Who’s Afraid of the Free Speech Fundamentalists?: Reflections on the South Park Cartoon Controversy

Recent days have, alas, been marked by a sense of déjà vu all over again for scholars of contemporary Islam. On April 14th, the American cable network Comedy Central aired the first half of a double episode of the immensely-popular cartoon sitcom “South Park.” The episode specifically parodied Islamic prohibitions on the pictorial representation of the Prophet Muhammad by portraying him in concealment, first within a U-Haul truck and then inside an ursine mascot costume. On the day prior to the episode’s airing, the American website revolutionmuslim.com posted the following comments by one Abu Talhah al-Amrikee:

We have to warn Matt and Trey [Matt Stone and Trey Parker, co-creators of South Park] that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.

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