Beloved children’s TV character Fireman Sam has denied suggestions that he is Islamophobic despite a scandal embroiling his television show, and has insisted that he has “many Muslim friends” while blaming the “accidental mistake” on the Chinese.
There has been recent controversy after footage from a 2014 episode depicts a page of the Qur’an flying into the air and past the camera after one character slips on a pile of papers on the floor, which in turn has led to the unearthing of other examples of ‘anti-Muslim’ visuals and dialogue concealed within the hit show.
Sam Jones, whose home town Pontypandy voted 93.5% in favour of leaving the EU, has seen fit to publicly affirm his own tolerance of Islam and Muslim people in the wake of the revelations, and has distanced himself from “mutual friend” and local “alien hunter” Buck Douglas Murray.
He said: “There’s a lot being said about me and my show, but I’d like to assure everybody that I’m very much colour-blind when it comes to race, even if it happens that they aren’t round here much to be on-screen, so of course I’ve got no problem with the Muslims.
“I have many Muslim friends, and I made that clear in my autobiography and this sworn affidavit. They’re just never around when we’re filming the show, I have no idea why, something to do with praying or that.
“This was a very accidental mistake, and we’ve traced it back to the set designers and cinematographers, all of whom are Chinese, and I can say for sure they won’t be working with us no more, and I’m sure everybody who was offended will be happy to know they’ll be having their visas revoked and all, and we’re axing Mrs Chen.”
But although Sam was open to explaining the appearance of a Qur’an excerpt within an episode, he was unable or unwilling to provide an explanation for various other examples of perceived slights against Islam throughout the show’s run, with a notable spike during the 2010s.
One scene sees Sam and fellow fireman Jerry Lee Criddlington chuckle when colleague Ellie Phillips says that she wouldn’t wear a Burka because “it’d make her bomb look big”, while another episode saw Sam comment that a fire at the local village shop was “probably the caliphate at it again”.
There was similar discontent when the show’s theme song was slightly altered during a overhaul in 2011 so that the chorus consisted of the lyrics: “So move aside make way for Fireman Sam/’Cos he’s gonna save the day from militant Islam”.
HIT Entertainment, who produce the programme along with others such as Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine and Donald the People’s Hero, have announced that they will pull the inciting episode from circulation, along with any others containing “perceived Islamophobia”.
In an official statement, they said: “It has been brought to our attention that in an episode an image of the Qur’an is briefly depicted. The page was intended to show illegible and unconscionable text and we deeply regret this error, which has been summarily dealt with and we’re not racists. Many of our friends are Muslim.”
However, the show is now being scrutinised for its depiction of other races, with critics noting that the Italian restaurant owner is an “absent-minded sleazebag” called Bella Lasagne and that the West Indian bus driver Trevor Evans is depicted as a vastly unlucky brunt of slapstick jokes whose ‘will they-won’t they’ relationship with the white Dilys Price is routinely greeted with ugly looks from the locals.