US comedian censored by Saudi Arabia mocks MbS on Netflix... again
Last month, Netflix removed an episode of his satirical comedy show mocking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman following complaints from Saudi officials, which raised questions about the limits of free online expression.
In that episode, Minhaj - an American-born Muslim of Indian descent - made jibes at Mohammed bin Salman for allegedly ordering the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year and leading the brutal war in Yemen.The act of censorship drew quick and widespread condemnation of Netflix from rights watchdogs, including Human Rights Watch and Amensty International.
In the season two premiere on Sunday, following a hiatus of the show that launched in 2018, Minhaj addressed the censorship of his show with a mix of jokes and serious points.
"This is Patriot Act," Minhaj began the new episode; "or as it's known in Saudi Arabia, "Error 404 Not Found".
Addressing the fact that despite Saudi censorship, some episodes of his shown can still be watched in the kingdom, Minhaj quipped: "If you're going to crush all forms of dissent, don't half-ass it".
"But that's what happens when you've got a country run by people who got their job just because of their dad," he went on, in reference to the young crown prince, son of King Salman.
The "irony" is that by "censoring" the episode, Minhaj said, "Saudi Arabia made us go viral".
Saudi Arabia used its cybercrime law to force Netflix to censor the show. Human rights group say the same law has been applied to detain and torture of dozens of activists and bloggers in appalling conditions.
"This is no joke...This isn't about just censoring one episode of a TV show. It’s about the precedent," Minhaj said.
"Because as tech companies keep expanding, they're going to keep running into more vague censorship laws. Laws that can allow governments to pull any content at any time."
"Ultimately, Saudi doesn't care about 'immoral content' that 'impinges on religious values,'" he concluded. "They're mad that a Muslim is airing out their dirty laundry."
The 33-year-old Minhaj has seen his profile rise steadily. His routines combine personal history and pointed political commentary wrapped in edgy topical humour.
In 2014 he became senior correspondent on Comedy Central's popular "The Daily Show," and in 2017 he was the featured speaker at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.