Viewers accuse new BBC sitcom of insulting Islam

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The Independent Online

It was supposed to be a ground-breaking new BBC comedy which finally placed a modern Asian family centre-stage. But Citizen Khan has proved no laughing matter after the sitcom prompted painful comparisons to the "racist" 1970s series Mind Your Language.

Viewers complained that the new BBC1 comedy stereotyped Muslims and insulted Islam. The corporation has received more than 200 complaints since the first episode on BBC1 on Monday night. Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, will investigate after viewers accused the programme of mocking religious beliefs.

Some claimed that the series, about a self-appointed community leader in Birmingham and his family, was a "tasteless depiction of Islam".

British Muslim Adil Ray wrote the series and also stars as the pompous Khan, a tight-fisted father who fills the house with bargain toilet paper bought at the cash-and-carry.

The first episode pulled in a strong late evening audience of 3.6 million viewers. Ray, who wrote Citizen Khan with Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta, said the show was intended to have a universal appeal. "This could be an Irish family, or a Jewish family or an Italian family," he argued. "It doesn't matter what religion you are or what background, we all have the same comedy mishaps."

Yousuf Bhailok, former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the show was "the best thing the BBC has done recently". He said: "It is good to change the stereotyped image of Muslims always being serious and shouting that has appeared so often in the media."