Archive for South Park

2010: The Year of Islamophobia

Posted in Feature, Loonwatch Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2010 by loonwatch

2010 has been an unbelievable year! Can we say that we are happy that it is finally over? Only if that means that the wacky anti-Muslim Islamophobia that reached unprecedented and at times demented levels will recede. However, it doesn’t appear as though that will be happening any time soon.

Looking at the year in review we see that right-leaning and populist anti-Muslim/xenophobic organizations and party’s increased their power/influence across Europe while also initiating and passing discriminatory legislation in their countries.

  1. Rise of Geert Wilders and the Freedom Party
  2. EDL (English Defense League)
  3. Sweden Democrats
  4. Switzerland’s banning of Minarets
  5. BZO Austria
  6. Pia Kjaersgaard (DF)
  7. France and the face veil controversy
  8. Belgium’s banning of the face veil
  9. Catalonia face veil proposal

In the United States we saw the convergence and solidifying of a network of Islamophobes across the nation who joined arms with their brethren across the Atlantic ocean. We were also treated to the Republican party’s instrumentalization and usage of Islam for purposes of fear-mongering during the the run-up to the 2010 elections; add to this mosque controversies, hate crimes, anti-Muslim rallies and your run of the mill nuke Mecca suggestion and you had 2010.

The beginning of the year saw a slew of hate crimes, it also saw our piece, “All Terrorists are Muslim…Except the 94% that Aren’t,” go viral and become one of our most popular pieces ever, getting picked up by various mainstream media outlets.

Joseph Stack’s attack

Events picked up shortly after that with Joseph Stack flying his plane into a IRS office kamikaze style and the failure of many, especially on the right to equate the act to terrorism.

Such double standards were consistently exposed by us throughout the year, particularly in our “What if they were Muslim?” segment. We documented the colossal double standards that exist both in media and popular perception when it comes to judging crimes committed by Muslims against those committed by individuals of other faiths. Invariably, when a Muslim commits a crime it is blamed or linked to Islam, whereas if someone else does it his or her faith is not mentioned — even if it was the motivation.

Of course we would be remiss if we did not mention the biggest story of the year; the Cordoba House, i.e. Park51 or as it has come to be known by many, “the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.” This was a story that raged for months and was “whipped up into a frenzy by a pair of bigoted anti-Muslim bloggers, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, two individuals who should be summarily dismissed as loons that have zero influence in the mainstream media or amongst any of our politicians.”

The Republicans latched onto this story and attempted to make it the wedge issue that they could use to ride to victory during the elections. A dozen or more candidates incorporated this issue into their platform with some making it their sole selling point, (un)surpirsingly a handful actually came out victorious, most prominently the looniest of them all, Allen West.

This was also the issue that catapulted Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer into their 5 minutes of fame. We had been reporting on these two, their financiers, networks and supporters ever since we started Loonwatch, our pieces on both of these goons especially “Pamela Geller: The Looniest Blogger Ever” was picked up by mainstream media outlets including the New York Times, Salon.com, Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post.

Both Geller and Spencer were irked to no end by this and though they attempted to play the silent game were forced at some point to respond to Loonwatch, but they did so only with ad hominemattack and zero interaction with the substance of our articles. Geller resorted to calling us a “Goebbels-style hate site” while Spencer wished to inflict “100-101 lashes” on Danios who he labeled a “slick liar” while continuing to run-away and evade Loonwatch’s open challenge to a radio debate.

Today the controversy over Park51 is still simmering though the rhetoric and verbiage on it has cooled down quite a bit to the chagrin of Spencer and Geller. The spill over from Park51 left a terrible residue and sparked controversies around the nation.

It seemed that the issue with mosques (i.e. Muslims) was not simply about proximity to “hallowed ground,” but the right to build and freely worship was being challenged all over the country.

  1. Murfreesboro, TN.
  2. Temecula, CA.
  3. Sheepshead Bay
  4. Sheboygan County, Wi
  5. Florence, KY
  6. Selden, LI
  7. Ohio
Ahmed H. Sharif

There are about six more places from our count where mosque controversies were raging, but the above sampling gives you an idea. The worst spillover of the mosque controversy undoubtedly manifested itself with the near fatal stabbing of New York City cab driver Ahmed H. Sharif. Passenger Michael Enright entered his cab, asked him “Are you a Muslim?” and when the cabdriver replied, “Yes,” slashed his throat.

There were other notable Islamophobiapalooza moments during the year as well. For instance Rima Fakih, the first Muslim Miss America drew the ire of right-wingers and Islamophobes who didn’t like seeing a brown lady with the crown, let alone a Mooslim. There was also the South Park/Revolution Muslim controversy and the resultant Everybody Draw Mohammed Day on Facebook which descended into an orgy of bigotry and hatred. Later this would reveal the epic double standards and failure of the moribund perception-makers in the media when contrasted with the way it dealt with the story of Pastor Terry Jones and his wacky Dove Outreach Church’s “International Burn the Koran Day on 9/11″ (Read: Islam and the Media in the Age of Islamophobiapalooza).

The final focal point with which Islamophobes and their cynical cohorts in the Republican party attempted to garner populist support through anti-Muslim fear-mongering was surrounding the buzz word: Sharia’. Sharia’ is the boogey monster that Muslims, 1% of the population of America is going to impose. Forget the fact that most of those advocating this conspiracy theory are themselveswoefully ignorant of the Constitution, a document that they subvert with every statement and move they make. It got so bad that Oklahoma overwhelmingly passed a measure banning Sharia’ which has (thankfully) been overturned for being unconstitutional, it should also have been overturned for being unbelievably stupid.

This leads us to consider the biggest Islamophobic conspiracies of the year, which could be a feature piece on its own:

  1. Sharia take over of the United States
  2. Park51 being a “victory mosque” for “Islamic supremacism”
  3. Barack “Hussein” Obama being a secret “Mooslim”
  4. Muslim Congressional Spy Interns
  5. Rep. Keith Ellison working for Hamas
  6. Google’s “e” as an Islamic crescent

At the end of the day, all hope was not lost. There were many whose eyes were opened and Loonwatch helped by being picked by prominent and diverse bloggers as well as media venues as varying as AlJazeera, NPR, Christian Science Monitor, The Independent, AlArabiya etc. Many concerned citizens spoke out eloquently to reject and counter Islamophobia, our segment “Anti-Loons” vividly  showcased the best of those who opposed bigotry and were sincerely and effectively working to counter hate and ignorance on all levels, especially against Islam and Muslims. Lesley Hazelton’s profound lecture describing her experience with the Quran left us with hope, that those who make an effort may come to see beyond the stereotypes, the ignorance that shackles us and fosters animosity between humanity.

“Part of the problem I think is we imagine that the Quran can be read as we usually read a book. As though we can curl up with it on a rainy day with a bowl of popcorn in reach, as though God, and the Quran is entirely in the voice of God speaking to Muhammad, were just another author on the best-sellers list. Yet it is precisely because so few people read the Quran that it is so easy to quote, that is to misquote, phrases and snippets taken out of context, in what I call the highlighter version, which is the one favored by Muslim fundamentalists and anti-Muslim Islamophobes.” –Lesley Hazelton

 

Draw Muhammad Day Predictably Descends into Hate Fest

Posted in Feature, Loon Sites with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2010 by loonwatch

Yesterday, May 20th was the Draw Muhammed Day which is extending into today, ostensibly put together to defend freedom of expression/speech. The original creators of the day have backed out, including Molly Norris, due to the tremendous amounts of bigotry and hate that it engendered, but others continued with the campaign.

