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Posted at 1:42 PM ET, 04/28/2010

THIS JUST IN: 17 Pulitzer-winning cartoonists 'condemn threat' against 'South Park' creators

By Michael Cavna

Seventeen Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonists, including "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau and 2010 winner Mark Fiore, have signed a petition to condemn the "threat" against Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of the Comedy Central show "South Park."

As released to Comic Riffs, the letter of condemnation says: "We, the undersigned, condemn the recent threats against the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, by the extremist organization, Muslim Revolution."

The Islamic group in question has also been called Revolution Muslim and produced the recently cached website -- on which images of the fatally stabbed filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (a noted critic of Islam) appeared with the caption: "Have Matt Stone And Trey Parker Forgotten This?" (Comic Riffs reported this last week.)

The 17 Pulitzer cartoonists who signed the letter are: Nick Anderson, Tony Auth, Clay Bennett, Steve Benson, Matt Davies, Mark Fiore, Jack Higgins, David Horsey, Jim Morin, Mike Peters, Joel Pett, Michael Ramirez, Ben Sargent, Paul Szep, Ann Telnaes, Garry Trudeau and Signe Wilkinson.

Their letter goes on to say that "freedom of expression is a universal right" and "we reject any group that seeks to silence people by violence or intimidation." The letter cites the United States's "proud tradition of political satire" and affirms belief in the right "to speak or draw freely without censorship."

Signe Wilkinson, political cartoonist at the Philadelphia Daily News, tells Comic Riffs: "I feel more strongly than the statement -- and am particularly appalled by Comedy Central's lack of spine."

Comedy Central censored an episode of "South Park" last week that was to show Muhammad; the censorship came a week after "South Park" depicted Muhammad in a bear suit. Depictions of the religious leader are considered blasphemous to some Muslims. Stone and Parker said Comedy Central also censored the show's speech about fear and intimidation.

Last week, Seattle artist Molly Norris circulated a cartoon to show her support for the "South Park" creators -- she even "dedicated" the cartoon to Parker and Stone -- but then retreated from the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" campaign that her cartoon spawned, telling Comic Riffs late Saturday: "I made a cartoon that went viral but [this campaign] isn't really my thing."

In writing about Norris this week, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker says the Revolution Muslim website postings about "South Park" were by "one Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee (aka Zachary Chesser of Virginia)." The Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism says Chesser, a recent George Mason University student, wants to start a Revolution Muslim chapter in Washington, D.C., according to a report.

The Bay Area-based Fiore says to Comic Riffs: "Revolution Muslim's Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee sounds a lot less scary when you realize he's really just ... Zachary from Virginia typing on a computer."

Parker also wrote this week that Norris -- who, in a new cartoon, admits to questioning her own courage as the campaign grew viral -- "should be relieved of further duty or responsibility." In other words: Her Muhammad cartoon has done enough to spark a larger dialogue.

Now, 17 Pulitzer-winning cartoonists who know all too well the fires of political controversy are taking up that standard.

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By Michael Cavna  | April 28, 2010; 1:42 PM ET
Categories:  General, The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Ann Telnaes, Ben Sargent, Clay Bennett, Comedy Central, David Horsey, Garry Trudeau, Islam, Jack Higgins, Jim Morin, Joel Pett, Mark Fiore, Matt Davies, Matt Stone, Michael Ramirez, Mike Peters, Nick Anderson, Paul Szep, Pulitzer Prizes, Signe Wilkinson, South Park, South Park censorship, Steve Benson, Tony Auth, Trey Parker  
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Comrades: An appropriate cartoon would be a series of small sketches CLEARLY showing various, sundry and ALL recognizable religious icons individually leaving a wooden, phone-booth sized structure with a crescent moon on the half-open door . . . . double dog dare ya!!!

Posted by: rep15 | April 28, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

The hack Tom Toles chose not to be a dog in this fight?

His colleagues mentioned here are certainly to be commended.

Posted by: cfw730 | April 28, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Comedy Central needs a spine, that's true. And Muslims should get a sense of humor. Muhammed apparently was one serious, somber, sword-wielding, mad-angry prophet. peace and laughter be upon him. LIGHTEN the hell up.

Posted by: medogsbstfrnd | April 28, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't this simply stink of a show that's running out of ideas in its 14th season?
To me, this is as much a poor judgment call as a shark-jumping moment. I haven't really enjoyed this season of South Park (unlike last year and most years) and I'm starting to think that the show's flatlining.

