Web of Terror

By New York Daily News, New York Daily News - April 25, 2010

The Comedy Central cable TV channel last week toned down an episode of its iconoclastic animated program "South Park" because of fears the previous show might stoke violent retribution by radical Muslims.

In these United States, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have the right to depict the Prophet Muhammed as they like. They did so by cloaking him in a bear suit, suggesting that this should make the image more palatable across the world. Of course, it didn't.

A New York-based Web site calling itself posted a message cautioning that Parker and Stone could face dire consequences as a result of insulting the prophet.

Under a picture showing the murder of Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who produced a film critical of the treatment of women in Islam, the posting said:

"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."

That chilling language was accompanied by Comedy Central's New York address and the Los Angeles address of Parker and Stone's production company.

And there was an ominous soundtrack: a sermon in which radical Yemen-based preacher Anwar Al-Awlaki - who has ties to the massacre at the Fort Hood military base - speaks of assassinating those who have "defamed" Muhammed.

The author of the post, Abu Talhah al Amrikee, told CNN he was not threatening the comedians - simply trying to give people the opportunity to protest by posting the addresses.

Whatever the danger faced by Parker and Stone, the circumstances illustrate a far larger peril - that of the role of the Internet in propagating extreme views and, potentially, in connecting adherents of radical Islam.

Until it abruptly shut down last week, RevolutionMuslim's site served as a forum for anti-Western pronouncements and discussions of topics including the roles of jihad and terrorism.

It made available the lectures of Abdullah el-Faisal, a radical Muslim cleric who was imprisoned in Britain for urging followers to murder Jews, Hindus, Christians and Americans and who is now free on the island of Jamaica.

Last week, an unrelated RevolutionMuslim posting read:

"We're asked to prepare ourselves and be strong and steadfast to strike terror into the hearts of our enemies. In other words, terrorize the enemies of Islam. Just because the Western media has established a negative connotation to the word 'terrorist' as being someone who kills innocent people, doesn't mean we should abandon commandments of Allah."

All this passes muster under the Constitution because it stays just this side of explicitly threatening anyone or inciting violence.

Referring to the "South Park" posting, for example, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, "We don't think that this threat, as is currently assessed, rises to a crime right now."

That said, there is no question that some Web sites have served as petrie dishes for a toxic ideology. Without them, al-Awlaki would not have helped inspire Fort Hood killer Nidal Malik Hasan and others. Colleen LaRose would not have become the now-infamous Jihad Jane. Those five young men from northern Virginia might never have traveled to Pakistan to join anti-American militants.

The phenomenon is clear, present and real.

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