Five episodes of South Park have been banned from HBO Max for depicting Islamic prophet Muhammad, reminding fans that virtually every other religion is considered fair game for making fun of — except for Islam.
South Park, which started in 1997, has five episodes that depict Muhammad: “Super Best Friends,” “Cartoon Wars Part I & II,” “200,” and “201,” all of which are missing from the HBO Max lineup, notes Screen Rant.
In addition to being banned from the streaming service, the episodes are also missing on the South Park Studios website, with each episode hit with a “currently unavailable” notice.
In the episode “Super Best Friends” — which originally aired on July 4, 2001 — the cartoon character Stan calls upon a team of superheroes to counter magician David Blaine’s suicidal cult known as “Blainetology,” which is a very clear dig at Scientology.
The team of superheroes consists of the heads of the world’s most popular religions: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Joseph Smith, Laozi, and Muhammad.
Muhammad is also depicted in the episodes “Cartoon Wars Part I & II,” which originally aired in 2006. The episodes are inspired by the controversy surrounding the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb as his turban in 2005.
In the episode, the fictional town of South Park is panicking after the show Family Guy announces it will be showing Muhammad in its series. The Cartman character argues that depicting Muhammad is offensive to Muslims, while the Kyle character argues the Family Guy episode should be aired as an expression of free speech.
Before the episodes originally aired back in 2006, South Park creators were reportedly in a feud with Comedy Central over depicting Muhammad. Comedy Central ended up airing the episodes with a black title card over the Muhammad sequence. But the episodes were stilled banned from HBO Max, despite censorship already being in place.
At the time of the controversy, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone argued that Comedy Central was hypocritical, as most other religions were considered fair game to poke fun at, but Islam was not.
The episodes “200” and “201” were also censored by Comedy Central when they originally aired in 2010. In the episodes, actor Tom Cruise recruits 200 fellow celebrities previously made fun of in the series to bring a class action lawsuit against South Park for defamation.
Cruise later agrees to drop the lawsuit, on the condition that he can meet the prophet Muhammad. At this point, the “Super Best Friends” from years earlier return, which brings another depiction of Muhammad.
At the end of the episode, a speech by Kyle is heavily censored, and viewers can hear a very lengthy audio bleep, as well as see that Muhammad is covered with a big black box, and his name is covered by more audio bleeps.
But again, despite all of this censorship, the episodes are nowhere to be found on HBO Max.