Childrens’ Show ‘Fireman Sam’ Removed Over ‘Qur’an’ Depiction


There’s one particular flavour of monotheism that makes the ‘free press’ and media broadcasters considerably more nervous than others. I’ve already reported on the baffling BBC editorial guidelines on showing (or not) depictions of Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Not to mention the panic that filled a Sky News studio when Caroline Fourest attempted to do just that.

In further conformation to the will of theocrats, Channel 5 in the UK was forced to apologise and withdraw an episode of popular animated children’s TV show Fireman Sam today after it was discovered to feature a page of the Qur’an. Not only did the page of the Muslim holy book appear on screen, it was also potentially stood on by one of the show’s characters.

You can see the offending clip below:

The production company have denied this was intentional and have issued the following statement:

A Mattel spokeswoman told the BBC: “It’s just an unfortunate incident where someone from the production company thought they were just putting in random text.

“We have no reason to believe it was done maliciously.”

In a statement, Mattel said: “The page was intended to show illegible text and we deeply regret this error.

“We sincerely apologise for any distress or offence it may have caused.”

It said it would “no longer be working with the animation studio responsible”, and would take “immediate action to remove this episode from circulation”.

“We are reviewing our content production procedures to ensure this never happens again,” it added.

It’s worth noting that no actual holy books are being desecrated here. This is a piece of animation, likely conjured on someone’s Apple Mac. The fact that archaic concepts such as blasphemy are now being applied to pixels goes some way to demonstrating the absurdity of the situation. This is the kind of nonsense you can expect when you indulge the demands of those who consider certain words to be ‘sacred’.

As an aside, I’ve often wondered just how printing companies dispose of the Qur’ans that don’t quite meet the standards of quality control. Very quietly I suppose.

You can be absolutely certain that as a result of this non-story, Channel 5 HQ have been compelled to review and bolster their security.

The sad reality of course is that media outlets are absolutely right to fear the consequences of ‘blaspheming’ in the direction of one religion in particular. Simply being perceived to be blaspheming in its direction can often be enough. Just ask Charlie Hebdo, Salman Rushdie, the Innocence of Muslims creators, the teacher with the Teddy Bear, Theo Van Gogh and the soldiers reported to have disposed of a number of Qur’ans to name but a few.

But we should at least stop pretending we are concerned with causing ‘offence’ and ‘distress’. We’re actually concerned that we will be murdered. And for good reason too.

If any offence or insult against this popular faith receives sufficient media attention, the consequences can be catastrophic. Embassies will burn, offices will be firebombed and people will die. This is now guaranteed across the world.

Indignation and cries of ‘Islamophobia’ have circulated amongst Muslims and non-Muslims online in reaction to this Fireman Sam incident of course. It is my desperate hope that this doesn’t blow over into the kind of violence we are used to seeing, but the possibility remains unfortunately.

I can imagine a number of media types aren’t sleeping quite so comfortably as they were before this issue made the headlines. Let’s hope sense prevails and this quietly goes away.

I did have one bright idea however. Maybe we should start a rumour that ISIS has been drawing some disrespectful cartoons. It seems to engage parts of the Muslim community like nothing else.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.


  • I’ve often wondered just how printing companies dispose of the Qur’ans that don’t quite meet the standards of quality control. Very quietly I suppose.

    One way of criticising America in a manner guaranteed to raise the ire of American patriots is to burn the US flag. They’ve even attempted to pass a Flag-Desecration Amendment to the constitution to override the First Amendment and make flag burning criminal. But what, one may wonder, is the patriotically approved way of dealing with a flag too old and tatty for use? The answer is one burns it. (e.g. see here.) The difference, I suppose, is that one is a respectful burning and the other a disrespectful burning.

    By the same argument, it is entirely ok to burn the Quran, so long as one is doing it respectfully. E.g. see here. That link also suggests that: ” One can also avoid the issue altogether by using electronic versions of the Quran. These can be stored without worry about damage, and simply deleted if necessary.”

  • I assume many hundreds of Korans have been turned to ashes when ISIS explode Shia mosques.

  • I watched the clip and am wondering if someone made this up as a rumour. The image circulating around will have you believe this is true, but the clip itself doesn’t show anything akin to a page from the Qur’an.

  • I agree with the sentiment of your article, however, I reckon it’s more likely that this page was intentionally chosen by a member of the animation team, for whatever reason.
    Mischief, a playful office dare, or maybe to prove a political point (which has definitely been proven).

    I find it hard to believe that a company producing a mainstream kids animation would choose a page from the Quran for illegible text.

    I hope the only consequences are that more people realise our government/media/education system/society grant Islam a form of protection that no other religion/ideology receives.

