Note on Moderation:
Strict moderation will be in place for this post, I will mod your comment if:
1) You defend or promote violence against civilians (including South park guys or anyone like that– this isn't CNN!).
2) You defend or promote the revolution guys.
3) You cut and paste tons of ahadith and verses trying to prove that its OK to use violence. I am not censoring the texts, but your contextual use of them.
4) Push some radical “scholar's” view that it is okay to use violence for Muslims in the West.
South Park Episode & Censorship of Muḥammad's (S) Depiction: The Script Played to Perfection
Ever since the South Park episode issue arose and this non-event became a big story, I have been itching to write something. This itch arises from a combination of disappointment and frustration, with a tinge of amusement at how the same old script is successful every time!
Here is how this script goes:
1) Some despairing soul (could be plural, but sticking to singular for this script)- let's call him Party-I (I for instigator), who has very little purposeful happening in his life, decides to write something disparaging about Islam or Muslims for one or more of the following reasons:
(a) spice up his “human rights” credentials (maybe a desire for some legacy?); this reason is almost always never the sole or real motivating force
(b) earn lots of dough ($$) in the process; almost always the “real” reason
(c) earn some fame; goes back to (b) in some ways.
2) Party-I then makes sure his attempt at establishing “freedom of speech” is well-publicized. He will go at great lengths at how afraid he is for his life, or how he feels that this is a “mission written for him”, or how he wants to stand up for the other “brave souls” who similarly stood for “freedom of speech.” Party-I will include a lot of hot-button phrases in his speeches/interviews, lamenting the lack of freedom Islam provides or how he shouldn't need to feel afraid for writing whatever he wishes. The purpose is to gain sympathy of everyday Americans, using the easy Islam scapegoat. Party-I will almost NEVER touch topics such as Holocaust denial or other subjects that can get one arrested in some parts of the “free West.” Some speech is more free than others? The reason for this is obvious. Such topics will never get #3 flowing, and hence are not be desirable for the ultimate goal outlined in #1.
3) Some media outlet, usually FOX, but sometimes one or two from the “liberal” mainstream will pick the story up and look for angles to sensationalize it (sensationalism is important otherwise it won't help with the ratings-think $$ again). Let's call this outlet Party-M (M for media). Party-M then goes on a frenzied search for someone from the Muslim circles to say something that endorses the “mission” of Party-I, directly or indirectly. Party-M needs someone who will make a threat (veiled or otherwise), will invoke a previous threat or simply disagree “strongly” with Party-I's attempt at mocking what Muslims hold dear.
4) If Party-M is lucky, they will happen to land on Party-W (W for wacko). Party-W usually represents some fringe Muslim element, a one-man show or a little bigger. Party-W usually has no physical links to scholars of the mainstream, or really any foundation of Islamic knowledge. Sometimes Party-W is actually working for Party-I (indirectly), an agent provocateur of sort, whose specific goals would be to delegitimize Islam in the garb of a “practicing” and “Muslim-looking” Muslim. Either way, Party-W would make himself fully available to the media, and ultimately do (intentionally or otherwise) exactly what both Party-M and by proxy, Party-I were hoping for, and bang:
5) With Party-W in the wraps, Party-M finds “Islamic experts” (code for Islamophobes) who then exploit Party-W's exhortations to his fellow Muslims against Party-I, to assert how they have been warning everyone for so long about the threat of “Islamism.” Of course, to maintain the script, Party-M never even tries to contact a mainstream Islamic organization.
- Party-I gets media attention, which equals $$.
- Party-M gets a loud-mouthed Party-W, and gets the ratings, equals $$.
- Party-W, despite having no Islamic expertise (except that gained with Shaykh Google), finds himself on TV (yoohoo), popularity and depending on the type of agency, perhaps some $$ as well.
- Islamophobes relish in increasing Islamophobia
And Who Fails:
- The Muslims. The opinions about Muslims. The views about Muslims.
- And the media, having sacrificed quality and responsibility for ratings.
- And Muslim organizations, for not jumping on the issue faster than lightening (considering the script)
- And the West, allowing for some freedoms (of speech) to be more sacred than others.
Coming back to South Park, having provided you the script, consider the three players in this: CNN, South Park (creators) and RevolutionMuslim. I will let you figure out what Party is which… shouldn't be that hard!
Starting with the South Park creators, having taken a look at these guys, it is obvious that these junkies are not really looking at this as an opportunity to become ambassadors of human rights. I mean they are creators of a show that is intended to be dumb and highlight the dumb. They get their kicks by offending other people. They find it very satisfying to step on what others hold dear or sacred. What this obviously means is that these despairing souls probably don't have much that they themselves hold dear, and thus it's the “if I can't get it, then I'll make fun of yours.” Dumb? Didn't I just say that! But the point is that they live in America. This country gives them the freedom to be dumb and to say dumb things. For them, a successful script is a guaranteed jackpot, so why not?
