U.S. Gov’t Report on Religious Freedom Strongly Criticizes China

The U.S. recently issued its annual report on religious freedom, knocking a variety of different nations – most to be expected – including North Korea, Iran, and Vietnam. Go figure. One of the report’s primary criticisms was of China, however, mostly due to its treatment of the Uighur people, a Muslim group living in Xinjiang.

Condoleezza Rice, who issued the report, summarized the U.S. stance on religious freedom by saying:

“The United States rejects actions that are offensive to particular religious traditions, but we do not condone the prohibition of free speech. That only weakens societies.”

Religious freedom is always a topic particularly close to my heart, and it’s interesting that she made this comment and that this report was issued today, as I am currently engaged in a fascinating conversation with one of my regular commenters and guide for reading the Quran, JDsg. We have been talking about the value placed on religious freedom in the United States and the permissibility or impermissibility of actions offensive to religious traditions. Obviously, South Park has been a part of our conversation.

To check out this conversation, click HERE.

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South Park’s Most Self-Reflective Episode, “Cartoon Wars (1),” Episode 1003, Speak of Muslims, Terrorism and Free Speech

Personally, I think that the two part episode, “Cartoon Wars,” is out-of-this-world amazing. The layers of meaning in these two episodes go beyond almost anything most of us experience on a regular basis as we engage with the satirical media around us.

When Family Guy plans to show an image of Mohammed, the Muslim prophet, on its program, the Muslim world is outraged and the Americans are terrified of offending Muslims, primarily for fear of retribution. In large part the episode is about free speech and defending our American values, but it’s also about so much more than that. I recommend that everyone watch this episode and its sequel which will be on tomorrow night, Thursday.

A great free speech quote from the episode comes from Mr. Stotch, Butters’ dad:

“What we need to do is just the opposite. Freedom of speech is at stake here, don’t you all see? If anything, we should all make cartoons of Muhammad, and show the terrorists and the extremists that we are all united in the belief that every person has a right to say what they want! Look, people, it’s been real easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades we haven’t had to risk anything to defend it. But those times are going to come! And one of those times is right now. And if we aren’t willing to risk what we have, then we just believe in free speech, but we don’t defend it.”

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I’ve actually written an essay called, “In Defense of South Park,” in which I discuss the importance of these episodes in the context of their genre and satire.

What do you think of this episode? What about free speech and the need to defend it?

“I’m a Little Bit Country,” 701, is South Park’s Episode about War

The outcome of this episode is classic South Park, through and through. Why? Because it emphasizes the Middle Ground and everyone’s right to his or her opinion, insisting that we need everyone’s opinions to have the best of both worlds. Indeed, that’s what makes our country great.

Frankly, I think that everyone should watch this episode so I’m not going to spoil all of the juicy goodness. I am, however, going to give you a spoiler alert for the following quote which is pretty much the episode’s summary. Cartman says:

“This country was founded by some of the smartest thinkers the world has ever seen, and they knew one thing: that a truly great country could go to war and at the same time – act like it doesn’t want to. You people who are for the war: you need the protesters, because they make the country look like it’s full of sane, caring individuals. And you people who are anti-war, you need these flagwavers, because if our whole country was made up of soft pussy protesters, we’d get taken down in a second. That’s why the founding fathers decided we should have both. It’s called having your cake and eating it too.”

What great stuff! South Park makes me feel like such a patriot, and as a Penn alumni, I love anything that mentions Benjamin Franklin, who makes a special guest appearance on this episode.

Did you see it? What did you think? Who’s your favorite founding father? Are you for or against the war? Despite your opinion, do you appreciate the importance of having the opinion of the other side and of living in a country where you can express yourself as you please?

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