‘Citizen Khan’ Debate Shows How Segregated Britain Still Is..

September 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Since the first episode of Citizen Khan aired last Monday, all manner of controversy has sprung up. Whilst some British Muslims have defended the show as being an honest portrayal of their community, others have complained that it stereotypes them and is offensive to their faith.

As much as it is important to ask whether these things are offensive, it’s equally pertinent to ask why we still don’t know.

For obvious reasons, the British Muslim community has become an increasingly prominent minority over the past decade. In that time, popular culture and the media have struggled to balance depictions. If Spooks were to offer a recognisable portrayal of modern counter-terrorism (recognisable, at least, to an ignorant audience) then it would be bizarre for them not to feature jihadists.

The problems arise once we recognise that British Muslims – like most other minorities – do not otherwise register on the radar of a predominantly white public sphere. Whichever path media producers take from this point, they are doomed to play into the hands of bigots.

If television depicts Muslims solely in the context of terrorism, it fuels that recognition in the already prejudiced. Alternatively, scriptwriters can attempt to counter the balance by introducing positive Muslim characters.

In this case, they lay themselves open to charges of tokenism and again fuel the types who throw their hands up in the air at the “creeping Islamification of Britain?. Due to all this obfuscation, most of us cannot meaningfully judge whether or not the complaints regarding Citizen Khan are justified.

As a white middle class atheist, I do not know many practicing Muslims and I would wager the same is true for many from the same background. I recognise that my own view of the community is probably wildly stereotyped, but these complaints do not clear it. I can seize on second hand evidence – “My mate Tariq says his sister used to do exactly the same thing with her hijab? – but those are only ever going to be individual interpretations.

After almost a decade of being confronted with depictions of Islam on a daily basis, it’s telling that few of us from outside the community can offer a more considered verdict.

We may say it’s not our place to judge what is offensive to an individual community which is not our own, but that only further distances that community. If we cannot offer an opinion on whether or not a simple sitcom is offensive, how can we hope to make informed decisions about the really serious forms of this same question?

How can we offer an opinion on immigration, or the wearing of the burkha, or which religions should be taught in our schools? The one thing all this controversy at least gives us is the opportunity to hold up our hands and admit our ignorance.

Follow Michael Mills on Twitter..

CITIZEN KHAN Continues on Monday 3rd September, BBC1, 10.35pm

peter wright says:

so lets see one of the girls having a relationship with a non muslem!

ebb says:

why do we have to have this garbage on the tv is this what i pay my liceance for

AKRAM SATTAR says:

THE SHOW IS TRUE PICTURE OF PAKISTANI COMUNITY LEADER,S

“Father Ted” see them two words? yes that is a comedy show on television that mocks catholics but did you ever see the Vatican sending hitmen to kill off their characters for mocking their faith. As a Catholic i found it hilarious and the same with Vicar of Dibley.

But hang on a minute somebody who is a British Muslim brings out a mock comedy show on Muslims and its the worse thing in the world and is mocking your sacred prophet (who married and deflowered a 9 year old girl).

Why is it that every religion can live together in Britain but the Muslims can not integrate into our society. if you hate Britain and love being a muslim so much go back to your third world countries and be happy. non of us asked you to come here you invited yourselves and quite frankly if you refuse to follow the laws that the rest of us have to abide by or not love thy neighbour then this is not the country for you.

Narlaquin says:

White 40 something Atheist here. I enjoy the show and I want it to succeed. It does have a few problems however, as many commenters have noticed.
Mr Khan is a clown, he gets the majority of the laughs with his dialogue and mannerisms, but it’s a waste. He’s a stereotype: He’s Alf Garnett with darker skin. He’s nothing we’ve not seen before.
He could be used to entertain whilst educating us “kaffirs” about Islam: I’m pretty aware of a lot of Islamic concepts and behaviours, but the average white person doesn’t have a clue. Once they understand that Issa, Gibreel, Ibrahim and Moishe (Apologies for the spellings) are all familiar characters from the Bible, they understand that deep down the 3 A/Ibrahamic faiths are all worshipping the same god. Islam stops being the Feared Unknown, and becomes the same but different, akin to Judaism.
The far more interesting characters are his family:
Alia, the daughter with the headscarf, could be so much more and take the program forward. I think she’s had 4 lines over 2 episodes, but in that time she’s had the “controversial” Qu’ran scene, got her sisters wedding back on track, queued for the bathroom with her trademark headscarf spin, and helped her grandmother off the sofa. Her daily life problems would be far more interesting and conflicted than Mr Khan’s. Both sisters can be a voice for young Islamic women, a demographic that has a lot of sympathy with non-Muslims.
I’d like to see the show change its focus, continuing to show that Muslims are regular people who enjoy a laugh, but draw its laughter from the conflicts that are more Muslim based than sitcom stereotype based.

