BBC receives hundreds of complaints and is accused of insulting Muslims with new 'racist' sitcom Citizen Khan

Viewers complained that the new BBC1 comedy stereotyped
Muslims and insulted Islam.

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” 70s 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 aired 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".

Scenes in which Mr Khan’s heavily made-up daughter rushes to put on a hijab and pretends to be reading the Koran when her father entered, attracted particular criticism.

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.

He contends with Mrs Khan, who dreams about a spotlessly clean house, one daughter who wants the Asian wedding of the century and the youngest, Alia, who is caked in cosmetics but fools her dad into believing that she is religious.

Dr Leon Moosavi, a sociologist of race and religion, who specialises on Muslim communities in Britain, said: “It can be defined as racist because it reinforced stereotypes that exist about Asians and Muslims to a non-Asian audience. The constructs are in line with the way racists represent Muslims.”

The comedy prompted a fierce debate on Twitter. One viewer asked: “Was Citizen Khan written in 1972? The Pakistani stereotypes are just painful.” Another wrote: “You guys mocked Islam and weren’t funny.”

Another, Sadude, tweeted: “Caked in makeup, a sleeveless top & tight clothes? A pathetic portrayal of a hijabi. The hijab defines modesty. This isn't it.”

But other respondents said the comedy, which pulled in a strong late evening audience of 3.6 million viewers, reflected their own experiences growing up as British Asians.

A BBC spokesman said: “New comedy always provokes differing reactions from the audience and as with all sitcoms, the characters are comic creations and not meant to be representative of the community as a whole.” The BBC had received praise from members of the Muslim community, the spokesman added.

Ray, who wrote Citizen Khan with Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta, whose previous credits include Goodness Gracious Me and Meet the Kumars, 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.

“I think so many families will relate to the Khans, whether it’s relating to the Dad who’s not willing to put his hand in his pocket or the tensions when there are three women in the house.”

Hosting a radio debate about the comedy on the BBC Asian Network, presenter Nihal said that he had come across characters similar to the Khans in real life. He claimed that stereotypes were often the source of comedy and asked: “When you watched ‘Allo ‘Allo!, did you think all French and Germans were like that?”

Reema, 23, from Newcastle, confirmed the series’ veracity. She said: “I work part-time in my Uncle’s ‘cash-and-carry’ and we had a toilet roll offer where you can get 36 in a pack and four packs for £10. You wouldn’t believe how popular that was.”

The six-part series continues with a familiar comic trope next week, when Mr Khan has to take his mother-in-law on a shopping trip. A future episode, in which Khan holds an X Factor-style competition to find a new call to prayer for the Sparkhill Mosque, could provoke further anger.

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.”

Ends

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owne...

Sauce Recruitment: Senior Management Accountant

£17 - £20 per hour: Sauce Recruitment: Working for a independently owned and c...

Guru Careers: Mac Operator / Artworker

£Negotiable (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Mac Operator / Artworker to ...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore