Entertainment & Arts

Sitcom Citizen Khan prompts 185 complaints to the BBC

Mr Khan
Image caption The six-part series follows a Muslim community worker in Birmingham

The BBC has been accused of stereotyping Muslims in its new sitcom Citizen Khan.

The broadcaster has received 185 complaints since the first episode aired on BBC One on Monday, with some claiming it was a "tasteless depiction of Islam".

Complaints have risen overnight, but the BBC said it has evidence of a lobbying campaign.

The six-part series follows a Muslim community worker in Birmingham.

It was created by British Muslim, Adil Ray, who also stars in the show.

Other members of the cast include My Family star Kris Marshall as a mosque manager and Shobu Kapoor, who played Gita in EastEnders, as Mrs Khan.


The media watchdog, Ofcom, said it received in the region of 20 complaints about the programme.

One viewer who complained to the BBC said the show "insulted" and "ridiculed" Islam.

"We feel though as if this show has crossed the line and we expected a comedy show but now we have witnessed a mocking show," said the viewer.

Another wrote that the content was "bigoted" and "offensive".

But others, commenting on a BBC messageboard following Monday night's broadcast defended the show.

Referring to a scene in which a teenage daughter hastily changed her attire before her father entered the room, one said: "People are reading too much into Citizen Khan, especially the hijab thing, it happens!"

Comedian Humza Arshad, star of the hit internet comedy Diary of a Badman, told the BBC's Asian Network that he felt some of the jokes went "a bit too far".

"I wasn't offended but I think some other people might be. For example, the scene with the Quran. Personally I'd play it safe. Some people might complain about it - I've got similar feedback myself by the audience, the Muslim community is one of the most sensitive communities out there."

Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Yousuf Bhailok, said the show was "the best thing the BBC has done recently".

"It is good to change the stereotyped image of Muslims always being serious and shouting that has appeared so often in the media," he said.

"There is great humour among Muslims. I am glad it has been made."

'Split opinion'

Image caption The six-part series was created by British Muslim, Adil Ray, who also stars in the show.

Independent reviews of the show have been mixed, with the website, Asian Image saying it split opinion.

"Asians will easily identify with the over-emotional Mrs Khan, the daughter who lives a double life and the sensitive Amjad," said reviewer Amjad Malik

"It was stereo-typical because in many respects that is what comedy is about.

"The jokes were a little poor in parts but I sense the criticism is a little unfair."

Arifa Akbar, writing in The Independent, said it wasn't a bad comedy, "it just wasn't new".

"Comedy doesn't have a duty to represent real people, but it does need to be funny, and while a family comedy requires a broad appeal, this is no reason to unspool recycled jokes that worked a treat 40 years ago," said Akbar.

The criticism was echoed in the Daily Star, which added: "The show's weakness isn't so much that it's a niche comedy but the fact that its style feels incredibly dated, like an old-fashioned studio sitcom from 20-odd years back."

Meanwhile, a review in The Guardian described the sitcom as "un-bold" and "safe".

The BBC said the first episode of Citizen Khan was watched by 3.6 million viewers, which it described as a "very positive start".

A spokeswoman said: "We're delighted that so many people enjoyed this new comedy and we have received a number of appreciations from members of the Muslim community and beyond in praise of the show and for creator Adil Ray, who like the family portrayed, is a British Pakistani Muslim.

"Alongside these appreciations, a small percentage of viewers have complained to the BBC regarding the show's portrayal of the Muslim community.

"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," she added.

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