An episode of “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” has been removed by Netflix in Saudi Arabia after the country expressed complaints about material in the show.
“Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I mean that as a Muslim and as an American,” says Minhaj in the episode titled “Saudi Arabia.”
He goes on to discuss the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October and was revealed to have been slain on orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi’s body has not been found.
The comedian then addresses the crown prince, referring to him as MBS, by critiquing the United States’ relationship with him and Saudi Arabia.
“MBS asked, ‘Why the outrage?’ and frankly, MBS’ confusion is completely understandable. He has been getting away with autocratic shit like [Khashoggi’s killing] for years with almost no blowback from the international community,” says Minhaj.
Minhaj then lists example after example of problems in Saudi Arabia, including the imprisonment of human rights activists and his critics and rising numbers of executions, and says that the only people who are fully aware of this are the people of Saudi Arabia, who call Mohammed “Abu Rasasa” ― which translates to “father of the bullet.”
“We access God through Saudi Arabia, a country I feel does not represent our values,” says Minhaj, explaining how problematic it is to pray facing Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, in Saudi Arabia.
Minhaj then addresses the Yemen war as “the biggest tragedy of the MBS era.”
Netflix confirmed for the Financial Times that it removed the episode in Saudi Arabia last week, “after the country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission made a request to take it down because it allegedly violated the kingdom’s anti-cyber crime law.”
“We strongly support artistic freedom worldwide and only removed this episode in Saudi Arabia after we had received a valid legal request — and to comply with local law,” a Netflix spokesperson told HuffPost.
According to the Financial Times, Netflix said the Saudi telecoms regulator cited Article 6 of the law as the reason for the complaint, which states that “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine not exceeding 3 million riyals (about $800,000).
The episode is still available on Netflix in the United States, and Saudi users can still find it on the show’s YouTube page.
Representatives for Minhaj did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Minhaj responded publicly to the debacle on Twitter on Wednesday. He said that the move by Netflix has only made the episode more popular.
“Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube,” he wrote, before adding:
“Let’s not forget that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now. Please donate: https://help.rescue.org/donate/yemen.”