A majority of Americans oppose the recent censorship of an episode of South Park that depicted the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, a survey shows.
Seventy-one percent of American adults disagree with Comedy Central's decision to censor part of South Park's 201st episode. Only 19 percent agree, according to the Zogby Interactive survey, released this week.
Nearly half (47 percent) of those who disagree said they disagree strongly, while only five percent of those who agree said they feel strongly about their opinion.
The controversy began with the airing of South Park's 200th anniversary episode on April 14. During that episode, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker brought back a host of controversial characters, mostly celebrities but also including religious figures Jesus and Buddha. In the show, the cartoon characters demanded Muhammad to be delivered to South Park, otherwise they would file a lawsuit against the town.
The trick was how to show Muhammad's transportation process without actually showing him because Islam prohibits any depiction of the prophet. Thus the cartoonists showed a blacked out figure of Muhammad, a U-Haul trailer with him supposedly inside, and at the end, the prophet joining the other characters hidden inside a bear costume.
Throughout the famously irreverent show, people could hear Muhammad speak but never saw him.
Meanwhile, Jesus was shown watching pornography and Buddha, snorting cocaine in the episode.
After it aired, a group called Revolution Muslim posted on its website the graphic images of slain Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 by Muslim extremists for making a movie about Muslim women. The caption under the images read: "Have Matt Stone and Trey Parker Forgotten This?"
Another message on the site said "South Park" producers would "probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh" for airing the show. The website also posted Comedy's Central's New York address, Parker and Stone's California production studio address, and the creators' photos.
After that "warning," Comedy Central – without the permission of Parker or Stone – bleeped out every mention of the word "Muhammad" and the entire speech at the end of episode 201.
Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, wrote a commentary critical of the South Park censorship this week.
In her article, which appeared in the National Review Online on Tuesday, she contends that the censorship of the South Park cartoon is the latest evidence that the West is slowly surrendering to the intimidation of Muslim extremists regarding blasphemy against Islam.
"The result is that now Revolution Muslim director Younis Abdullah Muhammad has effectively joined Parker and Stone on South Park's creative team," Shea writes. "Comedy Central is added to Yale University Press, Random House, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the list of Western institutions that will now let Islamist extremists make decisions about what they can show and say."