BBC's 'Muslim sitcom' Citizen Khan provokes 185 complaints

Aug 29, 2012

Viewers object to 'racial sterotyping' and 'irreverent' depiction of Islam


THE BBC has received 185 complaints about the first episode of six-part sitcom Citizen Khan - and very few were about the poor quality of the gags. Billed as the UK's 'first Muslim sitcom', the programme has upset some viewers with its depiction of faith.

The Daily Mail reports that audiences were particularly upset by a scene where the heavily-made up daughter of the title character hurriedly shoves on a hijab and pretends to read the Koran when her father enters the room.

One viewer wrote on a BBC messageboard that this was "terrible stereotyping, ignorant and just dreadful". Another wrote: "HIGHLY disappointed especially when her father walks in and she dis-respectfully opens the Koran!!"

Others have used the BBC website and Twitter to say Citizen Khan is "disrespectful to the Koran", "takes the mickey out of Islam", "full of racial stereotyping" and, simply, "shit".

However, there were some positive comments from viewers, one of whom wrote that the portrayal of a party-girl wearing a hijab was "true".

Yousuf Bhailok, former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, told the BBC Citizen Khan was "the best thing the BBC has done recently".

He added: "It is good to change the stereotyped image of Muslims always being serious and shouting that has appeared so often in the media.

"There is great humour among Muslims."

Citizen Khan was created by Adil Ray, a British Asian who has presented shows for Radio One and the BBC's Asian Network. The 38-year-old, who plays the title character, writes the show with support from Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, who both previously worked on Goodness Gracious Me, the BBC sketch show much praised for challenging stereotypes.

Set in Birmingham, the show seems to hark back to 1970s sitcoms on purpose, leading to a poor reception from the critics who have said it is unoriginal and heavy-handed. However, the opening episode drew a respectable 3.6m viewers.

At least one critic seems to agree that the programme is full of stereotyping. Reviewing it for The Independent, Arifa Akbar wrote that the characters "were such clichés" that they could have come from the dreadful late-1970s sitcom Mind Your Language, which was a lazy collection of national stereotypes.

A BBC spokesman said: "Citizen Khan has made a very positive start, launching successfully with 3.6 million viewers and a 21.5 per cent share in a late-night slot.

"New comedy always provokes differing reactions from the audience. The characters are comic creations and not meant to be representative of the community as a whole."

Interviewed recently, Ray said: "I think it is a great opportunity, with Mr Khan as a Pakistani Muslim … [to] laugh at ourselves and I am a firm believer in that."

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best thing i have seen on tv in a long time. very funny.

Unfortunately one needs a sense of humour!

i found it quite funny. There is no intent to be disrespectful ... we need to lighten up a bit and be strong enough to laugh at us, along with others. A good show !

Where I went to college about half the girls wearing hijabs were dressed like the girl in the programme and had just as much make up on. Come on, at the end of the day this is a comedy so it is clearly not portraying your average Muslim family like Mrs Brown's Boys doesn't portray a real Irish family or Shameless a typical British family. It's a good thing being able to laugh at yourself you know.

Boy, do we have some over-sensitive souls bleating about stereotypes and inaccuracies! It's COMEDY folks, that's what comedy does, or didn't you realise how comedy works? Do you seriously feel that ANY of our famous and much-loved postwar comedy, from Tony Hancock, through the Carry Ons, to Corrie, East Enders, or even current soaps like The Big Bang Theory from the US, can avoid generalisations and of course, cliches? The real questions are these: are they funny; do we have affection for the characters; are they portrayed in a sympathetic way or are they being demonised? It is quite clear that Citizen Khan is not demonising anybody and that the programme has its finger on the pulse of many trends in current Western Muslim society. For goodness sake let's not get all mimsy and precious about this: that only pushes racial or religious minorities farther into ghetto-like corners and does them a further disservice. It makes them seem like they cannot take a few kindly jibes, which is far from the truth. Most Muslims are far too inteligent for that - and tell similar jokes against themselves. I know so many types of 'modern' Muslims that it would literally be impossible to pigeon-hole them all. Shall, we all try growing up a little, for the sake of this wonderful cultural and religious group? There is, of course, plenty of good-natured humour to be enjoyed by us all. Bring it on, I say.

I thought that the show was pretty damn accurate. I am a Muslim and all I saw was pretty much the truth in terms of how it portrayed the various characters. There was the girl who was wearing hijab just to please her family, that happens often. The main character essentially discriminating against the white muslim convert, that also happens often.

I think this is probably a case of people seeing their own actions and insecurities reflected in the characters.