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The Comedy Central television network barred its popular “South Park” series from showing an image of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in last night’s episode but allowed a scene in which an image of Jesus Christ defecates on President Bush and the American flag.
Earlier today, conservative weblogs speculated about whether the episode’s reference to censorship was part of the edgy cartoon show’s gag, but a Comedy Central spokesman told Stephen Spruiell of National Review’s Media Blog the network itself made the decision to not show the image.
The network issued a statement, saying: “In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision.”
In the second of a two-part episode, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker played on the Danish newspaper’s publishing of caricatures of Muhammad, which sparked widespread rioting by Muslims earlier this year who considered it blasphemy.
In last night’s episode, “South Park” character Kyle tries to convince a Fox network executive to air, uncensored, an episode of “Family Guy” that includes an image of Muhammad.
“Either it’s all OK, or none of it is,” Kyle said. “Do the right thing.”
The executive decides at the last second to show “Family Guy” uncut, but when the controversial scene arrives, the screen goes black with the message, “Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Muhammad on their network.”
Then comes the images of Christ, Bush and the flag.
The blog TV Squad commented that this scene was “a clever way of saying that everything and everyone is fair game, not just Muhammad.”
“South Park” actually depicted Muhammad, without protest, in a 2001 episode.
Last month, outspoken Scientologist Isaac Hayes, an Oscar-winning singer heard by millions in recent years as the “Chef” character on “South Park,” quit the cartoon four months after an episode spoofing Scientology.
“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” the 63-year-old soul singer said in a statement.
“Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored,” he continued, never mentioning the Scientology episode, but citing the recent controversy over cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad. “As a civil-rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”
The creators, whose show won a prestigious Peabody award last week, struck back with an episode in which Chef appeared to be killed and then have his brains scrambled by the “Super Adventure Club,” which turns members into pedophiles.
William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights took aim at Parker and Stone for allowing the network to censor their work in last night’s episode.
“The ultimate hypocrite is not Comedy Central – that’s their decision not to show the image of Muhammad or not – it’s Parker and Stone,” Donohue said. “Like little whores, they’ll sit there and grab the bucks. They’ll sit there and they’ll whine and they’ll take their shot at Jesus. That’s their stock in trade.”