Much has been said and written this week, following the debut of BBC's newest sitcom, Citizen Khan, much of it negative. A lot of strong opinions are forming all over the internet, prominently from British (Pakistani) Muslims, who either enjoyed the show (yes there are lots who did), didn't enjoy the show and offered constructive criticism, or didn't enjoy the show and were so offended by it, that they are spewing venom. Yes every community has its trolls!
I am a British-born Pakistani Muslim and I did not enjoy this show. It's not because I found it offensive, but just because it wasn't very funny unfortunately. I was disappointed as this is the first sitcom based on a British-Asian family and its success could lead to more opportunities for British-Asian talent. I am hopeful it well get better. Many sitcoms start off with dubious pilots and go on to great success, the first episode of Friends wasn't great and look how that turned out!
The Mr. Khan character, on which this show is based, started out a few years ago on the 'Bellamy's People' sketch show and subsequently starred in a string of YouTube videos, from delivering alternative Christmas messages to explaining cricket from a Pakistani perspective. Adil Ray plays the character brilliantly and Mr. Khan IS hilarious, it is easy to see why BBC execs thought a sitcom based around the character would be a success. Unfortunately, the out-dated stereotypes, lazy script and ham acting, has meant that the show has suffered a mediocre start. But as I said, I'm hopeful it will get better!
The reason for this blog post however, is that I wanted to address the attitudes of the trolls spewing their venom. The reason they have been so offended, is that they claim this show has insulted Islam. It pains me to make such an obvious point, but there is a clear difference between mocking Islam and mocking Muslims. As a Muslim I am fully against mocking Islam (or any religious belief for that matter, but that's a separate debate), but I am for mocking Muslims (or followers of other religious beliefs) in a way that is done well and intelligently. The best modern example of this is Four Lions, a brilliant movie mocking the views and actions of Muslim terrorists. This film could have been very offensive, but was done with a great deal of sensitivity and research and hence was well received.
Whilst I don't think Citizen Khan mocked Islam, but Muslims, it just wasn't funny and hence, people found it offensive. (This is a point I've been discussing with friends this week, if something is inherently offensive, but you find it subjectively funny, you are likely to let it slide, however, if you don't find it funny, that is when you can become offended.) Being honest all British-Muslims will confess to knowing a girl like Aliya, who is 'religious' at home but not so 'religious' outside of her home. Young women like her exist, so she is a valid stereotype. Additionally I knew lots of young people (I may or may not have been one), who when younger had to read the Qur'an at home, but when their parents back was turned they start doing something else (e.g. playing video games) and when their parents came back into the room they pretend to pray again, stuff like that happens! It is a valid representation. It is supposed to be a comedy. Where would be the humour in showing a practising well-balanced Muslim family? The irony of course is that unfortunately this show wasn't funny anyway.
I am slightly confused by the over-sensitivity. It was obvious that the show was mocking those particular Muslims and their hypocrisies, not Islam. Hence the character of the Mosque manager 'Dave' (my favourite character so far), will be important going forward as he explains ACTUAL Islam, not cultural Islam, just as he does in this episode. At no point was actual Islam mocked, but the way in which some cultures and families treat it is. See the difference?
Islam doesn't have a history of satire and Muslims don't take ridicule of our religion lightly. However, it seems that Muslims today measure their faith by how angry they get when offended. There are other means of protest, other than wishing for the producers of the show to 'rot in hell'! It is important to stress here that 3.6m watched the pilot episode and just over 200 complaints have been received (to date), so either trolls don't complain, or this whole thing has been blown out of proportion?
Anyway if you want to see a Muslim sitcom that is actually funny, I suggest you try and catch the Canadian show, Little Mosque on the Prairie.