Also: I'm a proponent of free speech as long as it doesn't damage anyone. I can't see how depicting Muhammad in cartoons fails even that simple test.

Basically, I'm with Toles on this one. What's the point of having this happen at all? It does seem more like religious satire, like they're making fun of Muslims for their beliefs, rather than any kind of political satire.

It's not a show that's generally in good taste, which is part of what I enjoy. But, are we supposed to be laughing at Muslims for this belief? Really? Because that's what they're asking us to do: laugh at people for their religious beliefs.

I don't think that we have to tell anyone that religious Muslims are just a bit sensitive on the subject of religion.

I am not a Muslim - in fact, I'm a non-religious Jew, and a huge fan of South Park; rarely miss an episode. I could care less which religion, including mine - frequently - the show portrays in an amusing light. They do it all the time. However: Muslims have a real problem with this action, and, furthermore, this wasn't any mystery. It was a stupid, pointless thing to do. Why bother?

Posted by: aaronweiner | April 28, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

While many of us in the West do see freedom of expression as a universal right, there are many, many people in the world who disagree. And I do not mean just their governments, such as China, but also the person in the street, especially in the Islamic world.

In the West desecrating a Bible or a crucifix would not only be protected speech but many Christians, even if they found the act abhorrent, or simply juvenile, would stand up for the speaker because we know that our religious beliefs are strengthened, not threatened, by free expression. Were it the Koran, however, whether the speaker Muslim or not, I dare say that the majority of Muslims, even in the West, would find the speech not only reprehensible but punishable. Worldwide, how many Muslims would agree that it should be punished by death? Many? Certainly. Most? Quite likely. The vast majority? If so, what do we understand from that vis a vis any assertion that freedom of expression is a universal right?

I am sure that the political cartoonist who wrote that letter truly do believe that freedom of expression is a universal right. Would that it were. However,I am not sure what they based that on. Further, I am not sure that you could get a majority of the people in the world to agree with that statement to the extent that it endorses Western free speech rights.

In some regards, such efforts to impose Western values might be viewed as cultural imperialism. If so, so be it. However, let us not delude ourselves that we are standing up for some universal right. We are simply standing up for what we believe in because we believe that the world will be a better place as a result. And that is a good enough reason to do it.

Posted by: lmmbham | April 28, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Islam is such a fun religion. Can't wait to convert and have my brain lebotomized.

Posted by: veloboldie | April 28, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey, goobers, this is the USA, it's not Saudi Arabia, it's not Indonesia, it's not Iran or Iraq or Turkey. Whatever their rules are they are not our rules, we have freedom of speech and freedom of expression. If we want to draw funny cartoons of Muhammad, Jesus, Obama, GW Bush, or the freakin Pope, we get to and they get to jump up and down with smoke coming out of their ears if they like. What they CAN'T do is threaten anyone with murder here. Muhammed, the freak, has set himself up as a laughing stock, I mean, come on, he married a 9 year old? He set up a Warrior religion with the promise of 12 virgins in the "after life" for any moron that follows his hate filled and bigoted cult? A cult that allowed a bunch of school girls to burn to death because they weren't allowed outside without a head covering? Say, idiots, if God wanted them to have head coverings they would have been born with them, not forced to wear them by some neanderthal clods that are ashamed and intimidated by a woman's beauty. Hey, it's our way of saying "We think you're religion is a joke", if you don't like it eat sand Keep living in the 12th century because after that your kind failed miserably at everything human. Muslims, real brave at beating women, blowing up innocents, hiding behind civilians, destroying historical monuments, murdering their own people, brilliant, "We hate you so we'll kill our own people so that they'll hate you too" Duh? All in "Gods" name, so twisted it nearly demands ridicule.

Posted by: Watcher1 | April 28, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know that the lunatic fringe of Islam watched South Park.

Posted by: veerle1 | April 28, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

The point here is not that South Park had Muhammad in a Bear suit but the reaction of Muslims who have threatened to kill him. So to the earlier poster: we should all be alarmed more at Muslim reaction of murder and mayhem over a TV show rather the TV show or cartoon etc.

Posted by: karsanghasi | April 28, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

"I don't think that we have to tell anyone that religious Muslims are just a bit sensitive on the subject of religion"


And so are christinas, buddhists, atheists, and what have you.

It's one thing for Islam to say it's offensive and we don't like it. It's another when they float death threats and other archaic crap.

