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 BBCCitizen 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.” ·