Taking a glance at the Facebook page, most of the freedumb expressions are hateful and bigoted depictions of Muhammad meant to anger Muslims. Is it a coincidence that the ones who are reveling most in this day are racists and Islamophobes?

Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have both been utterly gleeful over the event. Unconditionally supporting it, Spencer got in the act himself drawing Prophet Muhammad with a bomb on his head, though the depiction looks a little bit like Spencer himself, and Geller added to the fray by drawing Prophet Muhammad with the face of a pig.

As Shahed Amanullah said, this is pretty much collective punishment on the whole Muslim community for the actions of a few. The inspiration for this event was the threats that the South Park creators received from a group called Revolution Muslim.

We reported at the time that this group is composed of four or five individuals, all with dubious backgrounds. Not only are they on the fringe in terms of their beliefs, they are completely rejected in the American Muslim community. Yet for some curious reason the media took this story and ran with it as if these Revolution Muslim characters represented or had any clout amongst American Muslims. It is as though anyone can say they are Muslim or represent Muslims and they will get airtime if they do or say something crazy.

The event itself was a mixture of self-righteous internet warriors who cared less about free speech and more about offending and disparaging Muslims. The initial fan page was deleted by Facebook, shortly after that another one was started.

There were pictures of Quran’s in toilets, of Muhammad depicted in all sorts of ways which I won’t repeat or reproduce here because they are vile and disgusting, and go beyond any justification of free speech and into the realm of outright hostility and bigotry towards Muslims.  People can view the site and judge for themselves.

However, I must say that if this event was put together to defend freedom of speech it has failed. Freedom of speech, the freedom to offend, to be a racist is not in dispute but when you get called out for it don’t begin whining. There also seems to be a level of incitement, the strange and morbid wish to receive death threats, as the moderator put it, “Did you receive any death threats? If so, post them online and share the fun. :)

Interestingly enough, a few participants in the Draw Muhammad Day expressed disappointment at not receiving death threats, one Jack Burns wrote,

Jack Burns

Jack Burns

I’m really disappointed…I haven’t received any…I’m starting to feel left out!

Troels Jensen

Troels Jensen

damn, i did not get a death threat yet, darn…

The trouble seems to be one of communication. American Muslims say, “we respect free speech, and to begin with we don’t care about the South Park cartoon which was a media storm created from a small group of wing-nuts who got way more attention than they deserve.”
Unfortunately, as when Muslims condemn and fight terrorism no one cares or is paying attention. A day such as this isn’t about criticism or defense of free speech, it is more like a day when people can stroke their own egos and have some excitement in otherwise boring lives.

Online ‘Draw Mohammed’ Campaign

The Pakistani government has blocked access to Facebook and YouTube over a campaign encouraging users to post images of the Prophet Muhammad online.

A group of free speech advocates declared May 20 “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” to protest censorship of an episode of South Park that featured illustrations of Muhammad. In 2006, the show poked fun of a controversy over Danish cartoons with images of Muhammad. For Muslims, it’s blasphemous to show an image of him, but the episode aired without much notice.

 

That’s part of the freedom of speech. It’s not always neat and clean. It’s not always nice and smooth. Sometimes it’s a little ugly and a little bit dirty, but it’s free speech.

– Liam Fox, NewsJunkiePost.com

Then last month the prophet appeared on South Park, again, this time in a bear suit. In response, a radical Muslim website posted a warning to the show’s creators saying they could end up like Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was shot and stabbed to death after making a film that protested domestic violence in Islamic cultures. Comedy Central censored all references to Muhammad in the followingSouth Park episode.

That sparked cartoonist Molly Norris to establish “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” in protest; a Facebook page was created for people to post drawings, and the campaign spilled over into YouTube.

“The reaction of people drawing cartoons and encouraging people to draw cartoons is to make the point that one group cannot impose its ideology or its theology on others simply by saying we don’t allow that or it offends us,” says Liam Fox, who writes for the website News Junkie and says he supports the protest.

But many of the drawings and comments posted on the Facebook page weren’t just depictions of Muhammad; there were some very anti-Muslim comments. That prompted Norris and many other professional illustrators to withdraw their support for the protest.

“It may be a sincere attempt at trying to make a statement about free expression,” says Rex Rabin, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. “It just kind of strikes me as unnecessary and childish.”

Rabin says he believes in free speech and he thinks cartoons can be a great way to make a statement. But he says he sees no point in cartoons that are simply meant to offend an entire religious group.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has condemned the threat of violence against the creators of South Park. But a spokesman for the organization, Ibrahim Hooper, says the protest has created a worse situation.

“It was being taken up by Muslim bashers and Islamophobes and those who have a deep hatred for the faith of Islam and that’s what we’re seeing today,” he says.

Still, Hooper and CAIR are asking Muslims to respond to the situation by organizing educational events about Islam.

Fox thinks all groups have to have a thick skin in a free society, so he stands behind “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

“That’s part of the freedom of speech. It’s not always neat and clean. It’s not always nice and smooth,” he says. “Sometimes it’s a little ugly and a little bit dirty, but it’s free speech.”

Facebook briefly took down the “Draw Mohammed” page, but then put it back up. By Thursday afternoon it had more than 100,000 members.

 

Draw Muhammad Day: Collectively Punishing Muslim Americans

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2010 by loonwatch
Shahed Amanullah

By Shahed Amanullah

In the wake of the self-censorship controversy surrounding South Park‘s portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad, artists intent on defending freedom of speech have responded by organizing an event they call Draw Muhammad Day, to take place on May 20. The goal, according to the website hosting the endeavor, is to defend free speech by showing Muslims that artists “don’t back down” when threatened.

But the fact is that millions of Muslim-Americans — many of whom have known about South Parkcaricatures of Muhammad for years — behaved exactly the way free speech advocates wanted them to: by remaining silent or expressing their feelings peacefully. The handful of thugs at a New York-based site called Revolution Muslim — who, by the way, are unwelcome in every New York mosque for their extremist rantings — were the only exceptions. And now these Muslim-Americans are being subject to mass insult as thanks for their respect of South Park‘s free speech rights.

Let’s think for a moment about what is motivating the people behind Draw Muhammad Day. Is it revulsion at religiously motivated death threats? I don’t think so. Just this week, Congressman Bart Stupak wrote that he had received so many death threats (that’s actual phoned-in threats, not just one passive-aggressive blog post) that he was advised to beef up his security. It’s safe to assume that most of those death threats were fueled by religious fervor, but since the religion in question isn’t Islam, it gets a pass.

Maybe it is to show all Muslims that attacks on free speech won’t be tolerated. But the fact is that over the course of 10 years, millions of Muslims respected the free speech of South Park and didn’t even lodge a polite complaint with Comedy Central. What exactly are we being punished for? Our inability to enforce a zero-tolerance policy and prevent a blogger from hitting the Enter key?

If free speech advocates want to target someone, why not target Comedy Central, who exhibited self-censorship in the face of a mere web post? Or better yet, why not target the Revolution Muslim group, who issued the warnings that brought this whole crisis to bear? (I know plenty of Muslims who would join in this effort.)

In other words, target the people responsible for sullying free speech, not those who respected it.

Imagine for a moment if an African-American blogger complained about an unfair stereotype in a cartoon in the same crass manner as the Revolution Islam folks. Would free speech advocates respond by hosting a contest to draw as many vile stereotypes of blacks as they could? I can’t imagine that anyone would even propose such an idea. So why, then, are millions of Muslim-Americans who said nothing about South Park in the past decade being subject to this mass insult? To prove a point? What point would that be?

