Air Arabia’s cartoon characters have uncanny resemblance to kids from “South Park”

An Arab airline has hijacked the look of the cartoon kids from television’s “South Park” to market its flights throughout the Middle East.

Air Arabia, a discount carrier based in the United Arab Emirates, features on its website the images of animated children who bear a striking resemblance to characters such as Stan, Kyle and Eric from the Comedy Central hit.

When users return to the airline’s homepage or simply click refresh on their browser, they’re treated to several different characters.

The imagery and facial expressions are similar to the boys from “South Park,” but the kids are adorned in Arab-themed clothing and headgear, and thus, are not an exact match.

While no one from Air Arabia responded to WorldNetDaily’s requests for comment, it appears the campaign began at some point in 2005.

Tony Fox, executive vice president of corporate communications at the Comedy Central network, said he was completely unaware of the purloined look until informed by WND.

“It’s amazing to me how quickly people will jump on a phenomenon,” he said. “While I’m not a copyright expert, I don’t know how we could have legal recourse for something that looks a lot like a ‘South Park’ character but actually isn’t.”

“South Park” has made its mark on society by poking fun at countless people and topics, and Fox noted there are certain liberties people can take to skewer others.

“As satirists we can do that,” he said. “Satire is protected by the First Amendment.”

Fox added he’d bring the matter to the attention of Comedy Central’s legal department for its opinion about the airline’s use of similar characters to market itself.

The cartoon comedy has been making major headlines recently.

As WND reported, Comedy Central barred the program from showing an image of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in an episode last week, but did allow a scene in which an image of Jesus Christ defecates on President Bush and the American flag.

The network issued a statement in connection with that, saying: “In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision.”

But “South Park” actually depicted Muhammad, without protest, in a 2001 episode.

Last month, outspoken Scientologist Isaac Hayes, an Oscar-winning soul singer heard by millions in recent years as the “Chef” character on the show quit the cartoon four months after an episode spoofing Scientology.

The episode mocked Scientologists such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and included the continuous punchline of “Tom Cruise won’t come out of the closet.” (Click here to view the Scientology episode.)

“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” the 63-year-old Hayes said in a statement.

“Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored,” he continued, never mentioning the Scientology episode, but citing the global controversy over cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad. “As a civil-rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”

The creators, whose show recently won a prestigious Peabody Award, struck back with an episode in which Chef appeared to be killed and then have his brains scrambled by the “Super Adventure Club,” which turns members into pedophiles.

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