May 032010
Authors: Cooper Anderson, student government president elect, Jordan Von Bokern, Senate pro tempore of ASCSU

Recently, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park,” brought back the Super Best Friends, a cast from the world’s religions that included Jesus, Buddha, Joseph Smith and the Prophet Muhammad.

The first episode featuring the “friends” aired a little more than two months before 9/11. In that episode, Muhammad was depicted clearly, without being obscured or censored. Times have definitely changed.

After 9/11, images of the Prophet have sparked riots and controversy worldwide. Since then, depictions of Muhammad have been declared off-limits: A German opera house canceled a showing of a Mozart opera that included a scene with the Prophet’s severed head, Random House canceled a novel about the Prophet’s young wife and the Yale University Press refused to reprint the controversial Danish cartoons in a book about that very controversy.

When Parker and Stone decided to parody this fact by disguising the Prophet in a bear suit, they found out just how dangerous it is to do so.

Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, a writer for, posted to the site in response to the episode “a warning … of what will likely happen to them (Parker and Stone),” along with a photo of the corpse of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 for his critiques of Islam.

To some this may sound like an absurd threat, but taken in the context of recent history it becomes chilling: in addition to van Gogh’s murder, Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist, was attacked by an al-Qaeda operative with an ax in his home in Europe earlier this year.

So, what did Comedy Central do in response to the warning? They silenced “South Park,” bleeping out every reference to the Prophet, and removing the original “Friends” episode from the website. Even Kyle’s speech at the end of the episode on fear and intimidation, despite not once mentioning the Prophet, was censored.

This is not the first time “South Park” has been censored for attempting to show Muhammad. In 2006, that depiction was covered with a black bar in an episode that was itself attempting to comment on the controversies caused by the Danish cartoons earlier that year. It seems that Cowardly Central is a more appropriate title for the channel.

While the Western media’s relative silence on the matter has been surprising, it isn’t the most troubling development.

That honor goes to the governments of supposedly liberal societies, which have dragged Western politicians and journalists including Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Mark Steyn in Canada before various courts and tribunals for daring to speak their minds on the matter. Regardless of what one thinks of these gentlemen and their sometimes offensive comments, it should be universally agreed that they possess the inviolate right to freedom of speech.

What is most worrying about this trend is the message it sends: That the free world is happy to trade core liberties for the security of a quiet and submissive life. This is a dangerous signal to send to the enemies of freedom. It puts those enemies on the march and gives them the perception that they can impose their authoritarian designs upon us.

It must be understood that freedom is rarely lost all at once, but rather slowly, and bit by bit. It must also be recognized that the endurance of freedom is the product of a constant struggle against tyranny, and rarely can a society recover from the loss of freedom in that struggle.

Daniel Webster once said that “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.” It is hard now to tell if the West really loves the gift of liberty, and make no mistake, indifference and complacency will kill that gift.

To secure the continuation of our liberty, we must always be vigilant and ready and willing to stand up to those who would use violence and intimidation to render mute the voices of a free society.

Anderson is President-elect of ASCSU and Von Bokern is Senate Pro Tempore of ASCSU. This column does not reflect the views or the official position of ASCSU. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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