To be clear, the folks behind Draw Muhammad Day have every right to organize and participate in such an endeavor without threat of violence or coercion from Muslims (as I have written previously in an op-ed published all over the Muslim world).

But the participants shouldn’t claim any sort of moral high ground in doing so. In fact, unless they are willing to push the same limits of free speech with respect to other minorities, they are nothing but hypocrites that apply collective punishment to a vast majority that did them no harm and wished no ill on South Park, and are letting their thinly-veiled hatred show in the process.

Unfortunately, the right of free speech means that sometimes we have to tolerate hearing things we don’t like. Nearly every Muslim-American (with the exception of the few previously mentioned) has proven that they respect that, and I’m confident that they will continue to do so.

But it doesn’t absolve people from being assholes. And with Draw Muhammad Day, the participating artists are proving themselves to be just that.

 

Times Square bombing in retaliation for U.S. drone attacks, No connection to Islam

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2010 by loonwatch
The U.S.'s drones attack Pakistan; The Taliban sent their own drone to Times SquareThe U.S.’s drones attack Pakistan; The Taliban sent their own drone to Times Square

The evidence that the Times Square bombing was in retaliation for illegal U.S. predator drone attacks–and not because “they hate our freedoms” or because of some silly South Park affair–is very strong.

Hakimullah Mahsud, chief of the Pakistani Taliban (the same group that claimed responsibility for the failed Times Square bombing), had long ago promised to retaliate against the United States for the drone attacks; The Daily Mail reads:

Meanwhile the Pakistan Taliban’s new leader [Hakimullah Mahsud] has met with reporters for the first time since winning control of the militants and has vowed to retaliate against the U.S. and Pakistan for drone attacks along the Afghan border…

Mehsud said his group would avenge the killing of Baitullah Mehsud and strike back at Pakistan and the U.S. for the increasing number of drone attacks in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Unmanned drones have carried out more than 70 missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan over the last year in a covert program, killing several top militant commanders along with sympathisers and civilians.

I discussed the drone attacks in a previous article, but I’ll reproduce the most salient part below:

U.S. drone attacks on Pakistani soil have killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians.  According to Pakistani sources, upwards of 687 Pakistani civilians have died at the hands of U.S. drone attacks.  CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen placed the number a bit lower:

Since 2006, our analysis indicates, 83 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have killed between 760 and 1,050 people. Among them were about 20 leaders of al Qaeda, the Taliban and allied groups, all of whom have been killed since January 2008…The real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 260 to 320, or one-third of those killed.

Regardless of whether the number is closer to 260 or 687, the point is: the U.S. is killing Pakistani civilians–men, women, and children.  At least one-third of those killed are civilians.

UN human rights investigator Philip Alston has said that the drone attacks may “violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law”, and demanded the United States to prove otherwise.  The ACLU declared that this drone policy “violates international law” and is “unconstitutional”, and has converted “the entire world” into a “war zone.”  In a strongly worded letter to the President of the United States, the ACLU wrote:

The program you have reportedly endorsed is not simply illegal but also unwise, because how our country responds to the threat of terrorism will in large measure determine the rules that govern every nation’s conduct in similar contexts. If the United States claims the authority to use lethal force against suspected enemies of the U.S. anywhere in the world – using unmanned drones or other means – then other countries will regard that conduct as justified. The prospect of foreign governments hunting and killing their enemies within our borders or those of our allies is abhorrent.

Only 9% of Pakistanis support the U.S. led drone attacks–and only 6% amongst the Pashto speaking people who live in the NWFP (the area being bombed).  Pakistani officials have declared the drone attacks on Pakistani soil to constitute an “act of war,” a feeling shared by the vast majority of the country’s citizenry.

In January of this year, it was thought that Hakimullah Mahsud was taken out in one such drone attack.  However, Mahsud appeared in a TTP (Pakistani Taliban) propaganda video (allegedly taped on April 4th), declaring that he was in fact still alive.  As you can well imagine, Mr. Mahsud was not too happy with us after that, so naturally he promised revenge on America in the typical over-the-top “Jihadist” rhetoric.  He declared that his fighters had already infiltrated the United States, and would strike within one month.  That month elapsed yesterday (May 4th), meaning the attack on Saturday (May 1st) conformed to his promised deadline.  Furthermore, the video allegedly made on April 4th was released after the car bombing, indicating that it was the fulfillment of the threat.  The Telegraphreports:

Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud threatens US months after ‘death’

Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has vowed to attack major US cities in two new videos released months after his reported killing in a US missile strike.

The videos emerged after an attempted car bombing in New York City, for which his faction claimed responsibility in a third video, and provided the most substantial evidence so far that he survived a barrage of US missiles.

Mehsud threatened to retaliate against the United States within a month for the killing of Islamist militant leaders, appearing in a nine-minute video allegedly made on April 4, after his supposed death in January.

“The time is very near when our fedayeen will attack the American states in the major cities,” said Mehsud…

The video is the first showing Mehsud since January and was issued on the heels of a claim by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan that it was behind the attempted bombing in New York’s Time Square on Saturday…

“Inshallah (God willing) very soon in some days or a month’s time, the Muslim ummah (world) will see the fruits of most successful attacks of our fedayeen in USA,” Mehsud said.

He made similar remarks in an audio message in another TTP video Monday that was apparently recorded on April 19 and features Mehsud’s face next to a map of the United States showing multiple explosions across the country.

IntelCenter, a US-based group that monitors Islamist websites, said it believed all the TTP videos issued since the New York car bomb scare were credible.

“It is our assessment that this threat is credible and that there is a high threat of further attacks like the NYC attack during the coming days and weeks ahead,” it said.

The authorities have not confirmed that it was the Pakistani Taliban who did it, and we cannot ignore the possibility that the TTP is wrongfully seeking “credit” for this dastardly deed.  However, at this time, it seems that it is indeed the Pakistani Taliban who masterminded the failed Times Square bombing.  If they are in fact responsible, then the connection between the illegal U.S. drone attacks and the Times Square bombing is a very strong one, especially since:

Mehsud said his group would avenge the killing of Baitullah Mehsud and strike back at Pakistan and the U.S. for the increasing number of drone attacks in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

So these Islamic extremists did not try to bomb Times Square because “they hate our freedoms” or because of an Islamic prohibition on depicting the Prophet Muhammad, or because the religion of Islam is diabolically evil and commands them to do so.  The motivations are largely political, not religious, in nature. Our country has attacked theirs and killed their countrymen.

The bewilderment of some Americans–”why are there so many Muslim terrorists!?”–is mostly a reflection of a deep ignorance of what our government does abroad.  It’s not really that hard to understand the simple fact that if we kill hundreds of civilians in another country, some people from that country are going to try to retaliate and kill some of us.  As Representative Ron Paul put it: “They don’t come here to attack us because we are rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there [attacking them].”

I could care less about Hakimullah Mahsud and his Taliban cronies.  But I certainly don’t want my taxes to fund the drones that kill hundreds of civilians…something that is not only morally atrocious but which also helps the Pakistani Taliban recruit avengers.  But if you’re OK with that, at least stop acting so bewildered when they keep attacking us.  If we attack them, they will attack us.  If we kill them, they will try to kill us.  It’s not rocket science.

Related Posts: Attempted Times Square Car Bombing; Is it Forbidden to Ask “Why”? and South Park angle unlikely; Marriott Hotel, not Viacom, probable target

UPDATE:

The Telegraph reports:

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, said yesterday that the failed attack could be retaliation for US drone attacks on the Taliban.