  • This post is highly problematic and triggering for me. Why? Because the word children’s has been misspelt as childrens’. (It’s like men’s.) Everything else about this post seems fine. Here are some references: UK, USA.

  • It may be an error – some random thing generated of non anglo-celtic texts to include but Actually I think the page is so distinctive that someone is likely to have known it was the Quran and it is Muslim-baiting to include. If so I think its unnecessarily offensive. Theres a difference between legitimate criticism of some behaviour or oppressive belief its another to just mock to be offensive. Anyway the whole thing has been removed now and an apology made.

    • Can you give an example of any other piece of text that would would be so provocative in this context?

      I agree with you that if this was intentional that it was deliberately offensive, but I disagree that it was “unnecessary”.

      I think its very necessary to highlight the fact that Muslims are extremely sensitive towards their faith, and that our media and government will go to extraordinary measures not to offend, through fear of being slaughtered.

      This is something that needs to change, and if actions like this draw public attention to the issue then so be it.

      • Well said. Ultimately a political leader with the courage and intelligence to confront this horrible success of Islamism holding the world to ransom with the oldest trick in the book of tribal assertion, is long overdue. I believe it should be completely possible to make the case, to the nation as a whole, that this perpetual latent threat of supposed blasphemy is seen for what it is; that any and all criticism of this religion’s manipulations cannot forever be silenced as “Islamophobic”, that they are in fact valid and open to debate within the context of our own deep and complex Christian heritage that has evolved beyond ‘spiritual’ control and into a fantastically tolerant society far far superior to any on earth under the thrall of Islam. This advanced toleration can no longer be disabused by a religion openly manifesting frankly sinister ambitions, Muslims that like, enjoy and appreciate the life possible on our non-Islamic but pluralistic society, should have nothing to worry about, and hopely would be glad to be free of the Islamist imperative towards confrontation and domination.

      • I do agree that Islam needs criticism but just mocking something sacred because it is held sacred is pointless – it appears that the majority is mocking the minority. To some extent my point is about symbolism because if however, you are criticising something specific in the religion – that was said in the text for example – that is different. The other point is its a children’s program where children are not looking for political discussion about religion – its not a political program for adults that specifically debates political issues of the day then the audience has no choice and doesnt know what to expect.

        Likewise cartoons of the prophet – as long as they are in a publication or program that people know what to expect and they can agree or not – or on the news then they choose to get offended. Sexually explicit is fairly provocative – but again the ridiculously extreme – and violent Muslim reaction is unacceptable. My point here is that offending for the sake of it looks like baiting and belittling. At any rate that episode was removed.

        • I agree that a children’s program was the wrong place to pull this stunt (if it was a stunt), however, in my opinion Islam is no more special or sacred than any other religion, and all religions/ideas/cults should be subjected to criticism/ridicule in equal measures, otherwise we’d have bigotry of low expectations, or imposed censorship through fear of a particular group (which is exactly where we are currently at).

          Was Monty Python’s The life of Brian baiting and belittling? Of cause it was. And for good reason.

          My point in the initial post was that we need to stop walking on eggshells with everything that concerns Islam, and make it clear that Islam is not holy to non Muslims, and we won’t be bullied into treating it sacredly.

  • What a waste of energy worrying about pure fiction. The right thing to do with any holy book is to chuck it in the trash where it belongs.

    • Lets hope they are not recycling into toilet paper……

      So what is a pious Muslim supposed to do with his worn-out copy of the Qur’an? Traditionally these have been burned, but that is a highly charged practice these days. And obviously you can’t give them to the paper mill to be recycled. “Three Afghans held for disrespecting Qur’an,” from the Gulf Times, April 19 (thanks to Twostellas):

      Three people have been arrested as officials probe claims that a paper mill in Afghanistan recycled copies of the Holy Qur’an into toilet paper, the attorney general’s office said yesterday. Around 1,000 angry demonstrators, some throwing stones, held a protest on Monday at the mill on the outskirts of Kabul, leaving the building partially destroyed. Copies of the Qur’an were found inside the factory, Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said, adding that no-one was injured in the protest. “The attorney general’s office and Kabul police have jointly tasked a delegation to investigate the alleged disrespect to our holy book in that factory,” a spokesman said.

      Koran Recycling

  • Seems like they missed an opportunity: they could have done a follow-up episode where Sam travels around North Africa and the Middle East putting out all the embassies that protestors have set on fire.

    But the most surprising thing I’ve learned from this latest debacle is that Fireman Sam is set in Wales. I never realised that; I watched the show tons as a little kid and I always thought it was set in England.

What do you think? Leave some comments!