‘Controversy’ Over the South Park Muhammad (SAW) Episode

From the news:

A derogatory article about Durga (a Hindu goddess) was published in the British newspaper- The Guardian. It has angered some Hindus. A Hindu website, the Hindutva Jagaran, has said this may lead to some blood being spilled. Protection is being arranged for editors and the publishers of The Guardian.

This piece makes it look as if the radical website that issued the threat is real and is newsworthy. The piece does not make it clear whether that is the case.

Anyway, the “news” above is fake.

It is to show what is wrong with the news coverage of the South Park episode. It begins with the report that allegedly a Muslim Website issued “death threat” to the South Park folks.

Fox news stops its coverage there, as expected. CNN continues and quotes my dear friend Aziz. That’s better, but as poll after poll has shown, Aziz’s view is far more representative than are the radical voices. Why report the radical voices first? It gives them undue attention, and a false sense of importance. In other words, it gives them motivation to seek more attention by actually committing a crime.

To get a representative voice, they could have approached CAIR, or ISNA or even their local Masjid. If the “revolution Muslim” reference is the only one covered, then that seems to be an important one. (I have never even come across this website before except through RT once. Never through my Muslim friends.) Of course that’s what Fox want to show. But what’s wrong with the others?

Fox news seemed to revel at the episode. God forbid, if one of the writers get killed, they get a double bonus. South Park is something they don’t like. Islam too.

It is true that most Muslims believe that the Prophet (SAW) should not be drawn, but drawing him will cause more annoyance than offense or anger. The reason Muslims were offended and angered by the Danish cartoon is not because it drew the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him), but rather because it portrayed him as a terrorist.

When the Muslims conquered Mecca, they forgave the persecuting Quraish. They destroyed all the idols that were there in the Kaaba, which was built (or rebuilt) by Abraham (AwS). However, there was a picture of prophet Jesus (AwS) and his mother Mary (may Allah be pleased with her), which the prophet carefully put away.

Muslims love and respect all the other prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus (AwS). Whenever they are ridiculed, we are hurt too. The difference is, as Jesus (AwS) is “shared” between us and the Christians, so we do not feel we (Muslims)  are being picked on.

The episode of South Park in my opinion was not trying to offend. It was trying to engage/incorporate the Muslim faith into the dialogue the way they know how. That’s the problem. Americans do not understand other cultures, not even European ones, and do not attempt to understand them. They expect them to ‘know what we are talkin’ about.

It just does not work that way. You can’t converse in Bengali with a Chinese.

Personally, I did find the show a bit offensive. One, because it showed the Prophet (SAW) clad in a stupid teddy bear costume. Two, it made innumerate references relating Muhammad (SAW), Muslims and violence. (Three) nor is Muhammad (SAW) immune from criticism. Even Muslims believe that he was a fallible human. We just believe that overall he was an excellent person- an example for all humanity to learn from. We are open to sincere criticism, but we do not like him ridiculed.

So, in short, I am a somewhat offended by, and a bit dissatisfied with the show, but in no way angry with it. I urge my fellow Muslims to engage the larger society- including the media, and use this opportunity to create some positive atmosphere. I urge the media to talk to representative Muslim organizations, and emphasize that they are such, before talking about fringe groups.

19 thoughts on “‘Controversy’ Over the South Park Muhammad (SAW) Episode

  1. Pingback: South Park ‘Controversy’ « Reflections

  2. One, because it showed the Prophet (SAW) clad in a stupid teddy bear costume.

    it wasn’t muhammad, it was santa.

  3. Thanks Razib. I’ll watch this episode. It seemes the South Park guys never wanted to offend in the first place, as I thought.

  4. Pingback: “You Know, I’ve Learned Something Today” « Around The Sphere

  5. Thanks for the post- couldn’t agree more, just one rejoinder (technical)I’d like to submit:

    “nor is Muhammad (SAW) immune from criticism. Even Muslims believe that he was a fallible human. We just believe that overall he was an excellent person- an example for all humanity to learn from. We are open to sincere criticism, but we do not like him ridiculed.”

    Dear, as far as I am aware Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is considered ‘innocent’ by all Muslim scholars- there is an incident mentioned in the authentic Seerah (biography) that the angels came and purified his heart.

    It basically means that the station of prophethood is so sacrosanct that all Messengers were of the highest manners, and Allah did protect them from any sins (i.e.- any lapse on the Prophet’s part was quickly addressed by the Qur’an- like the incident where he (pbuh) gave more attention to eminent persons of the Quraysh over a blind Sahabi, and Surah Abasa, Ch 80 of the Qur’an, was revealed)

  6. ASAK brother Shad,

    What I meant is that he is not infallible- he made mistakes and on at least three occasions Allah swt did correct him.

    However, if he never committed a sin- that is a question I do not know an answer to. I leave that to Allah. I did not mean to confirm or deny that.

    I personally never came across any proof that says that he was corrected even before he made a mistake. On one occasion Allah says quite to the contrary- that had it not been for a Promise that went forth, he (SAW) would surely have been punished.