“This is retaliation. And you could expect that… let’s not be naive,” he told CBS. “They’re not going to sort of sit and welcome you to sort of eliminate them. They’re going to fight back.”

According to the New York Post, Mr Shahzad witnessed the drone attacks during eight months he recently spent in Pakistan and has told prosecutors that his bomb attempt was supposed to be revenge for the drones’ killing of Taliban leaders.

Of course, there will be a concerted effort to downplay the fact that hundreds of Pakistani civilians have been killed in these drone attacks, or that the drone attacks are illegal under international law.  Notice how the Telegraph says “drones’ killing of Taliban leaders,” even though far more civilians have been killed than Taliban leaders (a ratio of 50:1 according to Pakistani sources, and 16:1 according to CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen).

 

South Park angle unlikely; Marriott Hotel, not Viacom, probable target

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2010 by loonwatch
Faisal ShahzadFaisal Shahzad

Following the failed Times Square bombing and the arrest of a Pakistani-American suspect named Faisal Shahzad, questions remain about his possible motivations.  Some have suggested that the recent South Park controversy could have something to do with it: perhaps Mr. Shahzad was retaliating against Viacom, which owns Comedy Central.  According to this theory, the grievance was over a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad by the satirical cartoon show South Park, which runs on Comedy Central. The Viacom building is in close proximity to the intended blast site.

The police have not ruled out this South Park angle (and I do not think they should), although officials have conceded that it is one out of a hundred possibilities.  However, certain extreme right-wingers and anti-Islam ideologues (such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller) have invested a lot in this South Park-Times Square connection, and pray that it turns out to be true.  It would certainly allow them to paint the Muslim community in the worst possible light: “Those crazy Moozlems bomb and kill innocent civilians simply for drawing a cartoon of their prophet!”

Proponents of the South Park-Times Square connection argue that both the (1) location and (2) timing fit.  As for the location, it is said that the the parked SUV was in close proximity to the Viacom headquarters.  This is true, but it is unlikely that the blast would have significantly damaged the Viacom building.  Instead, it seems more likely that the intended target was the Marriott Hotel, which is right next to the blast site.  Most importantly, the reaction of the emergency response teams gives us a strong indication of what the terrorists’ target was.  It seems to have been the Marriott Hotel, which was evacuated and shut down.  USA Today reports:

NYC’s Marriott Marquis partly evacuated due to car bomb scare Saturday

Update, 12:13 pm: Earlier this morning, I learned more about what Marriott Marquis guests experienced last night from Kathy Duffy, who handles public relations for Marriott’s New York hotels. Since the suspicious vehicle was parked on the 45th Street side of the Marquis, NYPD told the hotel to evacuate that side of the building. Since the hotel was sold out, that meant evacuating several hundred people who had rooms between floor 10 and 45, she said. The Marquis provided the guests with temporary cots and blankets in the banquet room (see CNN iReport photo link below), where they stayed until around 2 to 3 a.m., when they were allowed back to their rooms, Duffy told me.

Because the Marriott Hotel–and not the Viacom building–was evacuated, it seems pretty safe to say that the former was the target and not the latter.  Furthermore, the attack was on Saturday night–after hours.  The Viacom building would likely have been virtually empty.  Wouldn’t a bloodthirsty terrorist have struck during peak office hours in order to kill as many Viacom employees as possible?  The New York Times commented:

Times Square on a Saturday night is one of the busiest and most populated locations in the city, and has long been seen as a likely target for some kind of attack.

We can further reasonably assume that a bloodthirsty terrorist would want to kill as many people as possible, and therefore a “sold out” Marriott and a heavily “populated” Times Square were the more likely targets than the unoccupied Viacom building.  If it was truly the Pakistani Taliban involved in the attack, the chosen target (the Marriott) would fit their M.O.  This is not the first time the Marriott would have been targeted.  In 2006, Islamic extremists detonated a bomb outside the Marriott in Karachi, the same city where Faisal Shahzad allegedly met with radicals.  In 2008, the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was bombed, as well as another Marriott in Jakarta.  In 2003, the Marriott in South Jakarta was bombed.  In addition to the Marriott, several other hotels have been bombed in Pakistan.  In fact, two of the prime targets chosen by terrorists in Pakistan are consulates and hotels.

As for the timing of the attack, proponents of the South Park-Times Square connection argue that the bombing attempt occurred almost immediately following death threats made by Revolution Muslim. They argue: how can this just be a coincidence?  However, it is in fact the incredibly short time duration–between when the South Park controversy took place and the attempted Times Square bombing–that works most against the South Park-Times Square theory.  It is unlikely that the terrorists could have planned the attack so quickly.  Furthermore, and most importantly, numerous reports have come out saying that Faisal Shahzad went to Pakistan to receive terrorist training.  This happened long before the South Park controversy.  Hence, something else radicalized him and convinced him to bomb his adopted country.  If we assume that the Pakistani Taliban trained him (and instructed him to bomb NYC), then all this preceded the South Park affair.  Mr. Shahzad, and his Taliban teachers, had intended to bomb us long time ago.

It is highly unlikely that Revolution Muslim has anything to do with the bombing, as they are under constant scrutiny by the FBI.  They are known for their antics and tall talk, not for their actions and walk.  And surely they would have bombed the place first, before announcing to the world their intention to do that and placing themselves under the watchful eye of the government.

It could be argued that Revolution Muslim issued the call and other extremists hearkened to it.  However, as I discussed above, the bombing took place too soon afterward.  Furthermore, the Pakistani Taliban–who claimed responsibility for the bombing–have not (to my knowledge) ever expressed outrage over the South Park cartoons.  The South Park controversy seemed to be a decidedly North American affair, and it is unlikely that the Taliban took notice of it.  If they had, where were their bellicose condemnations and flamboyant threats?

Lastly, there seems to be no motive to attack Viacom.  Comedy Central had, to the dismay of the South Park creators, cowed to the threats from the Islamic extremists, and refused to show the Prophet Muhammad on their channel.  Faisal Shahzad is a highly educated man; certainly, he would have known that it would makes no sense to attack Viacom or Comedy Central, considering they met the extremists’ demands.  Had this recent bombing had anything to do with South Park, it would have been the creators of the show–not Viacom–whom would have been targeted.

In conclusion, it seems unlikely that the failed Times Square bombing had anything to do with the South Park controversy.  This is so because neither the location, timing, or motive fits.  Rather, the intended target seems to have been the Marriott Hotel and Times Square, both of which would have resulted in the greatest number of deaths.  As such, it is extremely unlikely that the Times Square bombing had anything to do with a cartoon’s depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.  I believe that the extreme right wing and anti-Islam camp wish to pin it on the South Park affair only to exploit the Times Square bombing to further their hate-filled agenda.

There is a concerted effort to hide the fact that our country’s horrific foreign policy–the interventionist policy in the Islamic world in general and the predator drone attacks in Pakistan in specific (which have killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians)–could be (and most likely is) what motivated the Times Square bombing. (I argue this here, and more convincingly here.)  Instead, it is easier to blame it on a heathen religion.

 

South Park, the “Four Morons” of Revolution Muslim, and CNN’s Epic Fail

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by loonwatch

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The creators of South Park–Matt Stone and Trey Parker–decided that they would depict the Prophet Muhammad on the 200th episode of their show.  A radical group known as “Revolution Muslim”–based out of New York–issued thinly veiled threats against the South Park creators, hinting that their misdeed would result in their untimely deaths.  CNN picked up the story, and soon the controversy that the South Park creators so desired came to fruition.

