What one Muslim guy thinks of South Park death threat/Mohammed controversy

"I am a Muslim and I am a fan of South Park. To make those terms mutually exclusive is polarizing and frankly, unproductive. Aasif Mandvi over at the Daily Show summarized my sentiment exactly when he said last night, 'Yes, it [the depiction] would make me uncomfortable and I can understand people being upset about it...but here's whats more upsetting. Someone, in the name of a faith that I believe in, threatening another person for doing it.'"—Kalsoom, at the Changing Up Pakistan blog (via Bassam Tariq).

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  1. When Assif Mandvi sat down during the Daily Show and said what he thought about the whole ordeal i couldn’t tell if he was being serious or joking. The lead up to his statements was all jokes and sarcasm so i couldn’t figure out what the true tone was until the end of his bit.

    Either way i highly agree with his sentiments that it’s disgusting that a radical few are utterly destroying the good name of a faith, culture and its people. And it’s even more unfortunate that Comedy Central bowed to the will of these radical few.

  2. Good for all the sane muslims, like Kalsoom and Assif Mandvi. I think most BoingBoing readers respect these guys, and wouldn’t particularly want to humiliate and embarrass them. It’s just rude to make fun of anybody’s deeply-held beliefs.

    But Comedy Central didn’t censor South Park out of politeness towards muslims of any kind. It just caved out of fear.

    I’d be more sympathetic if it was a ball bearing factory or something. But people in the comedy business — like those in the arts, or academia, or journalism — sometimes take pride in their fearlessness in the face of power. Here, Comedy Central totally blew it, faced with a pretty penny-ante threat.

    What would Bill Hicks or Lenny Bruce have done? I don’t know, but if they acted like Comedy Central, I’d have lost all respect for them.

  3. It may be rude to make fun of someone’s deeply held beliefs, but it’s also terribly entertaining, especially when someone deeply holds a particularly ridiculous belief. (e.g. “The banana proves God exists!”)

  4. I’d go further and say that while it definitely is rude to make fun of anyone’s beliefs, it’s far more destructive to treat some beliefs as above questioning, satire, or criticism. It’s also destructive to claim that those who don’t follow your beliefs must therefore be punished (unless the “beliefs” are communally-accepted laws and codes of conduct). And even in that case, the codes of conduct should still be open to criticism.

  5. The ban on even respectful depictions of the prophet Muhammad is stupid. Gandhi provided the best answer: mass non-cooperation.

    All of us who enjoy and appreciate freedom of speech should make drawings of Muhammad. At least one a week. Every newspaper, every magazine, every TV station, every blogger.

    Death threats against millions quickly become pretty silly.

    1. Death threats against millions quickly become pretty silly.

      Permit me to introduce you to the concept of nuclear weapons.

  6. It’s rude to make fun of anyone’s deeply held beliefs, is it? How about the former generations of white South Africans who deeply believed that they were genetically superior to blacks? Is it rude to make fun of those beliefs?

    The fact is, groups of people can go collectively crazy and believe totally nutso things, and those beliefs can persist for long, long periods of time.

    1. Right. Being polite is good, as far as it goes. But sometimes you just have to be rude for the sake of a higher principle. A lot of things are more important than being merely polite in the narrow sense.

      Sometimes, you have to teach evolution as a part of biological science to the children of people who would prefer to think that the world was created in seven days. No offense, but you just can’t imprison your children in ignorance, even if your religion demands it.

      Sometimes, you have to acknowledge that — while there are a lot of decent muslims — the right to portray Mohammed is important. Right now, I’m reminded that a lot of interesting people, including Dante and William Blake, have portrayed Mohammed in unflattering ways. I’m not ready to censor their work off the face of the earth. So, the many decent muslims will just have to be uncomfortable in that way. Just as I will have to be uncomfortable when some idea I like or group I belong to is portrayed in a way I wouldn’t prefer.

    2. Wait, I forgot to respond to your main point: what do you say to someone with beliefs that are entirely horrible? As Jon Stewart said: “Go fuck yourselves” would be good.

  7. Here’s my big question: Why should I be required to adhere to the rules of someone else’s religion?

    Fear is not a valid reason.

    1. My brother has a Masonic ring. “You’re not a Mason, you’re not allowed to wear that ring.” “Oh, yeah? Who follows Masonic rules? Masons? I’m not a Mason, I don’t have to follow it.”

      My tolerance for others’ beliefs stops when they try to tell non-believers how to behave.

  8. I agree about the death threats being unproductive and polarizing. In fact, I think we can all agree but then so are statements like “invade their countries, kill all their leaders and convert them all to Christianity” from some one who, while some of us consider outside the mainstream, others do not. I also agree with Aassif Mandvi’s view of the whole kerfluffle.

    One of the commentors on that blog said about the people who issued the threat:

    “WHO CARES what they think? It’s like wondering what the KKK would think about the election of Barak Obama, does anyone really need to air those views? Do they even matter? Doesn’t it cause more harm by mainstreaming these views and making it more accessible to those who otherwise would never have heard of this group in the first place?”

    Which is a good point — why the focus on the threat by the media in the first place? I mean, certainly this can’t have been the only death threat Parker and Stone have ever gotten in the whole history of SP, can it? And I don’t think it’s just because “they [Islamic radicals] are more likely to carry it out”… Tell that to George Tiller.

