It started as a light-hearted way to promote understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims: Oz sketch skein “The Ronnie Johns Half Hour” declared Feb. 28 “High Five a Muslim Day.”
Idea was promoted through sketches in which Jesus encouraged his flock to combat all that “War on Terror” negativity by giving Muslims a high five.
But when deadly protests erupted over depictions of Islam in a series of Dutch cartoons, Network Ten pulled the second-season premiere of “Ronnie Johns,” fearful of agitating Oz’s Muslims.
Undaunted, producers sought opinions from several Islamic bodies, who referred the case to the Mufti of Australia, Taj Aldin Alhilali.
“We really wanted to work out on a scale of one to 10, whether it was ‘burn down an embassy offensive’ or ‘write a letter to the editor’ offensive,” says producer Nick Murray.
The move — a first for Aussie TV — generated an even more positive result: a fatwa (religious ruling) supporting the skit.
“The idea behind the skit is constructive and helps promote understanding amongst different sections of Australian society,” the Mufti wrote in his ruling. “Such understanding and good humor, introduced through satire, is very beneficial for Australian society.”
That was good enough for Network Ten.
So the show aired Feb. 19, and the day itself was a success, with “High Five a Muslim” T-shirts selling in the hundreds.
“Ronnie Johns” show posted a 23.4% share and its aud was up 15% the following week. Network Ten received just a few complaints — from Christians, upset about the segment’s depiction of Jesus.