Muslim Americans are irate.  But not so much at South Park.  Rather, the anger is directed at two groups: CNN for their poor journalism and Revolution Muslim for their insanity.  Let’s start with CNN: Anderson Cooper covered the topic for over ten minutes and even found time to interview the famous Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Surprisingly, Cooper did not interview a single Muslim American spokesman, thereby giving–whether he intended it or not–the false impression that Revolution Muslim represents a broad spectrum of the Muslim American population, and that the organization speaks for Islam itself.  In reality, the radical fringe group is composed of no more than two to ten members, and one could easily find similar sized extremist groups belonging to other faiths.

The vast majority of Muslim Americans despise Revolution Muslim and their hate-filled ideology.  The New York mosque the group frequented banned them from setting foot inside the premises, forcing them to preach on the street corner. Many Muslim Americans question whether Revolution Muslim are real Muslims, and instead hold them to be agent provocateurs who wish to smear Islam.  Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Revolution Muslim is “an extreme fringe group that has absolutely no credibility within the Muslim community” and that the “wild and irresponsible things” they say has led to “a strong suspicion [in the Muslim American community] that they’re merely a setup to make Muslims and Islam look bad. ”

Joseph Cohen, an Israeli settler and fundamentalist Jew, was the founder of Revolution MuslimJoseph Cohen, a former Israeli settler and ardent Zionist, is the founder of Revolution Muslim 

There’s reason to believe that.  The founder of the group goes by the name of Yousef al-Khattab, but his real name is Joseph Cohen.  He was born and raised in the United States as a Jew, and holds both American and Israeli citizenship.   In the late eighties, Cohen embraced an ultra-orthodox interpretation of Judaism, and began attending a yeshiva (rabbinical school).  In 1998, Cohen hearkened to the Zionist call, and packed up his bags to relocate to the Israeli Occupied Territories where he became an Israeli settler.  As an ardent and extreme Zionist, Joseph Cohen fell in with the Jewish fundamentalist group Shas, an extreme right-wing political party that believes in flouting international law based on their religious beliefs.  Less than three years later, Cohen “converted” to Islam, moved back to the United States, and founded the most radical Islamic group in the country. [1]His underling Younus Muhammad–the other half of the dynamic duo–is similarly a mysterious “convert” to Islam.

This pair of former extremist Zionists [2]–who together form Revolution Muslim–conveniently read off a script that could only be written by an Islamophobe.  For example, one of the two claimed that the Quran commands terrorism, something that no sincere Muslim would ever say (and a claim that is patently false); those are words that an Islamophobe (or extreme Zionist) would agree with, not a Muslim.  Considering the founder’s background in an extreme right-wing and fundamentalist Israeli political party, Muslim Americans have reason to be suspicious.  Revolution Muslim is just too convenient.  Regardless of whether they are Muslim or agent provocateurs, they are simply inorganic wackos that have no community support whatsoever.  Yet, that hasn’t stopped the media frenzy from portraying two “Muslims” as being representative of millions of Muslim Americans.

Cohen (Khattab) is just selling the mainstream media the narrative they want to hear.  According to these preconceived notions, Muslims lose their minds when the Prophet Muhammad is depicted.  The reasoning is simple enough: Muslims reacted in a frenzy to the Danish cartoons, so doesn’t it just make sense that a similar reaction would take place when South Park depicts the Prophet Muhammad?  However, the reality is that South Park has already portrayed an uncensored Muhammad in 2001, in an episode entitled “Super Best Friends”.  In fact, the image of the Prophet Muhammad was not only used in that episode, but appeared in the opening segment of the show for four entire seasons.  What was the Muslim reaction?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing happened.  No protests, no riots, and no death threats.  The Muslim American community shrugged it off, as they did the recent episode (barring the Revolution “Muslim” group).  Muslim columnist Zahed Amanullah wrote an article for the Guardian entitled “No [Muslim] freak-out over South Park”, saying:

But has there really been any Muslim outrage? The characterisation of Muhammad in a July 2001 episode entitled “Super Best Friends“, where he teams up with Jesus, Moses, and Buddha to defeat evil (even though Buddha “doesn’t really believe in evil”), has been available for viewing online (if not on a spooked Comedy Central) for nine years without censorship, more than enough time to spark another cartoon crisis if Muslims really cared. As should be obvious by now, they don’t.

Somehow “a couple of misfits” from Revolution Muslim are allowed to smear the entire Muslim American community.  The reality is that the vast majority of Muslims in this country barely flinched when they heard of South Park’s intention to portray the Prophet Muhammad.  Anderson Cooper covered Revolution Muslim months ago, and at that time he had concluded that “it’s just a bunch of, you know, four morons standing on the street corner, shouting at the top of their lungs–how many people are really listening?”  That summation of Revolution Muslim, “four morons standing on [a] street corner”, is exactly how Muslim Americans view them as.  Yet flash forward to the recent Cooper report and there is no mention of this fact, and they are instead portrayed as spokesmen of Islam.

To really seal this impression, Anderson Cooper had on his show the vitriolic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ardent Islamophobe.  Unbelievably, she told Cooper that one religion (Islam) is “beyond criticism” nowadays.  What world is Ms. Ali living in?  Today, Islam is the most vilified religion ever, and you can say things against Islam and Muslims on television that you simply could not say against any other religion or religious group.  On Fox News, that’s simply routine, and guests (and oftentimes hosts) can get away with virtually any swipe at Islam.  And on the internet, the level of Islamophobia is astronomical, with Islamophobic websites being amongst the most popular sites on the net, and anti-Islamic comments being hurled at Muslims from sites ranging from YouTube to our very own LoonWatch.  So it is actually the opposite of what Ms. Ali claims: there is no other religion which is criticized more than Islam.  And it’s gone far past criticism but entered into wholesale bigotry, which explains the hypersensitive reaction of some Muslims to this abuse.

In any case, the idea that only Muslims have ever threatened people for portraying their prophet in a certain way is false to begin with.  The indefatigable Glenn Greenwald decimated this argument here, so I don’t need to belabor that point; for example, he mentions a play by the name of Corpus Christiwhich was canceled several times, due to death threats from extremist Christians.  It is clearly not a Muslim only problem, and ought not to be used as a stick to beat Muslims over the head with.  Ms. Ali takes this stick not only to all observant Muslims, but to all of Islam itself.  On Cooper’s show, she claims that the Islamic scripture itself advocates killing those who criticize the religion.  Last I checked, the Islamic scripture is the Quran, and not a single verse in it advocates such a thing.  In fact, we find quite the opposite; the Quran commands believers to say “peace be unto you” to those who insult their religion.  In the Islamic holy book, God describes the righteous:

They are patient, and repel evil with good…When they hear vile ridicule (against their faith), they ignore it and say: “We shall have our deeds and you shall have your deeds; peace be unto you!” (Quran, 28:54-55)

That’s what the Islamic scripture says.  As for the hadiths (Prophetic traditions), these are an amorphous body of texts, which Muslims do not hold to be inerrant like the Quran.  Rather, a large number of hadiths are rejected outright as apocryphal in nature, and controversy surrounds many others. [3] Muslim Americans focus on explicit hadiths in which the Prophet Muhammad forgave those who reviled him. [4] For example, a group of disbelievers cursed the Prophet Muhammad, and his wife angrily retaliated in kind.  The Prophet, however, admonished his wife: “Calm down.  There is not gentleness in anything except that it becomes more beautiful, and there is not harshness in anything except that it makes it ugly.  So be calm.”  He then expounded an integral Islamic belief, saying: “God is kind and lenient, and likes that one should be kind and lenient in all matters.” [5]Contemporary Muslims argue that if the Prophet Muhammad forbade even verbal aggression against non-Muslims who insulted him, then physical violence is even more loathsome.