Muhammed is a plastic bag. Do something about it. Booga-looga.

Posted by: veerle1 | April 28, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Comedy Central has done wrong by censoring the episode of South Park this month and especially for censoring the speech about intimidation. Muslim Revolution is an organization whose purpose is to spread fear but people must not give into this and I don't give into it. If I were in charge of editing of Comedy Central, the only thing I would censor is Muhammed's face because that's appropriate and not giving into fear from Muslim Revolution.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 28, 2010 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Patel Ebo can tell us how "peaceful" Muslims are as they try to take away free speech in America with their death threats.

Muslims who don't denounce this abomination are just as complicit as Catholics who look the other way at sexual abuses of Children.

More proof Abraham was the original Satan.

Posted by: areyousaying | April 28, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Land of the free? Home of the brave?

Is our generation one of cowards? What would our American ancestors think of this? Shameful.

Push back against it. This is America. Those before us risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor when the King got in their face. Now, we are letting some loonies take away freedom of press while we cower in our homes?

Posted by: dallas28 | April 28, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

I completely approve of their letter, and the statements they made in it. Were I a an artist I would happily sign a similar letter.

I do not approve of religious violence. Fomenting terror for religious reasons is an act of heretical evil in all cases.

Posted by: timscanlon | April 29, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

the extremists who are just a moron and freak have disgusted those who love the life and peace.

Posted by: loveisgreatcn | April 29, 2010 12:43 AM | Report abuse

South Park did NOT show Mohammed in the two episodes in question.

If the Post writer and all of you discussing this incident would watch them, you'd find that:

- Mohammed was never seen at the Super Best Friends Club.
- Kyle and the Super Best Friends submitted to the Ginger Kids' threat by showing them somebody in a teddy bear suit saying it was Mohammed inside.
- Upon the interference of Tom Cruise, Rob Reiner and the angry celebs, the Ginger Kids insisted that the teddy bear suit be opened to see Mohammed...
- but it wasn't Mohammed inside. It was a trick. In actuality, it was Santa Claus inside and had been all along.

Mohammed was never depicted at any time.

Posted by: Georgetwoner | April 29, 2010 1:41 AM | Report abuse

>> Georgetwoner:

Exactly -- the South Park creators said they wanted to SHOW Muhammad, but that attempt was censored. Which is why in Episode #200, Stone and Parker winked at us by "depicting" Muhammad instead of actually "showing" him. That's precisely why Comic Riffs's wording on this is so careful -- and also, I should add, the same wink that prompted Mark Fiore (1 of the 17 signees) to tell 'Riffs: "Muhammad in a bear suit -- why didn't I think of that?" Santa was the wink-wink reveal -- but the point was clear.


Posted by: cavnam | April 29, 2010 2:15 AM | Report abuse

"Revolution Muslim's Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee sounds a lot less scary when you realize he's really just ... Zachary from Virginia typing on a computer."


Unfortunately we thought the same about Tim McVeigh, Ted Kaczynksi, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, William Krar and Judith Bruey, Eric Rudolph, Robert Goldstein, Clayton Waagner, The Army of God, and Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

The list grows. We cannot afford to wait until "Zachary from Virginia", becomes the next quiet boy next door, who we thought was just venting or "Typing on a computer".

Posted by: RockyM | April 29, 2010 3:14 AM | Report abuse

I am truly sorry I cannot draw anything. If I could, it would be the stone marker from the entrance of "GMU" and Zack's likeness with the word "EXPELLED" on it.

He violated the Honor Code that all students must sign when entering the university. Jefferson had it right to penn the thing. Now, let's see Mason get its act together and use the Code for the purpose for which it was intended.

GMU, 1982, 1993

Posted by: rlgrennie1 | April 29, 2010 4:08 AM | Report abuse

Do Muslims spend a lot of time looking for things to be outraged or humiliated by? It sure seems like it from press depictions.

Posted by: robert17 | April 29, 2010 4:19 AM | Report abuse

The Simpsons had a nod to South Park in their opening last Sunday.

Posted by: sarahabc | April 29, 2010 7:14 AM | Report abuse

>> sarahabc:

Thanks. Indeed, here's Comic Riffs's link to the "Simpsons" opening from earlier this week:


Posted by: cavnam | April 29, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Where's Tom Toles? (J*$cking off in a mosque?)

Posted by: ShovelPlease | April 29, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

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