claim to the right of return is not based solely on their religious practice, but is based on an assertion of Jewish ethnicity.

        Now, let’s be honest, there are certainly theocratic wannabes among right-wing Jewish fundamentalists in Israel, just as there are theocratic wannabes among right-wing Christian fundamentalists in the United States. And the Jewish fundies have had considerable influence over the Israeli government, just as the Christian fundies have had considerable influence over the U.S. government. But both the United States and Israel are still a long way from being genuine theocracies in the same way that Iran is. When Israeli rabbis have enough power to rig an election and order dissenters to be imprisoned, tortured, and killed like Iranian mullahs are able to do, then I’ll be willing to call Israel a theocracy. There are many, MANY legitimate reasons to criticize the State of Israel (and, in particular, Likud and the other right-wing parties). But calling Israel a “theocracy” is needless hyperbole that is every bit as inappropriate as Glenn Beck referring to progressives as “fascists”.

      2. You don’t have to be Jewish to marry in Israel, and if you’re Jewish, you don’t have to be an orthodox Jew.

        The rules are ridiculous, though. You can’t get a civil marriage, so you have to be married according to the religion you officially belong to. And the marriage, for Jews, can’t go through unless you jump through some orthodox hoops.

        This also generally means that there aren’t mixed marriages. As I say, ridiculous.

        But it has nothing to do with whether Israel is a theocracy, which it isn’t, versus a democracy, which it is.

          1. Antinous: I didn’t give a definition, did I?

            Israel is a democracy. The lawmakers in Israel include Jews, Christians, Muslims (and probably others, including atheist). There is no religious test to become part of government, or in fact to lead the government.

            Members of the government are elected by the citizens, or appointed by elected officials.

            In fact, I don’t even think that there’s an official state religion in Israel, as opposed to the United Kingdom, for example, where the Queen is the head of the Church and Catholics can’t take the crown.

            Maybe I should ask you what your definition of a theocracy is.

  54. Ooh, I should add that Israel does recognize marriages (mixed or otherwise) performed in other countries. So a lot of Israelis fly elsewhere so they can avoid the nonsense. But of course, why should they have to do that? Did I mention that it’s ridiculous?

  55. Also, can Al Qaeda maybe make this a package deal and clean up Carrot Top, Ray Romano, Carlos Mencia, Leno, and Lorne Michaels too? There’s a lot of comedy deadwood littering the dangerously tinder-laden floor of the American comedy forest.

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