    The fact that Allah did correct him (or the other prophets- remember the story of being swallowed by a big fish?) means that the prophets were not infallible.

    Although they were certainly the best amongst us. The noblest of the noble.

  7. wks brother Manas,
    I see your point now- infallibility is different from innocence:
    so in that sense, only angels are infallible, since they do not have free will..
    Actually, I was perturbed, because I’m from Lucknow, and the rationale you cited is one of the major causes of the Deobandi-Barelvi split (viz., that the former did not pay enough obeisance to the Prophet’s stature)- seems one can never escape the social connotations of one’s identity..

  8. However, on deeper thought, even objectively, I still think ‘criticism’ is too strong a word to use for the Prophet – there are explicit commands in the Qur’an to listen and obey (sameana wa ataena).

    Its a cyclical argument (your quote “had it not been for a Promise that went forth, he (SAW) would surely have been punished”) – it does imply that Allah still protected him from committing sins.

    Sure enough, non-Muslims will criticize him (like over the marriage to Aishah (ra)), but we must be sure in our minds that these accusations are baseless- that will only help us in formulating a convincing reply.

    Btw, sorry for the digression- this is going off-topic..

  9. I Just want to point out that a Hindu group would never issue a radical statement such as the one quoted (fakely) in this article- this is the hallmark of Muslim radical groups, and shamefully so. Don’t fling dirty laundry at other groups in an effort to protect your own brethren. Sheesh.

  10. Asalaam Aleykum Manas.First as already pointed out by Shad the prophet Muhammad saw was Infallible ie he cld not sin.And there are various scholarly explanation of the reason for the ayahs that were revealed by Allah swt.On the issue of southpark as you pointed out for I have not watched the episode in question neither am I a fan of the cartoon,you said they dressed him(the beloved prophet saw) in a teddybear cotume.You have to agree that it is not respectful and we as Muslims should not allow our Beloved prophet Muhammad saw to be disrespected in any way.

  11. I don’t think we can do jack complaining here and there. The Prophet saw faced ridicule from various jahileen while he was alive and while his excellent example and countenance was plain to see. Instead we should focus on our brotherhood and exemplify our activities to unite with solidarity and dignity. Please see this video representing that here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CB4anCnxobo

  12. Khadija: The First Lady of Islam is an new novel of historical fiction —- This novel begins as ….. The girl born that evening fared much better than the one born earlier in the day. The body of the less fortunate girl was still warm, covered beneath the sands on the edge of town, when the girl later known as Khadija entered this world.
    Abu Jassim, the father of the girl born that morning, had spent the entire night scurrying about offering gifts to as many of the 360 gods as he could. He would have liked to simplify this, but he believed that many of these gods, one for each day of the year, were vengeful so he couldn’t make an offering only to the chief god of the gods, Hubal, without reprisals from the others. Abu Jassim stared up in desperation at Hubal who had the largest idol positioned high atop the Ka’ba, the holy cube shaped structure in the center of town. Distressed, he gazed up at the statue of the almighty Hubal which now seemed to be frowning at him. Made of red agate and shaped like a human except that its right hand was broken off and replaced with a hand of gold, it offered no consolation to Abu Jassim. Those who practiced polytheism had to worship not only Hubal, but also a myriad of other gods, goddesses, demons, jinn, and monsters or fear that any one of them would feel insulted for not receiving equal worship.
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  13. As salaam wa alykum. Firstly, when we Muslims discuss our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) we should do so with the correct amount of reverence and respect and at least send him peace after taking his name or refering to him in speech or text.

    Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final messenger of Islam and that he was the best of Allah’s creation. There is no debate about that. We also know that as Muslims we must love Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him) above all else in this life, even more than our parents and children.

    Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) prophethood began at the age of 40. He lived and spoke Allah’s divine message, the Qur’an. All his actions and thoughts were divinely inspired. Therefore, he was the perfect human being in every way and he was indeed sinless and infallible! This is a fundamental belief of the Muslim faith and must be understood, appreciated and acknowledged by all Muslims. Any muslim that questions this reality needs to really review his beliefs and spirituality and look deep within his heart.

    Since Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the most distinguished prophet of Islam who brought the final message of Islam to the world in its finality in the shape of the Holy Qur’an, we have a responsibility of condemning any negative portrayal of him, in whatever shape, way or form it may be. Wouldn’t we do the same for our nearest loved ones? However, we must do this using wisdom and foresight, or hikmah, which is the term used in the Qur’an.

    May Allah guide all the ummah on the straight path and give us the strength to stand up for our faith and our beloved prophet (peace be upon him).

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  15. Many people have huge misconceptions about Prophet Muhammad’s teaching. Some presume/believe that He shed bloodshed, tore kinships, severed relations and waged wars. However, to understand the true image and reflection of Prophet’s life please read the book “The Sealed Nectar” which has been graded as the most authentic biography about the life and incidents of prophet Muhammad life.

    http://www.darussalampublishers.com/e-books-biography/the-sealed-nectar-biography-of-prophet-muhammad

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