What is unfortunate this time is that it wasn't FOX that jumped on this non-story, rather it was Anderson “I-am-really-serious-and-the-burden-of-the-world's-human-freedoms-is-on-me” Cooper, whose Anderson-360 was reduced to a mere 180, or maybe only a right-angle (that's 90 degrees for those not mathematically-inclined). Watch the video, witness how grand Cooper makes the issue sound; you could be excused for thinking that another Katrina just hit New Orleans! And then he leans over what he probably thinks is a real cool touch-screen and flashes different screens, so that we can admire CNN's technological brilliance. But Anderson shames his own journalistic standards, relying on a “radical Muslim,” completely on the fringe to basically represent the entire Muslim community. To “balance” it, he interviews Ayaan Hirsi, the discredited Islamophobe, who claims that Islam cannot be criticized these days? If Islam can not be criticized, it would not have become the only “acceptable” cottage industry to thrive on racism and prejudice.
And who is Cooper's radical (#4 of the script)? Some radical jihadist with thousands of armed followers, some extremist with a million unarmed followers, someone respected (even if disagreed with) in the wider Muslim community? Not quite. Our radical is none other than Yousef al-Khattab (officially Joseph Cohen) whose only claim to fame is a website with the “scary” name, “Revolution Muslim,” leading an army of four individuals. Brilliant mate! Mr. Khattab's background is interesting, to say the least. He claims to be an ex-extremist Jewish settler and ex-Zionist. Only Allāh knows the secrets of the heart, so I will not venture to guess Khattab's allegiances (although some are not hesitating), but I will say that he could do a lot more good doing da‘wah to his Zionist family and friends, than to turn away countless people away from Islam due to his vitriolic speeches.
Two men do not an organization make and so far, there is no more evidence that these hateful nutcases are any more representative of any broader stream–or even a really narrow one –within “their” community than, say, the infamous and equally odious Westboro Baptist Church, whose handful of congregants are known for traveling the land to picket at high profile events with outrageously homophobic and anti-Semitic signs (e.g., “AIDS cures fags.”). Both “groups” are minuscule and repudiated by their fellows, and both would be unknown were it not for the media attention they've gotten
In the old days of publishing, the incoherent rants of kooks and nobodies like the dim duo behind MuslimRevolution.com [which appears to have been pulled off the web] would end up where they belong, in a trash barrel with all the other waste produced by modern society.
If Muslims would stop feeding Party-W to the media, we wouldn't be talking about this. Party-I/B would not be able to profit off Muslim sensibilities and/or kooks. The insulting misrepresentations or mockery Party-I wanted to propagate would suffer a sudden death-blow. When no one cares, no one will care. And we have seen the history be witness to it.
In fact, South Park already characterized the Prophet (S) 9 years ago and until this recent ruckus, you and countless others would probably have never heard or remembered that episode. In other words, our methodology in channeling our anger in fact helps promote what we don't want promoted. Think of the countless chain emails we get, reminding Muslims not to visit such and such a site for its materials against Islam. Countless Muslims actually click on it, check it out, and then pass it 10 other friends!
How do we channel our anger properly? More than a year ago, we promoted an alternative treatment, the “Silent Treatment” towards the republishing of the Danish Cartoons:
Seriously, what has any of the above done for us? No matter what we say and do, the enemies of Islam will continue to try and provoke our anger and – more importantly – try to push us to do something that will harm us far more than it will harm them. It's also imperative to note that their pathetic attempts at mocking and insulting the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) are absolutely useless: like throwing dust in the direction of the moon. The dust will be swept away, and the moon's beauty and guiding light will not be affected in the least. [Read the full article here]
Married couples know that the worst thing that your partner can do during a fight is to stay silent. I believe there is some application of the same psychology in this case. It will make the instigators appear as fools, when no Muslims takes them up on their “mission.” And so this may actually help prevent a repetition in the future. As minorities living in a countries whose laws we have to stay within, our goal should be to break the script, to say what needs to be said, forcefully and politely. And sometimes, as in this case, not to say anything at all. Or consider other strategic options. Perhaps use interfaith opportunities to express disappointment over the depiction of all Prophets, like Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them, a sensibility shared by other faiths.
Ultimately, we have to remember how the media makes its money. It is all about advertising products. The more attention we give these idiots, the more attention we give to the advertisers, and the more money the outlets will make.
So, if you really want to hurt them where it counts, ignore them. Next time, it won't be profitable to repeat!
Think long-term strategy over short-term emotional release.
As far as the Islamic ruling around the issue of defaming the Prophet (S), many scholars have discussed this in the context of an Islamic state (like on Islam-QA). Islam pays a great deal of attention on individual actors not taking state matters in their own hands in an Islamic state. We can argue and discuss the rulings around blasphemy in an Islamic state, but that discussion is irrelevant to the issue at hand. No respectable scholar residing in the East, with any sort of mainstream following, has urged Muslims in the West to take the law in their own hands, and to resort to violence. Similarly, the fact that NOT ONE mainstream scholar in the West has ever encouraged or approved of violence by Muslims in this issue, is sufficient to prove that any other opinion is a fringe, marginalized view with no place in the mainstream public sphere.
- Salon: Misreading the Qurʾān to threaten the “South Park” guys
- The Silent Treatment: What to do About the Danish Cartoons