Muhammad not in a bear suit is censored

By Razib Khan | April 22, 2010 2:21 pm

Perhaps. Matt Stone & Trey Parker have put out a statement. I watched it online yesterday and I thought the bleeps were part of the “in joke.” I’ll spoil the episode for you by noting that it wasn’t even Muhammad in the bear a suit. Additionally I don’t get why people are that that scared, the threats were made by a group that’s very close to literally being in a basement. On the other hand, remember during the Salman Rushdie affair that translators were killed, so perhaps there’s reason that a corporation would want to stay on the safe side (one could imagine civil lawsuits if someone did get hurt against the corporation).

On final thing, the South Park episode in question depicted Moses as a dull artificial intelligence, Buddha as a cocaine junkie and Jesus as a habitual viewer of internet pornography (at least that’s Buddha’s accusation, which Jesus does not deny, rather, he minimizes its equivalence with a drug habit. I think Jesus’ logic is spot on, and am leaning toward Brit Hume’s dismissal of Buddhism on account of this interaction). There are of course Jewish,* Christian and Buddhist extremists in world. But most people judge that Jews, Christians and Buddhist are less liable to take violent action to defend the dignity of their faith than extremist Muslims. I think that’s probably a valid assessment, and I think that points to the fact that not all religions can be made equivalent in the nature and numbers of violent radicals. Why that is is a different question.

* Because Judaism is operationally coterminous with an ethnicity, at least by self-conception, I have seen some attempts to accuse those who have anti-Jewish religious views as anti-Semites. In general anti-Semites have anti-Jewish attitudes in regards to the religion, but the inverse is not always so. Some Muslims have started imitating that strategy, accusing plain anti-religious folk like Richard Dawkins of being an Islamophobe as if he is racist.

MORE ABOUT: Islam, Muslims

Comments (17)

  1. ChH

    “Death to the Islamophobes!”

    I suppose that’s a corollary to “it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you”…

  2. Zora

    I find it interesting that many Muslims believe that they are avoiding “shirk”, idolatry, by prohibiting the depiction of Muhammad, when in fact they seem to be exhibiting “shirk” — worshipping Muhammad by declaring him a perfect human being, verbally genuflecting with a PBUH whenever his name is mentioned or written, and reacting with rage whenever the idol is profaned.

    There also seems to be conflation of Muhammad’s “honor” with personal “honor” — to insult Muhammad is to insult all of Islam is to insult ME, and attacks on my honor must not be tolerated, or I am less than a man. Ernest Gellner, I believe, discussed the utility of this attitude in less-than-law-abiding societies; by projecting an air of menace, men protected their property and their dependents. To respond to slights with anything less than rage and retribution would signal weakness and invite predation. Islamists have learned to manipulate this cultural pattern in the service of a particular political agenda.

  3. zora, i agree with a lot of your second point. also, it’s not just muslims. south asians in general sometimes have this attitude. note the riot which resulted in the closing of a theater production in england which sikhs perceived to be insulting to their religion. perhaps south asians picked this up from muslims, or the two groups coevolved it together. i don’t know. as for the first, it always depends on cultural perspective.
    religious stuff often has a lot of circularity and regress, and i think social consensus is the final arbiter. i think paul tillich has a lot to say about ‘idolatry’ in the vein that you are referring to.

  4. I often think when I read this sort of thing that some people are fundamentally evil. But that’s not really the case: they just has profoundly different value systems. These differences might however be so large that I might as well regard them as possibly unbridgeable. At this point it may make sense to regard these people as being akin to stupid version of paperclip maximizers: . That’s probably too extreme but I really don’t know how to regard the civilized world as not in fundamental conflict with people who threaten violence over this sort of thing.

    (I am however curious if this will work in general if one makes a minimally credible threat? Can I get the scyfy channel to show more scifi and less wrestling if I make a threat and also claim that it is motivated by religion?)

  5. Albert Bakker

    I agree with Zora that islamists – which is still something different from muslims – have learned that threatening with violence (terror) is a rather succesful way of censoring truly necessary ridicule of islam and the anti-human idiocy it represents.

    Alas this politically useful cultivated sensibility among muslims for ridicule of their religion cuts both ways and (extreme) rightist or anti-immigrant parties see fit to exploit it for their own political causes. I think that was a succesfully moderated away component of the Jylland Posten saga, initially and in the immediate aftermath, and on both sides (in the Netherlands you had Hans van Baalen declare with a kitschy sense of WWII-era drama on radio that “now we’re all Danes.” )

    That side of the political equation is exactly naught here, cancels away, and what remains is therefore a clear cut case of a one sided islamist victory over American free speech delivered by means of terror.

    Congratulations! You are all Europeans now.

