Jesus Yes, Mohammed No, on South Park

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - Postings on Comedy Central's website have been running hot over the Easter weekend as viewers commented on the network's refusal to allow a depiction of Mohammed in a South Park episode that instead lampooned Jesus.

Last week's episode was the second in a two-parter focusing on this year's controversy over the publication in Danish media of cartoons depicting the prophet of Islam. The furor spawned protests, riots, killings, the jailing of journalists, and an unprecedented push by Islamic authorities to have international organizations act to protect Muslim sensitivities.

At the point in the episode where the show's Mohammed character is expected to make an appearance, the screen blanked out and carried the message "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

After some initial confusion over whether this was part of the gag, or whether South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were taking a serious dig at their host network, Comedy Central issued a statement appearing to confirm the latter.

"Our decision was made, not to mute the voices of Trey and Matt or because we value one religion over any other," the statement said. "This decision was based solely on concern for public safety in light of recent world events."

"Much as we wish it weren't the case, times have changed and, as witnessed by the intense and deadly reaction to the publication of the Danish cartoons, decisions cannot be made in a vacuum without considering what impact they may have on innocent individuals around the globe."

Comedy Central said it would "continue to produce and provide the best comedy available and ... continue to push it right to the edge."

The censored South Park episode included a scene involving Jesus, President Bush, an American flag and defecation.

South Park has frequently stirred controversy by mocking religious beliefs. Moreover, a character depicting Mohammed has appeared in a previous episode, first aired in 2001, in which he is a member of a team of leading religious figures recruited to fight an evil cult.

Scores on postings on Comedy Central's "Insider" web log excoriated the network for the censorship decision, accusing it of cowardice and of "caving in" to Islam.

See Also:
Virgin Mary Cartoon Episode Stirs Debate Over Freedom to Offend (Feb. 22, 2006)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow