Hasan Minhaj Wonders Why Saudi Arabia Thinks Only 'Patriot Act' Violates Muslim Values
The comedian pointed out that other Netflix series, like 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' and 'BoJack Horseman,' as well as cooking shows featuring pork, are still available in the country.
Hasan Minhaj began Sunday's episode of Patriot Act by addressing the controversy over Netflix removing an episode of the show in Saudi Arabia.
"This is Patriot Act, or as it's known in Saudi Arabia, Error 404 Not Found," said the host. He then shared news coverage of the streaming platform's decision to pull the episode.
The controversial episode, which featured a segment in which Minhaj criticized the country for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was pulled from the streaming platform in early January. During the episode, Minhaj blamed Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for Khashoggi's murder and called it "the biggest tragedy of the MBS era."
A clip of CNBC's coverage said the prince "requested" that Netflix take the episode down.
"A request? Does MBS think Netflix is a wedding DJ? 'Yeah, quick request. You wanna take down just that one episode that's criticizing me and then just play Usher's "Yeah," ' " said Minhaj. "A request is when a neighbor tells you to turn the music down. A demand is when that neighbor is Conor McGregor and you're in his parking spot."
"I still can't believe it. We got Saudi Arabia to issue its very own Muslim ban," he continued.
Another news clip explained that the country cited its anti-cybercrime law when making the legal request. "Cybercrime?" asked Minhaj. "You're telling me even in Saudi prison, I'll be associated with the IT department?"
The host then broke down how he "became an Internet bad boy." He said that according to article six of the Saudi Arabian anti-cybercrime law, any content that touches on religious values, public order or public morals is prohibited.
"Of all the Netflix originals, the only show that Saudi Arabia thinks violates Muslim values is the one hosted by a Muslim," he said.
Minhaj noted that a number of Netflix original shows with potentially offensive content are still available to watch in Saudi Arabia, including The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which "features literal devil worship and a lot of premarital witch sex" and BoJack Horseman, which follows "an alcoholic horseman who snorts cocaine."
"And let's not forget those evil cooking shows," he added, as clips of chefs preparing, cooking and eating pork followed.
"Not eating pork is the one rule every Muslim agrees on. I have a cousin who's atheist and he'll be rolling a blunt while drinking and he'll still be like, 'Hey man, is there pepperoni on that pizza?'" he said. "Look, I don't know if there's a God, but if there is one, he hates pepperoni."
Minhaj said that the "most bizarre" thing about the episode being pulled is that a later episode titled "Update: Saudi Arabia" has not been taken down. "If you're gonna crush all forms of descent, don't half-ass it," he said. "That's what happens when you've got a country run by people who got their job just because of their dad."
The host added that the controversy made more people aware of the show. "This story got covered by everyone across the political spectrum. For the first time in my life, I was a bipartisan icon," he said. "Liberals and conservatives, they both embraced me like I was money from Big Pharma."
"Let me be absolutely clear. I am not a victim here at all. I'm lucky," he said. "I have the freedom to call Saudi Arabia the boy-band manager of 9/11. I can criticize my own government without any fear of repercussions. I can say Stephen Miller deported his own hair for being brown. I can say those things, but those freedoms don't exist in Saudi Arabia."
He added that dozens of Saudi activists have gone to jail without having formal charges. "So while I can make a joke about being a cybercriminal, this is no joke for many Saudi activists," he said.
According to a human rights advocacy group, the cybercrime law the show is accused of breaking has been used in Saudi Arabia to justify the death penalty.
"This isn't about just censoring one episode of a TV show. It's about the precedent, because as tech companies keep expanding, they're gonna keep running into more vague censorship laws. Laws that can allow governments to pull any content at any time," Minhaj said. "Saudi doesn't care about 'immoral' content that impinges on 'religious values.' They're mad that a Muslim is airing out their dirty laundry."
Watch the full episode below.