[Netflix has the power to reject attempts to silence those who use
comedy to speak truth to power. Anything less makes the company
complicit in Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salmans plan to
stifle those who criticize him.] [https://portside.org/] 



 Dean Obeidallah 
 January 3, 2019
The Daily Beast

	* [https://portside.org/node/19038/printable/print]

 _ Netflix has the power to reject attempts to silence those who use
comedy to speak truth to power. Anything less makes the company
complicit in Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's plan to
stifle those who criticize him. _ 

 , Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast 


Donald Trump
[https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-channels-inner-dictator-calls-for-samantha-bee-to-be-fired] and
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) both hate being
mocked by comedians. People like Trump and MBS want to be feared, not
laughed at. The difference is MBS appears to be more effective than
Trump at silencing comedians who take comedic aim at him. But what
makes this so disturbing is that it’s an American company, Netflix,
that helped
[https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/02/netflix-pulls-patriot-act-with-hasan-minhaj-episode-in-saudi-arabia.html] MBS
silence Muslim American comedian Hasan Minhaj.  

There’s no dispute that Netflix pulled a recent episode of its
comedic series _Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj_
[https://portside.org/video/2018-11-23/saudi-arabia] at the request
of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A Netflix spokesperson told CNBC
[https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/02/netflix-pulls-patriot-act-with-hasan-minhaj-episode-in-saudi-arabia.html] Wednesday
morning: “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.” (Netflix should have
added “LOL” after its words that “we strongly support artistic
freedom worldwide.”)

an official request was sent to Netflix from the Saudi Communications
and Information Technology Commission, claiming that this episode of
the comedy show “allegedly violated anti-cybercrime law.”

So why would MBS and Saudi go to these lengths, even alleging a comedy
show violated cybercrime laws, to silence Minhaj? After all, both have
been subjected to a deluge of media criticism over the kingdom’s
involvement in the killing of _Washington Post_ writer Jamal

Well, Minhaj’s attack was different for two reasons. First, it was
comedy. And second, and likely more importantly, Minhaj is Muslim and
made it clear on his show that, as a Muslim, he denounced what MBS and
Saudi represent (the episode
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUhbZdvtzcw], at least for now, is
still on YouTube).

Minhaj, a former correspondent for Comedy Central’s _The Daily
Show_, began the episode by going after MBS by name, noting that for
months the Western media had hailed MBS “as the reformer the Arab
world needed.” The comedian explained that it “blows my mind”
that it took the killing of Khashoggi for people in the West to
finally come to the conclusion, “Oh, I guess he’s really not a
reformer.” Minhaj then quipped, “Meanwhile, every Muslim person
you know was like ‘yeah, no shit… he’s the crown prince of Saudi

The 33-year-old comedian went on to declare, “Now would be a good
time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” adding, “and
I mean that as a Muslim and as an American.” And later Minhaj again
touched on his faith in slamming MBS and Saudi, explaining that “as
Muslims, we have to pray towards to Mecca, we make pilgrimage to
Mecca, we access God through Saudi Arabia… a country that I feel
does not represent our values.” He also made a great point that as a
fellow Muslim I couldn’t agree with more: “Saudi Arabia is only 2
percent of entire Muslim population, but when Saudi does something
wrong, Muslims around the world have to live with the consequences.”

Minhaj also joked about Saudi’s strategic relationship with the
United States since the days of FDR, despite the kingdom’s ties to
terrorism against our nation: “America hates terrorists. Saudi
Arabia gave them [the 9/11 hijackers] passports.” Minhaj then
quipped, “Saudi Arabia is basically the boy-band manager of 9/11.
They didn’t write the songs… but they helped get the group

MBS and Saudi Arabia being criticized by the Western media is one
thing. But having jokes told about them by a fellow Muslim was clearly
too much. And keep in mind, while there’s a growing stand-up comedy
scene in the Middle East, there’s no political comedy there like we
have in the United States, where our elected officials are roasted
daily. In fact, I have performed stand-up comedy across the Middle
East in the past, including four shows in Saudi Arabia. Every show in
the region has the same rules: No mocking the leader of the country
you are in. Although things were somewhat different when I was in
Lebanon, where the promoter told me: “Say whatever you want, but if
you make fun of Hezbollah, you are on your own.”

“This isn’t about a religion, this is about power.”

Just ask Bassem Youssef, the comedian
[http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180110-bassem-youssef-the-wild-story-of-egypts-jon-stewart] known
as the “Jon Stewart of Egypt.” Youssef, who because of his comedy
mocking Trump’s BFF Egyptian leader Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, now lives
in exile
[http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180110-bassem-youssef-the-wild-story-of-egypts-jon-stewart] in
California because his life was at risk over his comedic barbs.

And for those who think wanting to suppress comedy is a Muslim thing,
you don’t get it. This isn’t about a religion; this is about
power. It’s about silencing people who not just criticize these
strongman leaders but cause people to laugh at them. That scares those
who want to be feared.

Just look at Donald Trump’s reaction to being mocked by comedians.
In the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign, he publicly
called for _Saturday Night Live_ to be canceled
[https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/787612552654155776] for
unfairly mocking him, tweeting the show did a “hit job on me. Time
to retire the boring and unfunny show.”

As president, Trump has continued to lash out at comedians who
ridicule him, including
[https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-praises-auteur-david-lynch-rips-talkers-jimmy-fallon-stephen-colbert-and-jimmy-kimmel-at-extra-nuts-rally] late-night
comedy hosts. And after last year’s White House Correspondents
Association (WHCA) dinner, where he and his administration were
“unfairly” mocked by comedian Michelle Wolf, he called for the
dinner to drop
[https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-is-the-white-house-correspondents-association-doing-trumps-bidding] its
30-plus year tradition of having a comedian perform. Sadly, Trump
won that battle
with the WHCA  recently announcing there would be no comedian at its
2019 dinner.

If Trump had the power, he would clearly silence comedians who mock
him like MBS has done. But Netflix has the ultimate power to right
this wrong and make it clear that it will not be pressured into
silencing those who use comedy to speak truth to power. Anything less
by Netflix makes the company complicit in MBS’ plan to stifle those
who criticize him.

Dean Obeidallah, a former lawyer turned political comedian and writer,
is the host of _The Dean Obeidallah show
[https://www.facebook.com/DeanofRadio/]_ on SiriusXM radio. He
co-directed the comedy documentary _The Muslims Are Coming!
[http://www.amazon.com/Muslims-Are-Coming-Lewis-Black/dp/B00FEBLFHW/]_ His
blog is The Dean’s Report [http://thedeansreport.com/]. Follow
@DeanObeidallah [https://twitter.com/DeanObeidallah]

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	* [https://portside.org/node/19038/printable/print]







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