Yes we Khan laugh…

August 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm (BBC, comedy, Guest post, Islam, media, multiculturalism, Pakistan, Pink Prosecco, Racism, religion, TV)

Guest post by Pink Prosecco

Citizen Khan (BBC 1, Mondays, 10.20 pm) has attracted formal complaints, and plenty of more informal negative comments too.  It’s certainly neither subtle nor original – but I find it more difficult to be sure whether or not it deserves complaints because it is racist or anti-Muslim.  The central character, ‘Citizen’ Khan, is a rather monstrous creation, and most of the characters seem stereotypical.  But this is the case with many sit coms.  Basil Fawlty and Alf Garnett were both grotesque.  Khan’s prospective son-in-law seems a bit daft – but so was the ridiculous Alice in The Vicar of Dibley.

Of course Muslims are targets of bigotry, which does mean that Citizen Khan can’t be judged in quite the same way, perhaps, as a programme about a white, culturally Christian family.  But it could be argued that the programme’s makers, by reducing the Khans to a set of cheesy stereotypes, have just helped pull Muslims more firmly into the mainstream in a way a more earnest and nervous programme couldn’t have done.  Although a few complaints have focused on the disrespectful treatment of Islam, the character who uses a mask of piety to conceal her party going tastes – and gets away with it – could strike a chord with anyone who has sneaked their way round parental restraints, whatever their religious background.

It’s not a great programme.  Goodness Gracious Me was cleverer and funnier.  But I don’t think it’s going to be giving the EDL any comfort.  As Adil Ray, who plays the title role, points out:

“The biggest, most important, thing you can do is laugh at yourself….You then negate anything anybody can ever do. It’s the ultimate weapon. If you can laugh at yourself, it doesn’t matter what anybody says to you as you’re laughing already.”

5 Comments

  1. Sue R said,

    A couple of years ago there was a similiar programme in Canada, launced to a great fan-fare of how multi-cultural it was etc. After a few episodes it was moved from its prime time slot to a graveyard one and quietly forgotten about. Reviews described it as weak and unfunny. I didn’t watch this show because most so-called comedies these days aren’t, so its limpness is not attributrable to the ethnic nature. Incidentally, doesn’t it have Muslim writers? The character of Mr Khan is a well establish character, he’s been in other programmes, I forget which, but in an article I read about it, it said that his character had appeared in other shows.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Citizen Khan was created by Adil Ray and is written by Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto (The Kumars at No 42, Goodness Gracious Me), together with Adil Ray.The charcter has previously appeared in Radio 4’s ‘Bellamy’s People’, a spin-off from ‘Down The Line’

    I agree that ‘Citizen Khan’ is not hugely original, but I personally found it very funny and (knowing Sparkhill, where it’s set, quite well), not such a grotesque caricature as some critics have made out.

    I hate to have to say it, but the Daily Mail piece that the main post links to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2195459/Citizen-Khan-Offensive-Racist-No-just-funny–oh-true.html
    pretty much sums up my views on the show.

  3. Clive said,

    I have to say I thought it was spectacularly awful, and if it wasn’t ticking a ‘multicultural’ box nothing this laboured, obvious, and eye-gougingly unfunny would have made it to air. And that bugs me. It’s like when you go to the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the films are just awful, awful, awful, but we’re supposed to be glad at least they’re being made… But it doesn’t have to be like that. (Much of Goodness, Gracious Me, for instance, was pretty good.)

  4. Gene said,

  5. Jimmy Glesga said,

    The MB, British Muslim Parliament and other democratic! Muslims will be quietly balking at this shite.

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