In Depth

Is Bodyguard peddling Islamophobic stereotypes?

Depiction of Muslim woman as suicide bomber in new BBC drama branded a ‘dangerous cliche’

BBC One’s Bodyguard has become the biggest new drama on British TV for more than a decade, with ratings continuing to climb after attracting 10.4 million viewers for the opening episode.

Written by Line of Duty’s Jed Mercurio, the new thriller stars Keeley Hawes and Richard Madden as a home secretary and her police protection officer. The show has been widely praised since first hitting TV screens just over a week ago, on 26 August - but some critics are accusing it of peddling a “dangerous cliche”.

In an article for the Radio Times, ITV News security editor Rohit Kachroo says that while Bodyguard “is in many ways brilliant”, the decision to depict a Muslim woman as a would-be suicide bomber in the opening scene is “worrying”.

Anjli Mohindra plays Nadia, whose husband forces her to attempt the attack on a train.

“The brainwashed female jihadi in Bodyguard is a dangerous cliche,” says Kachroo. “The simplistic trope of the passive ‘jihadi bride’ responding to her rational jihadi husband is often inaccurate. The reasons behind what entices women towards this form of extremism tend to be far more complex than fear of an oppressive husband.

“These aren’t simply pedantic observations about an otherwise excellent series. If we fail to understand extremism, we have no chance of beating it.”

On Twitter, German-Palestinian filmmaker Lexi Alexander also questioned why the British television industry cannot produce “one show without any bad Muslims in it”.

Another tweeter said that the depiction of a female Muslim in a hijab as a “bad guy” was “adding more fuel to the Islamophobic fire”.

Show creator Mercurio, however, has rejected the criticism.

“You need to watch the whole drama for a comprehensive idea of who is plotting to do harm,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the reality of our situation is that the principal terror threats in the UK do originate from Islamist sympathisers.

“I do understand that’s different from the religion of Islam, but it’s the reality of who the perpetrators are of the majority of the offences. If the show were set in the recent British past, the attackers might be Irish Republicans.” 

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