Is ‘Citizen Khan’ a good portrayal of modern Muslims?

On Monday, August 27th 2012, the BBC broadcast the first episode of “Citizen Khan.” Following its debut, the sitcom received almost 200 complaints, causing debate about the programme’s content.


Citizen Khan has received a mixed reaction from viewers. Photo: BBC

Citizen Khan follows the trials and tribulations of self-appointed Muslim community leader, Mr Khan and his family.

The controversy surrounding the show centred on its portrayal of Muslims and the “flagrant disregard” for the Qur’an.

LGBT Women’s Rep for the NUS Black Students’ Campaign, Maryam Saghir said: “My initial thoughts were that whilst the show was incredibly clichéd, I still found it funny because some of the things my own family even do… like buying loads of toilet paper when it’s on offer.”

A lot of the criticism surrounding the show centred on the use of the Qu’ran for comedic purposes. However, third year Journalism student, Husni Mohamed had a different view: “The Qu’ran was mentioned once if I remember rightly. It was mentioned by the mosque manager who is a convert and Caucasian.

“He is being harassed by Mr Khan because he wasn’t Asian. The mosque manager refers to the Qu’ran and says how he lives by the five pillars and how he has taken the oath to become a Muslim and deserves his position.

“I think this is educational as it lays down some of the rules into becoming and living as a Muslim.”

The BBC’s reaction to the criticism has been rather relaxed and, when asked for a statement, they replied with this: “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.”

While the connotations towards Muslims did not have a significant impact upon Saghir, who is herself a Muslim, she did find the “light-hearted application of racism” rather inappropriate.

She said: “I did find this somewhat unsettling and particularly the slight on people that are ginger. Everything else within this episode was funny or I could tolerate but I just thought that particular part was going a tad too far for me.’

“However, after reading more opinions on the show, I can understand the wider and indeed negative implications the show can have on society. An example of this is the fact that ten years from ‘The Kumars at No. 42’ and ‘Goodness Gracious Me,’ the stereotypes of the South Asian community still appear to be the same.”

4 Responses to Is ‘Citizen Khan’ a good portrayal of modern Muslims?

  1. Gayathri says:

    I personally have not seen the show, but I come from a Indian Hindu background and so many programmes such as ‘The Kumars at No.42’ and ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ have made fun of our culture. And it never bothered me, because a lot of it I could relate to and it was funny. So if the show has taken a similar format with the Muslim community, I don’t see why there is such criticism.

  2. Jamie says:

    That reminds me

    I must complain about Shameless poking fun at British society !! For goodness sake, its funny, those people complaining need to get a life !

  3. Jay says:

    The difference between shows such as “The Kumars…”, “Goodness Gracious Me” etc is that the comedy is a play on the Cultural Stereotypes that exist within the British Asian Culture. On the other hand, Citizen Khan does not just play on the cultural stereotype but brings Religion into the equation and reinforces all that is negative with those who may or may not subscribe to that faith.

  4. Cameron McKenna says:

    I think that this program is great as even though people do state that it stereotypes Muslims, it in my view only emphasis’s the traditional stereotypes for comical effect rather than for offence. The reference to the religion is also not negative but shows how the family interacts with their religion in their family and community and try to shed a lighter light on their religion. whats so wrong with that?