Entertainment & Arts

Citizen Khan - view from abroad

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

Debate over the BBC's new comedy series Citizen Khan has spread beyond the UK thanks to the availability of video clips online.

The exploits of British-Pakistani "community leader" Mr Khan drew just under 200 complaints after its first episode was aired on BBC Two last week.

Many accused the show of mocking Islam and perpetuating racial stereotypes.

Discussion has built since on English language websites aimed at Pakistanis and Muslims around the world.

The complete programme is currently only available to watch in the UK, so those overseas have only had access to clips published on various websites.

Many of the criticisms were familiar, but new themes also emerged which speak to questions of identity and frictions between Pakistan and India.

The show also received praise in some quarters for offering an alternative to what many see as negative portrayals of Pakistani Muslims in the news media.

Pakistani newspaper The News International, however, was displeased by the portrayal of the Khan family.

It observed that "in every shot of the series, it has been ensured by the BBC that Pakistani flags are hanging in the background to ensure that the viewers get a definite idea that the characters and the stories are about Pakistan and not be confused generally as Asians."

The article also criticised a scene where Mr Khan's daughter was seen hastily donning a hijab and opening a copy of the Koran as her father entered the room.

The Pakistan News Watch website described the programme as "an assemblage of stereotypes" but added that "shows like Citizen Khan are essential in multicultural societies and help put all communities on an equal footing - if everyone can have a laugh at everyone else's expense, then no one can claim superiority".

Several Pakistan-based discussion sites also carried threads on the programme.

The Siasat website, which describes itself as "public forum to discuss Pakistani politics," hosted a broad-ranging discussion, with a slight majority attacking the programme as "racist" and "offensive to Islam".

Another strand of criticism emerged over the number of Indians in the cast.

One user said: "If we see the names of the actors it's pretty obvious, of who they are and what is the agenda that they are following".

Another said the programme had been "masterminded" by Hindus.

Popular Islamic forum Yannabi.com carried a more even discussion.

One user said he was not a fan of the show, but praised it for seeking to "humanise" the British Pakistani community.

With reference to the recent trial of nine south Asian men charged with exploiting young girls in Rochdale, he said: "Guys, remember you are now on prime time TV and it's not grooming nor terrorism."

A comment on the Koran scene added: "Do you think that such egregious going ons in our communities should be depicted on comedic gags for laughs? ...Shaming the sanctity of the Koran so people can 'har har' is intolerable in my opinion."

Discussion on the ShiaChat forum concluded that the programme was "too bland and hopelessly dated to have any kind of cultural impact."

Video-sharing website YouTube played host to some wide-ranging (and profane) discussion on the show, which included contributions from users in Muslim-majority countries.

One "proudly Muslim guy" from Saudi Arabia said of the show: "Being about a Muslim family does not mean it has abused Muslims faith and religion. I think the problem is that a lot of Muslims are so sensitive to others and always expect the worst from them."

Another Saudi user said that the behaviour of the Khans was characteristic of any Pakistani family that moves to the West, but still labelled the show "racist".

A comment from Bangladesh read: "This would be very funny in any Muslim-majority country, but in a country where people [are] still uninformed about Muslims and end up discriminating and hating them, this kind of show is actually very harmful."

BBC Monitoringselects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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