Similarly, if the Prophet Muhammad did not seek vengeance against those who physically assaulted him and even tried to kill him, then how could it be justified against those who merely insulted him?  For example, the Prophet Muhammad was poisoned by a woman who opposed his message, yet he forgave her and sought no retaliation against her.  When the people brought her to him, and asked: “Shall we kill her?”, the Prophet replied emphatically “no.” [6] Contemporary Muslims argue that if the Companions were forbidden to kill the one who tried to physically harm and kill the Prophet Muhammad, then it seems safe to say that it is even more forbidden to punish the one who merely insults him or draws a demeaning cartoon of him. One last example I will give here (although there are many others) is that of Labeed ibn al-Asam, a sorcerer who cursed the Prophet Muhammad, and attempted to harm him through black magic. When his wife asked him why he did not seek retaliation against the sorcerer, the Prophet Muhammad replied “I hate to cause harm to anyone.” (Sahih al-Bukhari) Contemporary Muslims ask: if the Prophet hated to cause harm to anyone, then he would hate for Muslims to kill those who merely drew cartoons of him, a “crime” much less egregious than black magic.

Are there certain texts from the hadiths and classical scholars that say otherwise?  Certainly, and I am not denying that.  But the Islamophobes put a standard to Muslims that they themselves cannot meet.  For example, the vitriolic Catholic crusader Robert Spencer would show such-and-such hadith, and then say “well, it says to kill people who insult the Prophet Muhammad, and so an observant Muslim must do that.”  Yet, his own Bible says to kill those who insult his God (Jesus), commanding the faithful to stone the blasphemous infidels to death:

Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death. (Leviticus, 24:16)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s swipe at Islam can be applied here, with the condescending disclaimer that “not all Christians follow the scripture.”  And what of Anderson Cooper’s comment on his blog: “I have no respect for a prophet or god that needs its followers to defend it by threats and murder.”  Would he now think lowly of the Jewish and Christian God who–according to their most authentic scriptural source–calls for its followers to kill those who insult Him?  Or do we realize that it’s not wise to cherry-pick a passage of a religious text and then vilify an entire creed?  Islamophobes like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Robert Spencer claim that Islam itself and the scriptural sources themselves explain why the riots against the Danish cartoons occurred.  I recently covered the resurgence of Christian witch hunts in Africa; one could make the unsophisticated claim that the primary blame for the witch hunts can be attributed to the Bible and Christianity itself, since the Bible calls for witches to be killed.[7] Yet, experts understand that “poverty, exacerbated by the current world economic crisis, often lay behind the [witch hunt] phenomenon as people sought to find scapegoats for their misfortunes and the illnesses they suffered.”  Christianity was simply the currency in which the people expressed their frustration.  In other words, it is a very superficial understanding to reduce the issue to Biblical verses.

Likewise, there were sociological factors behind the anger that fueled the Danish cartoon riots.  Yet, an unsophisticated understanding of the issue would lead one to believe that the riots were simply the result of an Islamic prohibition on the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.  The reality, however, is that–in spite of an orthodox ban on imagery of the Prophet [8]–the Prophet Muhammad has been depicted in the Islamic world for centuries. British author Dr. Kenan Malik writes:

Over the past 400 years, a number of Islamic, especially Shiite, traditions have accepted the pictorial representation of Muhammed. The Edinburgh University Library in Scotland, the Bibliotheque National in Paris, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, all contain dozens of Persian, Ottoman and Afghan manuscripts depicting the Prophet. His face can be seen in many mosques too – even in Iran. A 17th-century mural on the Iman Zahdah Chah Zaid Mosque in the Iranian town of Isfahan, for instance, shows a Mohammed whose facial features are clearly visible…

So, if there is no universal prohibition to the depiction of Muhammad, why were Muslims universally appalled by the caricatures? They weren’t. And those that were, were driven by political zeal rather than theological fervour.

European Muslims have long suffered from high levels of unemployment, social alienation, and systemic discrimination–factors that contributed to the riots more than indignation over the pictorial representation of the Prophet Muhammad.  In fact, most of the rioters had not even seen the cartoons, and the caricatures were–in the words of the Islamic scholar Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl–”the straw that broke the camel’s back” (an ethnically appropriate phrase).  In the Muslim majority world, Muslims had long been suffering from what they view as Western “neo-colonialism”, and the Danish cartoons were viewed as salt on the wounds.  The bewilderment of many in the West–”how could they react this way to some cartoons?”–only underscores a profound ignorance of the problems that plague those in the East, many of which the West either causes or exacerbates.

Dr. Malik goes on:

There were demonstrations and riots in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Danish embassies in Damascus, Beirut and Teheran were torched. But, as Jytte Klausen has observed, these protests ‘were not caused by the cartoons, but were part of conflicts in pre-existing hot spots’ such as northern Nigeria, where there exists an effective civil war between Muslim salafists and Christians. The violence surrounding the cartoon conflict, Klausen suggests, has been ‘misreported’ as expressions of spontaneous violence from Muslims ‘confronted with bad pictures’. That, she insists, ‘is absolutely not the case’. Rather ‘these images have been exploited by political groups in the pre-existing conflict over Islam.’

Similarly, the Salman Rushdie affair had political not theological roots:

We have come to accept almost as self-evident the idea that the worldwide controversy was sparked by the blasphemies in The Satanic Verses that all Muslims found deeply offensive. It is not true.

The Satanic Verses was published in September 1988. For the next five months, until the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa on Valentine’s Day 1989, most Muslims ignored the book. The campaign against the novel was largely confined to the Indian subcontinent and to Britain. Aside from the involvement of Saudi Arabia, there was little enthusiasm for a campaign against novel in the Arab world or in Turkey, or among Muslim communities in France or Germany. When the Saudi authorities tried at the end of 1988 to get the novel banned in Muslim countries worldwide, few responded except those with large subcontinental populations, such as South Africa or Malaysia. Even in Iran the book was openly available and was reviewed in many newspapers.

As in the controversy over the Danish cartoons, it was politics, not religion, that transformed The Satanic Verses into a worldwide event of historic proportions.

Malik then explains the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, both countries desperately competing for regional dominance.  Each seeks–with its ultraconservative implementations of the religion–to assert itself as the standard-bearer of “authentic” Islam.  Saudi Arabia had attempted to ban the book, and Iran’s fatwa was an attempt to one up the Saudis.  In the words of Kenan Malik: “The Satanic Verses became a weapon in that conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Riyadh had made the initial running (by calling for a ban on the book). The fatwa was an attempt by Iran to wrestle back the initiative…The controversy over The Satanic Verses was primarily a political, not religious, conflict.”  Unfortunately, many Westerners think it sufficient to hold superficial understandings of such complex issues (whereas others find it expedient to do so).

The elements that led to the Danish cartoon affair simply do not exist in today’s South Park controversy, which explains why the Muslim American community–notwithstanding the “four morons on [a] street corner”–have had such a subdued response.  Interestingly, there has not even been any significant drive to boycott the show, nor any peaceful protests (let alone violent recourse)–which shows how little they care about this “controversy.”  Most Muslim Americans understand that South Park pokes fun at people of every faith, and even if they may find it personally distasteful, Muslim Americans don’t think too much of it. As CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper put it: “[Muslims] are pretty tired of this whole: ‘Let’s insult the Prophet Muhammad thing.’”  They don’t want to dwell on it, and just want the incident to pass. Internally, Muslim Americans are telling each other to “ignore it”, and they are cognizant of the fact that outrage will only publicize the South Park episode more.