  9. Insulting and ridiculing beliefs are necessary when those beliefs insult and ridicule reason.
    Being politically correct, respectful and polite about religion is to invite dangerous cults into our midst.
    Shall we also respect the beliefs of those who believe in fairies, unicorns and father christmas? With small children perhaps, but even then it is necessary to tell them the truth sooner or later, or they will grow up deluded and irrational, and there’s enough of that around already.

    Peace

    1. Shall we also respect the beliefs of those who believe in fairies, unicorns and father christmas?

      I’d say that if we work together at the ball bearing factory, or if we meet at a dinner party, then yes, as long as the work gets done or we’re just chitchatting. Horoscopes, Kaballah, Christianity, Islam, Objectivism, whatever. Just nod and walk away, if you must. Or talk about your beliefs, which are entitled to equal respect in a social environment. They have to accept you just as much as you have to accept them.

      If somebody comes to your door to convert you, then (should you choose to engage them) it’s a serious conversation. Don’t make it personal, but be honest that you think their god is a crock, and their beliefs, however deeply held, are false.

      If somebody wants to kill you over their stupid beliefs in fairies or whatever, then the appropriate rules of engagement — whether self-defense, law enforcement, or military — apply.

    2. Shall we also respect the beliefs of those who believe in fairies, unicorns and father christmas?

      I’d say that if we work together at the ball bearing factory, or if we meet at a dinner party, then yes, as long as the work gets done or we’re just chitchatting. Horoscopes, Kaballah, Christianity, Islam, Objectivism, whatever. Just nod and walk away, if you must. Or talk about your beliefs, which are entitled to equal respect in a social environment. They have to accept you just as much as you have to accept them.

      If somebody comes to your door to convert you, then (should you choose to engage them) it’s a serious conversation. Don’t make it personal, but be honest that you think their god is a crock, and their beliefs, however deeply held, are false.

      If somebody wants to kill you over their stupid beliefs in fairies or whatever, then the appropriate rules of engagement — whether self-defense, law enforcement, or military — apply.

  10. With that said, I think comedians have special license to be rude, and a special obligation to be honest.

    South Park is famous for being rude to everybody. If there was one group that they were not allowed to make fun of, then the rest of their show would just seem like offensive bullying.

    Comedians are like the Fool in King Lear. They have special license to make fun of the King. If the fool just acted like Goneril and Regan, slobbering over the King, it would be a different story, one which didn’t need a Fool. Comedy Central appears to want to play the part of Goneril or Regan.

  11. If the law has any (justifiable) function, it’s to keep us off each other’s toes.

    (Or is it to protect privileged? I forget….)

  12. Here’s what South Park should do: a show that does to the life of Mohammed and the history of Islam what they did to Mormonism — but change the names. Start with a big notice about “Any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental” etc., and then have someone (Cartman?) tell a story about the desert dweller “Curly” who robs caravans but then finds God, dictates a holy book, leads armies, etc. There are more than enough oddities about Islam to make the whole thing very funny.

    1. Here’s what South Park should do: a show that does to the life of Mohammed and the history of Islam what they did to Mormonism — but change the names.

      That idea didn’t go over so well with the Islamic fundamentalists when Salman Rushdie did it.

  13. I see nobody’s considered the possibility that this is getting more (free) publicity for South Park and Comedy Central (negative attention is still attention) than if the actual episode had aired and nobody really gave a damn.

    I mean, seriously, some losers with a website are proof of a vast threat to freedom of speech that only Stone and Parker can save us from? I can’t believe everybody’s buying this “BLARGH POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WILL KILL US ALLLLLLL!! WE MUST FIGHT BACK NOW!” nonsense after a). South Park all ready DID an episode with Mohammed in it and b). the fallout from the big Mohammed newspaper cartoon thing was that a few thousand people burned some stuff and then eventually got bored of it and gave up.

    Honestly I’ll be surprised if this isn’t followed by a “this is the episode TEH SCARY MUSLIMZ didn’t want us to air!” episode or DVD release, which their fans will happily consume without a second thought.

    1. Did not the Jyllands-Posten cartoon kerfuffle result eventually in over 130 dead in various riots?

      I’m all for poking this particular hornet’s nest, don’t get me wrong, but let us not minimize the cost out of all existence.

      1. Donald, from the sound of it, many of the deaths that were attributed to the cartoon issue were actually the result of ongoing sectarian violence in Nigeria. Apparently it was ongoing before the cartoon and continued after the furor over the cartoon had all ready died down. I think nobody really cared what it was about, it was just going on at the same time as the protests so obviously it MUST be because of the cartoon. Some of the deaths have also been attributed to police/military forces firing on protesters/rioters.

        Personally, I think it was much the same as this whole bit is now; the people involved in the potentially objectionable action are so convinced that they’re going to draw fire for it that they’re seeing everything even tangentially related as “proof” of an overwhelmingly irrational and violent response. Naturally, their supporters are likewise convinced of this “proof” and immediately set about shouting it from the mountaintops. And I think that’s exactly what we’re looking at here, confirmation bias. Well, that plus some good ol’ fashioned marketing strategy.

  14. I am all for tolerance and understanding, but I reserve the right to make fun of delusional crap. Funnily enough, most (if not all) religions fit the bill for ‘delusional crap’.

  15. I respect that to the Muslim people, the prophet Muhammed is to be worshipped over all other prophets. I am Jewish, and we share many prophets with the Muslim people. The prophet Moses, who (it is told) spoke to YHVH on Mt Sinai and gave us the 10 commandments, has been parodied many times in the media. South Park, while a little rough, is very humorous and does a good job of making fun of EVERYONE! Let them do their art.

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