Threats and censorship
Apology from South Park Studios for not being able to stream the episode.
In the week between the broadcasts of "200" and "201", the website for the New York-based radical Muslim organization Revolution Muslim posted an entry that included a warning to creators Parker and Stone that they risked violent retribution for their depictions of Muhammad. The entry stated that they "will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show." Van Gogh was a filmmaker who was murdered by a man named Mohammed Bouyeri in 2004 for making a short documentary on violence against women in some Islamic societies. The posting provided the addresses to Comedy Central in New York and the production company in Los Angeles. The author of the post, Zachary Adam Chesser, said it was meant to serve as a warning to Parker and Stone, not a threat, and that providing the addresses was meant to give people the opportunity to protest.
The entry included audio clips of a sermon by al-Qaeda imam Anwar al-Awlaki calling for the assassination of anyone who has defamed Muhammad, saying, "Harming Allah and his messenger is a reason to encourage Muslims to kill whoever does that." Subsequently, the website for the organization was hacked, temporarily redirecting web traffic to images of Prophet Muhammad with a bomb on his head and an older Muslim man kissing a young boy passionately.
Before "201" aired, the New York City Police Department increased security at the Comedy Central headquarters in direct response to the threats. Law enforcement officials said Revolution Muslim itself was "all talk" and had never engaged in any actual violence but they were concerned that the website post could inspire violence from others.
During the original broadcast of "201" on April 21, 2010, all references to Muhammad's name were obscured by audio bleeps. Several other portions of dialogue were also censored, including almost the entirety of three consecutive monologues spoken by Kyle, Jesus and Santa Claus at the end regarding the moral of the episode. Muhammad's name appeared in the previous episode, "200", without any such censorship. Both episodes obscured all images of what was apparently Muhammad with a black "CENSORED" box. Immediately after the episode "201" aired, the series website South Park Studios posted a notice that said Comedy Central had inserted "numerous additional bleeps throughout the episode" after Parker and Stone submitted their final cut to the network. The network later confirmed they were responsible for the audio censorship.
On April 22, 2010, South Park Studios released a brief statement:
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. It wasn't some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it.
Some of these developments had been anticipated in the 2006 South Park episodes "Cartoon Wars Part I" and "Cartoon Wars Part II". These episodes showed South Park's reaction to a controversy regarding censorship of Muhammad depictions on two (fictional) episodes of Family Guy.
In the United States "201" has never re-aired following its original debut as South Park would usually repeat during the week, and episodes from earlier in the season were shown instead. Although South Park Studios generally makes unexpurgated versions of their episodes immediately available to view, the notice indicated Parker and Stone did not have network approval to show their original version, and thus no version of "201" could be seen on the website.
The Canadian Comedy Network aired "201" on April 25, 2010, though the episode was censored as the American broadcast was, breaking the network's multi-year practice of airing South Park completely uncensored. Neither "200" nor "201" were shown in the version of Comedy Central in the Netherlands, and neither episode is available on the Dutch South Park Studios website. The Swedish affiliate of Comedy Central also refused to broadcast "200" and "201" in Sweden, claiming:
Comedy Central has decided not to air these two episodes of South Park. It is a decision we've made with great reluctance. Comedy Central believes strongly in creative freedom of expression; when unique and deeply insightful creative talents like those behind South Park are able to express themselves freely, we all benefit. However, the safety of our employees is our unquestioned number one priority, and therefore we have decided to take these precautionary measures.
"Super Best Friends" was also pulled from the South Park Studios site following the increased media attention from "201". Episodes "200" and "201" are also unavailable on Hulu, the iTunes Store, and other streaming and download services.