Last night the curtain rose on The Book of Mormon to rave reviews. This marks the Broadway musical debut of South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone who collaborated with Robert Lopez of Avenue Q fame.
As a fan of South Park, I am sure The Book of Mormon is laugh out loud funny without being demeaning as they amply demonstrated with their “All About the Mormons?” episode which originally aired in 2003. Who knows? I might even try to get a ticket on my next trip to New York next month.
For its part, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a statement last month which neither praised nor condemned the production. It is worth noting the contrast in the reaction of the Mormon church to that of the group Revolution Muslim. Nearly a year ago, one of Revolution Muslim’s leaders Zachary Chesser (a.k.a. Abu Talhah al-Amrikee) encouraged violence against Parker and Stone for their two-part episode about the Prophet Muhammad. His threats were sufficient for Comedy Central to not only pull the Muhammad episodes but to also pull the 2001 episode “Super Best Friends” which also featured Muhammad. Chesser was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison in part for his threats against Parker and Stone.
I remind people of this incident to illustrate that while it is possible in this culture to create a Broadway musical about Mormons it is not possible to do the same with Muslims. Now I am sure that if Parker and Stone could do such a thing they would but they cannot. Even if they were prepared to stand up to death threats I doubt anyone in the world of Broadway would stand with them. It is amazing how our willingness to defend freedom of speech and freedom of expression recedes in the face of violence or even the threat of violence.