By presupposing that the reaction of Muslim Americans would be the same as their coreligionists in parts of Europe and the developing world (some) non-Muslim Westerners have placed all Muslims into one box. According to this “the other” understanding, all Muslims–of every nationality and region of the earth–ought to react similarly. Yet, one clearly understands this not to be the case when comparing Evangelicals in America with those leading witch hunts in Nigeria. The reality is that Muslims in this country have a distinctly American Islam, one which has incorporated freedom of speech into it. Therefore, it is incorrect to simply assume that the reaction of Muslim Americans would be the same as their religious brethren elsewhere. Unlike the Muslim communities in many (but not all) European countries, Muslim Americans are well integrated; unemployment and poverty do not affect them in the same way.  Instead, they tend to be rather well off, and are “overrepresented” in professional fields like medicine and engineering.  The absence of the sociological factors present in the Danish cartoon affair explains the lack of response to the South Park cartoons, and this is so even though the scriptural texts are still the same–again pointing to the fact that the protests had sociological and not theological roots.

Another reason why the South Park cartoons did not cause a Muslim outcry like the Danish cartoons did is that the South Park cartoons were not Islamophobic in nature.  The creators of South Park are equal-opportunity haters and have lampooned every religion, which really softened the blow.  The Danish cartoons, on the other hand, were Islamophobic in nature, and portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a stereotypical Muslim terrorist with a bomb on his head.  (The same publisher had earlier refused to publish cartoons that were deemed offensive to Christians.)  The Danish cartoons were racist and bigoted.  Can one imagine the reaction of socioeconomically depressed African Americans had a mainstream newspaper (like the New York Times) published cartoons portraying blacks as apes (a stereotypical racist image)?  In the seventies or eighties, such a thing would have led to widespread riots. Would people still be bewildered as to how a population could react so violently to a “mere cartoon“?  How is an ape-like representation of a black person any different than a stereotypical hook-nosed Muslim with a bomb on his head?

Freedom of speech is one of the principles of this country, and without it a democracy cannot flourish.  But let’s not forget that racial and religious tolerance is another bedrock of democracy.  It is a true oddity that certain segments of society have chosen that today freedom of speech is the most important issue to them, only because it allows them to channel their racial and religious intolerance.  The neo-conservatives who are today masquerading as the defenders of the first amendment are the same ones who just yesterday were justifying warrantless wiretapping, racial profiling, suspension of habeas corpus, secret prisons, torture, coerced confessions, state-sponsored assassinations (of even U.S. citizens), and on and on…all because these things were directed at Muslims.  In the words of Glenn Greenwald, the South Park controversy has been exploited so that the “majoritarian group [can act] as the profoundly oppressed victim at the hands of the small, marginalized, persecuted group which actually has no power [i.e. Muslim Americans].”  It is selective and unprincipled outrage expressed by unsavory folks who don’t really care about the principles of freedom and tolerance, but are instead using the incident to promote intolerance and demonization of a minority group…something which threatens our democracy far more than “four morons on [a] street corner.”

In conclusion, this is a contrived controversy, and there was no freak-out by Muslim Americans over the South Park cartoons.  Yes, many Muslim Americans were offended, but no more so than pious Christians whose stomachs churn at the South Park episodes mocking their religious icons.  But most Muslim Americans know that this is the cost of living in a free society, and most importantly, they know that it won’t affect what they perceive is the greatness of their prophet.  As one Muslim American told me: “Barking dogs cannot harm the moon, so let them bark.”  Despite the crudeness of this analogy, it adequately depicts the indifference of Muslim Americans to the South Park cartoon.Dr. Hesham Hassaballa, a prominent Muslim spokesman and former board member of CAIR, said:

I  must admit: I was offended. I was really bothered by the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit on Comedy Central’s satirical show “South Park.” …[But] ever since the beginning of his ministry, the Prophet Muhammad has been attacked, maligned, and insulted, including from his own uncle. The Prophet never retaliated against [them]. When he was brutally expelled from the city of Ta’if, two angels offered to crush the city under the mountains that surrounded it. The Prophet refused, hoping that their children may one day believe in God. After conquering Mecca, the Prophet issued a general amnesty to the very same people that brutally and violently opposed him, including the person who mutilated his beloved uncle Hamza after he was killed in battle.

This is the example of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims should seek to emulate whenever he is insulted. The Prophet once said, “I was sent to perfect the most noble of character.” He also said, “The best of you are the best in character.” Rather than pray for God to “kill Matt Stone and Trey Parker,” Mr. Chesser should have prayed for God to show Stone and Parker the beauty of the Prophet Muhammad, so they can understand more about the man whom 1.2 billion people around the world revere and honor. It is what the Prophet would have done.

No angry pitchfork, Dr. Hassaballa?  The media thinks to itself: that won’t sell a story and certainly doesn’t fit our preconceived notions of what a stereotypical Muslim is, so let’s forget that you are a respected figure in the community and instead focus on “four morons on [a] street corner” who aren’t even allowed inside their mosque due to how much the Muslim American community dislikes their views. (Phew, that was a long sentence!) Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of CAIR-Chicago, writes:

The latest Muhammad cartoon controversy, courtesy of Comedy Central’s South Park, seems somewhat contrived…[Revolution Muslim is] literally 5-10 people who are widely reviled by the mainstream community for their radical and confrontational style including harassing Muslims outside mosques (where they tend to be banned) with outlandishly provocative anti-American rhetoric.

Most suspect the group is fraudulent. Its mysterious leader, born Joseph Cohen, is an American Jew who converted to Islam in 2000 after living in Israel and attending an orthodox rabbinical school there. Whether, true Muslims or agent provocateurs, the result is the same: they are five community outcasts…

South Park’s provocation was mostly met by silence and indifference [by the Muslim American community]. The widespread Muslim attitude went something like this: this is a free country, you go on mocking Jesus and Muhammad, and we will go on keeping them in our prayers. No harm done. Muhammad’s and Jesus’ value to humanity certainly will not dip as a result of your mockery.

The Muslim American community by and large supports freedom of speech, feeling that the right of the cartoonists to lampoon the Prophet exists and that the best thing to do is ignore such insults. Perhaps the lack of reaction by Muslim Americans has disappointed the sensationalist media looking for a story, forcing them to focus on a few misfits.  Amazing how “four morons on [a] street corner” are allowed to become the spokesmen for Islam. The message to Muslim Americans is loud and clear: even if 99.9999% of you behave, that last 0.00001% will be enough to hit you over the head with. The entire community will be defined by its two (or four) village idiots. Muslim Americans can never hope to have their voices heard, unless of course they become Revolution Muslims.

Update:

In retrospect, I fear that I may have used too strong wording when I was discussing Joseph Cohen’s past.  The way my article is written, it seems as if I am saying that he is really a Jew pretending to be a Muslim, and this could be used by some to promote a vast conspiracy, i.e. “it’s the Mossad!”  This was not my intention, and I caution people to stay away from such conspiratorial talk.