zaara says:

I LOVE CITIZEN KHAN!!! im a muslim from bradford, and i think its sooo funny!!! time flies!!! i love naani shes toooooo cute!!! and i love adil ray hes sooo funny. The thing that annoys me is the so called muslims who are taking offence, are the ones that aint even practising muslims, so it pisses me off when they walk around half naked and then say the show offends them when theyre not even follwoing islam itself. The show does not offend islam at all, i think its a clear funny take and representation on the people of sparkhill. and i jolly well bloody loved it. I wish he spoke some more punjabi woulld be sooo cool!!! hes not even narrow minded i think they should make him like that, mind u im open minded so i wont mind it but the idiots probably would. My mum and whole family watch it , we think its hilarious!!!!! And we are practicing muslims!! so chill out tpo the idiots out there and tell em ta have alught whilst wathcin it!!! truth hurts if thats hw it is at ur house maybe thats y u gettin chillies up ya arse lol thankuuu pls keep the show on air!!!!!!

Rob says:

Funny and believable, i grew up knowing my mates dads and granddads like that. I do mean like that, down to a tee. from brum to Dudley, Iv must have met hundreds like Mr Khan. So unless you have lived as i have in these places, where the steelworks and foundrys where they settled, and your friends as kids were from these communities don’t be offended for other people…. cos from my mates they just said it was so and so`s dad, and laughed a hell of a lot! a lot said it`s about time….

Aliaa says:

I absolutely love this show from the first, like Desmonds, different strokes it gives an insight to a community that we know hardly anything about if the asian community were to open up and invite non-asians into their community and integrate with others then we can break down barriers that have been built…

Being a muslim I dont find it offensive to my faith and love the way Dave the mosque manager has been portrayed and how Mr Khan and others treat him … non asian muslims arent muslim enough ‘cos they werent born muslim …. wrong they have been choosen by Allah swt to embrace Islam and we should do our best to accpet them into our communities and mosques because of that…..

Kal4232 says:

salaam sister Zaynab… thank god u spoke your thoughts … apparently we haven’t lost our right to speak our mind.
Gosh people are so dramatic. My only advise is to those people who sit there watch the show, then criticize it, that its only a program, a drama to entertain us viewers.. just enjoy it for god sake.
we don’t need to turn everything in this world a conflict zone. Allah never said being muslim means being strict and islam is just a strict religion. being muslim is suppose to mean that all humans have right to have an opportunity to live their life as a muslim being a good role model.

lets take the focus of muslim family from this drama … am sure every1 will enjoy it.. now Allah haiz time to go and pray with my NANIJAAN xx

Mr Nass khan says:

I have just watched the 2nd show and I thought it was bloody funny. It is amazing that there so many people who wish to de rail this light hearted comedy show. I am a 45 year old Anglo Asian and most of it was spot on. And so what if it reminds you of the 1970′s or is cliched , so many people are up themselves to complain about this show. Life is short and have a chuckle.

Amjad says:

I am Mirpuri Pakistani, Muslim Sunni, there put me in a box. Anyway, I think the show is brilliant but I find the most right wing Muslims that get offended are Mirpuri Pakistanis, we expect the utmost tolerance on our culture and beliefs yet have no tolerance for others.

Zaynab says:

I am not against the show, I think its funny because it has some aspects that are definitely in the Pakistani culture, but to say that hijabis do so such things is unfair as people are saying that this is a true stereotype of the Muslim community. I think we need to realize the difference between the Pakistani culture with the controvertible scarf and the Muslim religion with the hijab.They are two totally different things and I think the show would create an image in the minds of Non-Muslims that all Muslims are like those in the show.

I am a British born Muslim Pakistani and I can see some of the issues in the show within the Pakistani culture but I think from the Muslim prospective It is untrue I my self like to see my self as a practicing Muslim, and for someone to say they haven’t met practicing Muslims then they must be looking in the wrong places. Their are two types of Muslims practicing and non-practicing but hey who are we too judge.

Hope I haven’t offended anyone just sharing my opinion :)

peace be upon you.

