South Park has been tackling so many sacred cows and hot potatoes for so long now — from Scientology to Steven Spielberg, NAMBLA to the N-word — that when I watched last week’s episode, I barely winced when creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to celebrate South Park‘s 200th episode by taking on the depiction of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, for the second time.
Then, on Sunday, Revolutionmuslim.com, a radical Islamic website, reportedly posted an item about the South Park episode referencing Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who was killed by a Muslim extremist for his 2004 short documentary Submission, about women, violence, and Islam. “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show,” said the post. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.” The site then featured a graphic photo of the mutilated filmmaker, and published the addresses of Comedy Central New York offices and the South Park production company in Los Angeles. Finally, it embedded a video of a radical Muslim preacher calling for the assassination of anyone who has “defamed” Muhammad which included photos of Parker, Stone, and van Gogh.
As the characters on South Park would say: Holy [bleeping] [bleep]!
In case you missed last week’s South Park, some background: Hundreds of celebrities ridiculed by the show (including Tom Cruise and Rob Reiner) threaten a class-action lawsuit if the titular Colorado town does not produce the prophet Muhammad. See, the celebs believe the founder of Islam possesses a power that saves him from all ridicule, and they want it for themselves. Of course, as South Park fans know, the show tried to depict Muhammad in an April 2006 two-part episode about censorship, only to be censored by Comedy Central — ironic, given that the show had already depicted Muhammad in a July 2001 episode (watch the clip below) entitled the Super Best Friends, in which the central figures of all religions fight together for the greater good. Both of those earlier episodes were referenced last week, to pretty hilarious effect. Eventually, as often happens on South Park, Muhammad ends up in a silly bear mascot costume. Hence, the outrage.
Comedy Central isn’t commenting about the Revolutionmuslim.com post. But the episode in question, entitled “200,” ended with a cliff-hanger, and Parker and Stone — famous for handing in episodes at literally the last minute — are likely just wrapping up tonight’s follow up episode, which airs at 10 p.m. ET (9 p.m. CT). Who wants to bet they incorporate this “warning,” complete with a cheeky reference to Vincent van Gogh? (My guess — someone will lose an ear.) Do you think the show will be able to represent Muhammad as they once did in the more innocent, pre-9/11 era?