The reality is that I do not know Cohen’s true intentions.  I myself have a nagging suspicion that he is a disingenuous attention whore, as is his underling Younus Muhammad.  They have found a way to become famous, and I believe they enjoy the feeling of self-importance and their fifteen minutes of fame.  Accordingly, I believe that the outlandish things they say come from a desire to grab media attention, not from a genuine belief in Islam.  As I said, it is difficult to imagine that a sincere Muslim would claim that the Quran advocates terrorism, etc.  To fulfill this desire for fame, the so-called Revolution Muslims have adopted the role of agent provocateurs, trying to push as many buttons as they possible can.  “Look at us!  Look at us!”

This is the limit of my “conspiracy,” and I do not at all claim that they are still Jews, even though I realize that my wording in the article above was poorly constructed. I am not one to make excuses for my mistakes, and so I say quite simply: I made a mistake.  Yes, it is a possibility that the group was formed to make Muslims look bad, as Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR said.  But the evidence I presented with regard to Cohen’s past can at most make one question intentions, nothing more.  There is no way to know for sure either way; one can only conjecture.

However, the rest of the article still holds: regardless of Revolution Muslim’s sincerity of faith or lack thereof, the point is that they are extreme outliers, completely at odds with the vast majority of Muslim Americans.  The suspicion of the Islamic community is important insofar as it is highlights this very fact, and indicates how far off Cohen and co.’s viewpoints are from the rest of the Muslim Americans.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Yousef al-Khattab, My Reversion to Islam, http://www.scribd.com/doc/2901290/Brother-Yousef-al-Khattabs-Reversion-to-Islam-A-Former-Jew

refer back to article 2. I found less information on the character known as Younus Muhammad, and would welcome reader input confirming his real name and Zionist inclinations prior to his supposed conversion.

refer back to article 3. Although several textual proofs indicate that the Prophet Muhammad forgave those who insulted and abused him, a handful of texts seem to say otherwise.  However, many contemporary Muslims view these texts to be apocryphal, including the stories involving Abu Afak (a poet), Asma bint Marwan (a poetess), and a certain blind man’s slave girl.  As for Kaab ibn al-Ashraf, it is argued that he “was assassinated only because he violated the peace treaty and assisted in the war” (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari) against the fledgling city-state of Medina.  With regard to Ibn Khattal and his two slave girls, it is said that they “all stood convicted of atrocious [war] crimes” (M. Haykal, Hayat Muhammad).

refer back to article 4. Perhaps it would behoove me to compile these some day.

refer back to article 5. Sahih Bukhari, Vol.9, Book 84, # 61

refer back to article 6. Found in Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, amongst others. She was eventually found guilty of the murder of Bishr ibn Al-Bara, and punished accordingly.

refer back to article 7. “Thou shalt not allow a sorceress to live” (Exodus, 22:18), and “sorcerers amongst you must be put to death” (Leviticus, 20:27)

refer back to article 8. The ban was placed to prevent idolization of the Prophet Muhammad, something which early Muslims feared due to the fate of Jesus in the Christian world. However, this ban on pictorial representations carries no worldly punishment if breached, neither in classical or contemporary understandings of Islamic law.

No-name radicals vs. ‘South Park’ just a distraction

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2010 by loonwatch

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By Arsalan Iftikhar, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.comand legal fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington.

(CNN) — Free speech issues and portrayals of Islam needlessly stirred a hornet’s nest recently when “South Park” depicted the Prophet Mohammed disguised in a bear suit in the 200th episode of the popular Comedy Central TV show.

But what many people don’t realize is that the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, already used an image of Mohammed on “South Park” without any strife whatsoever in a July 2001 episode called “Super Best Friends.”

Of course, that episode, which depicted Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and other religious leaders as the “Super Best Friends” superhero crew, was aired before the September 11 attacks and the 2005 controversy over a Danish cartoon with drawings of the prophet.

To generate some press coverage and needless dispute, two extremist buffoons at a radical website called “Revolution Muslim” directed a thinly veiled threat against the show’s creators for depicting Mohammed in the recent episode. Much of the American mainstream media ended up giving a national platform to these unknown knuckleheads, which only helped to tarnish the reputation of Muslims in America further.

Sadly, it seems to be far sexier for the media to report the message of two extremists rather than the tempered and tolerant message of the majority of millions of American Muslims.

This is also important because actual Islamophobia — and other forms of bigotry and racism — badly needs to be combated by our society. That fight certainly does not revolve around a bunch ofComedy Central cartoon characters named Eric Cartman or Mr. Hanky.

Instead of conjuring up fake controversies involving the equal opportunity offenders of “South Park,” we should focus on professional political polemicists, such as Ann Coulter, who has publicly stated that we should “kill their [Muslim] leaders and convert them to Christianity” — or the Rev. Pat Robertson of “The 700 Club,” who once told The Associated Press that neither American Muslims nor Hindus should be allowed to serve as U.S. federal judges.

These right-wing professional fear-mongers have nurtured, facilitated and expanded the growth of Islamophobia after the tragedy of the September 11, 2001, attacks to the point where Muslim is almost a slur in America.

In another recent news story, an under-reported one that was more significant than the whole “South Park” debacle, the U.S. Army rescinded its invitation to the Rev. Franklin Graham — the former spiritual adviser for George W. Bush — to the upcoming National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon over remarks he has repeatedly made about Islam over the years.

“True Islam cannot be practiced in this country,” Graham told CNN’s Campbell Brown in December. “You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do practice in these other countries.”

During a November 2001 broadcast of “NBC Nightly News,” Graham told news anchor Tom Brokaw that Islam is “a very wicked and evil religion … not of the same god … [and] I don’t believe this is this wonderful, peaceful religion.”

Even though he has never apologized, it was his father — the Rev. Billy Graham — who finally addressed his son’s remarks about Islam during an August 2006 interview with Jon Meacham of Newsweek magazine.

The elder Graham said, “I would not say Islam is wicked and evil … I have a lot of friends who are Islamic. There are many wonderful people among them. I have a great love for them. … I’m sure there are many things that [my son Franklin] and I are not in total agreement about. …”

Sir Winston Churchill once said that “a fanatic is one who cannot change his mind and will not change the subject.” All of this anti-Muslim rhetoric over the last few years has led to political whisper campaigns and public opinion polls that show 57 percent of Republicans, and 32 percent of Americans overall, believe that President Obama is a Muslim, according to a March Louis Harris poll.

As an American Muslim civil rights lawyer and proud First Amendment freak, I can honestly say that I love both my Prophet Mohammed and “South Park.” In any free democratic society, the concept of free speech can only be combated with more free speech, not censorship. If the creators of “South Park” choose to depict the Prophet Mohammed, that is their First Amendment right, and they should be able to do so freely without any threats of physical violence and retribution.

I also believe that Comedy Central probably went too far when it censored the following episode — 201 — especially since the show had run a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in season five.

On the issue of the U.S. Army disinviting Franklin Graham, I do think it was perfectly fine to disinvite him to play a prominent role at the National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon. Just as Graham has the First Amendment right to hate and defame Islam, the Army and Pentagon also exercise their own free speech by not giving an anti-Muslim evangelist a platform on their turf.

This is what I mean by saying the best way to counter free speech is with more free speech, not censorship. Because as we all know, the free speech clause of the First Amendment of our beloved U.S. Constitution legally allows racist, xenophobic and bigoted attitudes to be held that could easily be deemed Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, homophobic or anti-black.

Sadly, instead of dealing with the real cases of racism, bigotry and xenophobia regularly injected into our public airwaves by some of our political leaders and opinion makers, we have instead allowed ourselves to get sucked into a faux controversy involving two no-name idiots with a radical website taking on four pre-pubescent, fictitious cartoon characters from South Park, Colorado.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Arsalan Iftikhar.

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