BBC’s ‘Muslim sitcom’ Citizen Khan provokes 185 complaints

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.” ·

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7 replies

  1. With the help of comedy, facts prevalent in Muslim Houses are revealed. One should always see the positive side of the picture and try to learn lessons from it. it is not only in UK but in whole of Europe same situation prevails. A very good effort keep it up.

  2. I am not talking about the sitcom. Because sitcoms may it be in Pakistan or elsewhere never always is a true picture of any culture. it is mostly fiction based, or exaggerated presentation..
    What I want to take this opportunity for is to point out about a trend that has sneaked in Muslims culture in western countries.
    It is about a woman’s dressing up. I just do not understand how on earth mere Hijab is deemed as an Islamic dress code? The tights leggings of a grown up girl with a small top, or wearing fit jeans too is not Islamic. The lower dress of a lady is equally important, and has to be loose. That should be concealing her shape not revealing it.

    Wonder how such people face their conscience?
    It is so disgusting.

    it is a mockery of religious values.

  3. Jeans and tight leggings should not be objectionable as long loose long Kurta is worn. Go and see the Hyderabadi, Bhopali or Laknowi cultures. Even men also wear Chooridar Pajama which is another version of tight leggings. But of course both ladies and men put on long loose Kurta on it to cover the contours of body. Hijab is metnioned in Quran as such gets more importance. It is a fact Muslim girls put their Hijab, Dopatta etc in their bags, purse to use it when entering back home, religious place etc. What is the problem in accepting this shortcoming.

  4. Just like in our general behavior we are neither totally good nor totally bad. Similarly the ladies with Islamic clothing, well, we have all variations from totally covered (including the face) to the what I call ‘sexy hijab’ (covered hair, but tight jeans). … In a way I assume that such ladies still want to show that they are belonging to the Muslim community. But yes, as they improve (hopefully) they should understand that ‘only hijab’ is only a very partial purdah.

  5. One of the Canadian television channel CBC produced a sitcom on the Muslim community living in Canada as well.

    It garnered a lot of attention in the beginning about whether it was going to stereotype the Muslims and what not. I guess over time people realized that of course it didn’t represent all Muslims but just showed a community of Muslims living in Canada going about in their day to day life.

    CBC is one of the national channels so that meant everyone in Canada had access to it and could watch it. I guess it was well liked because it went on to have six seasons. I’ve watched couple of episodes in and out and I felt at times it was funny and sometimes not really funny.

    Below is the link to the website of the show if anyone is interested in looking into it.

    Here’s interesting take on the show by some Muslim.

  6. Thank you brother. I appreciate it. You are quiet right.
    To my knowledge, Chooridaar pyjaama is far more loose then fitting jeans and legging. ( can be checked at home)
    Moreover the kurta on top is all right, there is no question to it if the slits are not very big. (a s in fashion now days) This too can be checked.
    Of course Hijab is the Quranic command and deemed very important. But it is not the Hijab that is in practice now a day. The Quranic Hijab is bigger, wider , big enough to draw it over shoulders and chest. Whereas the present Hijab is only meant for the head and barely shoulders.

    Thank you for the link Tahira jee. I will watch it soon. Insha’Allah.

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