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Now is the Time



ISSUE: American Cartoon & Freedom of Opinion and Expression

The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.

There is increased dialogue worldwide today between religions and other beliefs to embrace diversity, but few persons, less than one percent of any population, ever participate. This is a challenge. The value of such dialogues is proportionate to the level of participation. For civil society increased participation would create opportunities for education on inclusive and genuine approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief.  

In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.

Religions and other beliefs historically have been used to justify wars and settle disputes. This is more dangerous today as the possible misuse of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to revisit whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs in the face of this historical truth.



The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations


Issue: American cartoon & freedom of opinion and expression.

For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society

Review: South Park Episode Altered after Muslim Group’s Warning, by Dave Itzkoff, New York Times Friday April 23, 2010.

The Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression & Freedom of Religion or Belief has been a contentious issue since the depiction of the Danish Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. It crystallized as an issue before the UN Human Rights Council in the seventh session with the introduction of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression A/HRC/7/14 – (Attached).

The United States of America Universal Periodic Review will be held before the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday 26 November, 2010 – The USA Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief – (Attached).

Excerpts: “On April 14 Comedy Central broadcast the 200th episode of “South Park,” a cartoon that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have produced for that channel since 1997. In honor of the occasion, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone populated the episode with nearly all of the famous people their show has lampooned in its history, including celebrities like Tom Cruise and Barbara Streisand, as well as major religious figures, like Moses, Jesus and Buddha.

Cognizant that Islam forbids the depiction of its holiest prophet Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker showed their “South Park” characters agonizing over how to bring Muhammad to their fictional Colorado town. At first the character said to be Muhammad is confined to a U-Haul trailer, and is heard speaking but is not shown. Later in the episode the character is let out of the trailer, dressed in a bear costume.

The next day the “South Park” episode was criticized by the group Revolution Muslim in a post at its Web site. The post, written by a member named Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, said the episode “outright insulted” the prophet, adding: “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.

Mr. van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker and a critic of religions including Islam, was killed by an Islamic militant in Amsterdam in 2004 after he made a film that discussed the abuse of Muslim women in some Islamic societies.

Comedy Central has previously given Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker a certain free rein with “South Park.” In a July 2001 episode, “Super Best Friends,” Muhammad was depicted alongside the founders of other religions, including Krishna and Lao Tzu. But in 2006, when South Park” wanted to weigh in on a controversy that erupted after Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper published cartoons satirizing Muhammad, it was not given the same latitude: a character side to be Muhammad was concealed behind a large black box labeled “CENSORED.”

In a new episode of “South Park” broadcast Wednesday on Comedy Central, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone exercised a degree of self-censorship. In continuing the previous week’s story line about the Prophet Muhammad, that character was hidden underneath a “CENSORED” graphic, and an audio bleep was heard when his name was said. Comedy Central declined to comment on the Revolution Muslim blog post or say if it was taking any precautions because of it.

In a statement, Mr. Parke and Mr. Stone wrote: “In the 14 years we’ve been doing ‘South Park’ we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central, and they made a determination to alter the episode.”

Attachments:  South Park Episode Altered after Muslim Group’s Warning; Freedom of Opinion and Expression; USA Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief