Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act was on hiatus last month when news broke that Saudi Arabia had essentially forced Netflix to remove his episode about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s regime from the platform in that country. So his second season premiere on Sunday was the comedian’s first chance to fully respond.
The host wasted no time getting into it at the top of this week’s show—the bulk of which focused on censorship in China.
“This is Patriot Act,” he began. “Or as it’s known in Saudi Arabia, ‘Error 404 Not Found.’”
From there, he caught viewers up on everything that has gone down over the past couple of months after he covered the Saudi regime’s involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last fall. Citing the kingdom’s anti-cyber crime laws, the Saudi government “requested” that Netflix remove the episode from its service there and the company complied.
“I still can’t believe it,” Minhaj responded on Sunday’s new show. “We got Saudi Arabia to issue its very own Muslim ban.”
Reading from the law his episode supposedly violated, Minhaj explained that any “material impinging on public order, religious values 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.”
And while they demanded his episode be taken down, Minhaj noted that shows like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which includes “literal devil worship” and “a lot of premarital witch sex,” and BoJack Horseman, featuring “an alcoholic horse-man who snorts cocaine,” are still available for Saudi viewers. Not to mention copious amounts of pork consumption on all the food shows.
On top of that, the show’s previous update to the original Saudi episode remains on Netflix there. “If you’re going to crush all forms of dissent, don’t half-ass it,” Minhaj joked. “But that’s what happens when you’ve got a country run by people who got their job just because of their dad.”
The “irony” is that by “censoring” the episode, “Saudi Arabia made us go viral,” he added, making him a “bipartisan icon” that got love from all sides of the political media spectrum, including Breitbart. “They had to look at a picture of me and MBS and be like, ‘Which one is browner?’”
Turning more serious, Minhaj said that this issue is “no joke” for Saudi activists, who have been jailed and even executed for violating the same law the government used to censor his episode. And he didn’t exactly let his employer Netflix off the hook either for bowing to Saudi pressure.
“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.”