Craig says:

I’m white, nearly 50 and an non-believer in any god(s)…. Your stereotypical disenfranchised indiginous racist (according to some sections of the sensationalist media)….Except, like all sterotypes, it is a generalised opinion based on ignorance and fear. I also grew up in the West Midlands and have grown to understand that muti-cultural, multi-faith Britain should be a cause for unity and respect. We’re different, but the same!

I’ve just watched the 2nd episode of Citizen Khan and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s rare that a situation comedy makes me smile, never mind laugh out loud, but there were so many spot on observations about cultural differences and human similarities in Britain today. The subversion of politcal ‘correctness’ was sublime and vey funny. I loved the bit where he complained about immigrants from Eastern Europe coming over and taking Pakistani jobs….He’s been here 30 years so I found myself agreeing with him!

Too often people take offence on behalf of other people, or take offence because they take themselves too seriously, or adopt a moral high ground which causes rifts in communities. Citizen Khan and his family dismantle so many of those barriers of misunderstanding and mistrust by behaving in exactly the same way as any group of people trying to get on with their lives in a rapidly changing world.

Above all, what made the show so great, was that this was a British sitcom about British people. Their colour, faith etc. were rendered irrelevant by the depiction of their HUMAN traits and foibles…..vanity, ego, selfishness, absurdity, rudeness, grumpiness….Things we’re ALL guilty of but which, through the false belief that some are better than others, few admit to. But being human, Citizen Khan and his extended family reveal the truth that the negative aspects of human interaction in communities and families are borne out of love for each, not hatred. By realising that all communities have these traits separately, we can develop a broder society which is inclusive, not divisive.

I love the programme, the characters, the script and the whole ethos of programme…..If this is how multi-racial Britain has really evolved (beyond the hate filled rhetoric of fake muslim clerics and right wing politicians), then I’m all for it! :)

Kal4232 says:

ok to All the viewers of cotizen khan… just want to say its a drama … its a entertainment … dont take it personally… we are not perfect as a human being let alone be a perfect muslim. we do our best and thats alll… this is only a drama to entertain us … so just sit your self down watch the drama and hit the sack. you pay Tv licence to watch these channels… and if you dont want to watch programmes like that DO NOT PAY THE TV LICENCE SIMPLE AS THAT.

no judgement says:

All I have to say is that open_minded – you hit the nail on it’s head! We need to look within ourselves and make the changes there in order for the sitcoms to portray a different ‘truth’. I am happy that the difficulties that the 1st and second generations (of these sub asian cultures) in the UK face with acculturation and assimilation are portrayed.

More sitcoms like this should be aired :)

p.s I was raised in Sparkhill UK – so can say from first hand experience that whether we like to admit it or not – their is a lot of truth portrayed here…maybe what we really need to do is to question why that is the case as opposed to trying to prevent the show from airing…

Open_Minded says:

As an Indian Muslim based in Blackburn UK, I am defending the show as being an honest portrayal of our community, especially the characteristics of the first and second generation Asian people depicted within the sitcom.
Some people are complaining that it stereotypes them and is offensive to our faith. I totally disagree with that, as stereotypes only arise when majority of the people are actually doing this in real life.
We know many girls in the UK who are scared of their orthodox and totally Asian cultured parents but want to live a westernised life do exactly the same thing with her hijabs now. Shouldn’t those complaining be trying to reduce this from really happening and explaining to all (not just those attending the mosque) the values of wearing the hijab.
Many children can be seen walking away from the mosque with westernised bags with the Quran just swinging around. Shouldn’t those complaining be trying to reduce this from really happening? Parents need to explain to their kids that the Quran should be held to the chest and not be seen like all other books.
If these and many issues are addressed then sitcoms like Citizen Khan won’t be able to stereotype them.
This show has little to do with Muslims and more to do with the 1st and 2nd Generation Sub Asian Culture. It’s good to see that the country I am proud to be a part of is now showing programmes that depict the true multi-cultural and multi-faith society. The people who are attacking Citizen Khan should not be attacking the TV programme itself (as surely they used a different book and not the Quran), but should really be looking at how to stop these sort of actions really happening by educating their children and themselves values such as; living a proper Islamic life, understanding that Muslims are not only Pakistanis and that they come in all different colours and sizes and the fact that these norms from the good old days need to change.

Finally, thank you BBC for putting in a tokenistic convert. This was a great touch, as most mosques across the country now have at least 1 – 10 converts attending the mosque regularly and should not be seen as outsiders in mosques by those Sub Asian’s who think they are better than them.

Well done and keep up with the good work.

Pernille says:

I love the show