  6. mnuez

    They did make a statement:

    It’s been obvious to more or less non-partisan free-speech enthusiasts like us what South Park’s point was with their “Cartoon Wars” episodes (of which “200” is just a slightly stale revisit and second try). The fact that the world media backed down in the face of threats was a terrible thing and they needed to make the world right again. They said so as much in fact numerous times. This isn’t a fight to have the right to show cartoons of Mohammad shoving a pineapple up his ass (or shoving Paris Hilton for that matter), it’s a fight against the pussy CNN/FOX/NYT, etc. for not showing the most central piece of information about the riots while they were going on and then making it worse by their excuses for it.

    Anyhow, I don’t care much for South Park’s toilet humor or take-no-prisoners character assassination but these guys have more integrity than pretty much any other pundit out there. They pulled off a pitch-perfect piece on Scientology, despite the obvious danger of debilitating lawsuits and they did their honest best here too.

    It’s too bad they lost.

  7. mnuez

    Oh, but for an ill placed period I might not have resubmitted Matt and Trey’s statement. Here I thought I was satisfying your curiosity. Alas to find my endeavors shewing such useless effect. May Chet Snicker have mercy on his humble slave!

  8. metus

    Muslim outrage can be very selective:
    It almost seems that not being a Muslim is part of these insults to Islam.

  9. josh, i think this is a case where american and islamist values are not commensurable. but other westerners can understand in some ways since they’re not free speech absolutists, and some european nations still have laws defending against blasphemy of religion. it is normal to have sacred things honestly. the problem in a pluralistic society is that sacred things start multiplying, and no one can agree on what is sacred and what is demonic.

  10. Thomas

    Maybe the recent US fad of invading Muslim countries have something to do with Muslim fear of anything they see as anti-Islamic propaganda?

  11. Maybe the recent US fad of invading Muslim countries have something to do with Muslim fear of anything they see as anti-Islamic propaganda?

    rushdie was before the first gulf war. and did most muslims know that the danish gov. was allied with the US in foreign policy? probably not, but perhaps.

  12. dave chamberlin

    As an ignorant and cocky college kid, I went to a workshop run by Saul Alinsky. He didn’t seem well, I thought he was cranky, later I found out he was dying. That was 38 years ago. For those of you that don’t know who he was he wrote the book on community organizing. He kept emphasizing one thing that has always impressed me as very pertinent to understanding the ongoing middle east foolishness. He said if you recognize a percieved oppressor, then don’t waste your time trying to persuade others of his existance, provoke him into oppression and then publicize that oppression. It is and always will be a incredibly effective public relations tactic used both by do-gooders and violent radicals.

  13. Thomas

    Razib, Rushdie was seen as an apostate Muslim, not a Westerner, so it’s not quite the same thing. Muslims have always been more tolerant of non-Muslims than of people betraying their faith.

    The Danish cartoon affair was largely created by a couple of radical Danish Imams who toured the Muslim world showing not only the genuine cartoons but a couple of fake ones, and those most certainly knew about Danish involvement in the war. Those who wasn’t aware Denmark was involved in the war probably probably didn’t care much about the difference between Denmark and other Western countries either. Sort of like how USA invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in revenge for 9/11 despite the actual bombers being almost exclusively from Saudi Arabia.

  14. eriod

    Razib, I agree with you that it is normal to have sacred things. But if someone threatens another’s life over a perceived insult to that sacred thing, then they don’t really hold it sacred at all. Instead, they are afraid that maybe their sacred thing isn’t all that sacred or that their “faith” is weak. If it was truly sacred if would be strong enough to withstand a bit of criticism or parody or questioning and they wouldn’t have to bother acknowledging what others say about it.

  15. Albert Bakker

    #14 – That’s a rational approach to an irrational concept. A person of faith could easily rationalize murder or far worse by perhaps saying that his actions are en extension of the will of God. It is a fact of life that God has this habit of acting through psychopaths. Hell, many professional soldiers need God to kill, rape and maim with a clean conscience. Defending interests of oil companies or even the acquisition of long term geopolitical power becomes kind of dry and uninspiring after a while of stepping over the bodies or what’s left of them. Ask around in the army or call one of those professional mercenary services like Blackwater or Xe or whatever they have changed their name into after scandal nr. X or one of these fine errors of creation:

  16. Jason Malloy

    Basically the media and Comedy Central were easily gamed by some fundamentalist crypto-Jews because of their own distorted preconceptions about Muslim-Americans.

    It’s absolutely ridiculous that a pseudo-threat on one no-traffic website by a couple of losers could influence major corporate decisions. If Comedy Central simply believed Parker and Stone were in danger from these particular people (which is ridiculous), they probably could have pressed charges for the threat; instead it seems they took this obscure, isolated threat as a credible representation of Muslim-American attitudes more generally.

    This is actually an order of a magnitude more insulting to Muslims than any silly cartoon.

  17. miko

    Recently in Singapore, McDonald’s was releasing a series of Doraemon toys based on the Chinese Zodiac. Only…no Pig. This was some pathetic middle management decision because they were afraid of offending Muslim’s by having pig toys (but apparently not dog toys). As in this case, most Muslim’s were angry and offended that someone thought they could possibly give a shit what McDonald’s sells.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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