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The Islamic Extremist Who Threatened South Park Creators Never Cared

Eleven years ago, South Park was going to feature the Prophet Muhammad in an episode of the cartoon. The episode itself was all about the use, or not, of the figure in the light of a number of murders, riots and threats when cartoons depicting Muhammad ran in European newspapers. The joke would be that after all the fuss in the episode, that he would turn up at the end in an innocuous and trivial fashion and everything would be fine.

Islamic Extremist Who Censored South Park Never Cared About Cartoons
South Park screencap

Prior to the broadcast, radical Muslim organization, Revolution Muslim posted a warning on their website that South Park creators Parker and Stone risked being murdered for their depiction of Muhammad. Comedy Central modified Parker and Stone's version of the episode, obscuring all images and bleeping all references to Muhammad, undercutting the episode, before pulling it entirely.

Andrew Gold , a documentary maker and presenter for the likes of BBC, HBO has a podcast, On the Edge with Andrew Gold, where he interviews different people every week, from a female Mormon psychopath to the Coffin Confessor whose job is to reveal the secrets of the deceased at funerals, as well as political and cultural figures like Daniel Finkelstein and Helen Lewis. He just interviewed Jesse Morton, a former jihadist and Al Qaeda supporter, preacher and recruiters, who now counters violent extremism with his organisation Parallel Networks, after working with the FBI. But eleven years ago, he was the man responsible for threatening the South Park creators and forcing the last-minute change to the episode.

Jesse Morton talks about his transformation into the man he became in-depth, and how it was incarceration that radicalised him, as well as threatening the lives of the creators and broadcasters of South Park that saw them censor the show, while he also used the controversy to publish the bomb-making recipe used by the Boston Marathon bomber.

But he states that he never actually cared about the cartoons, and that the other top jihadists and preachers don't care either. And that it is and always was, he says, a recruitment tactic.

"We threatened the writers of South Park for portraying the Prophet Muhammad in caricature. We threatened them the night before the episode aired.  An individual affiliated with my organisation published a picture of Neil Van Gogh …  dead on the street and that the writers of South Park will probably end up like Neil Van Gogh… now that's not illegal in American law, but he posted their addresses where they could be visited and as a consequence of that, Comedy Central decided not to air the episode.

"It caused worldwide controversy, people started "Everybody Draw Muhammad " Facebook pages… It caused Indonesia and Pakistan to shut down Facebook for a day in protest, Facebook ultimately removed the page, the woman who started the page went into hiding because Muslims started to threaten her."

"I did not have any opposition to the South Park writers portraying the Prophet Muhammad but I knew that it would be good for recruitment so I ran with it. It was a good recruitment tool, because anytime these things that happened in Denmark radicalised thousands and so we used it to our advantage and it's clearly a manipulation…  I know all of the charismatic preachers. What they would say about caricatures and cartoons behind closed doors, they could care less, but what they would say about an event that happened is let's use that to propagandize on our belief that has become one of the most easy arguments to make for general Muslims is, look, they are insulting your prophet and your religion commands that you defend the prophet and we're the only one is defending the prophet, the rest of the Muslim community is staying silent therefore we must be on the truth, come join us, And it's an incredible recruitment tool."

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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