Free Speech & the BBC

22 Sep

While another UK TV Channel got into trouble for a proposed documentary about Islam and its Prophet (nothing to do with the US film trailer that has sparked riots across the Middle East, the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya, and a bounty on the producer’s head in Pakistan), the BBC have quietly continued broadcasting Citizen Khan – see here for the series website. Although there were initial complaints, the BBC seem successfully to have shrugged them off for now.

A question worth reflection may be – how, and why ? That it is a comedy must help – although of course that may also cause some people to feel that they are being mocked. The general view around the world – see a partial sample of the BBC’s own here – seems to be that it is more sympathetic than mocking – that there is something in the writer Adil Ray’s defence of his series that ‘they are a typical British family – they just happen to be Muslims of Pakistani origin’ (I paraphrase). That Ray is himself a British Muslim and stars in his own show presumably helps (should it ?). If one thinks of other such comedies of recent decades, then – yes – there are some familiar figures – the Maliks with whom it is important for the family to ‘keep up’ – the head of the family who isn’t – the father’s anxiety about the cost of his daughter’s wedding. But is that a/the problem, that it’s not very new ? Or was it essential to go with familiar jokes/comic themes, given the sensitivities ?

The reader is invited to watch in iplayer – please note that episode 1 goes a bit slowly because it is establishing characters, so do watch both that and at least one other. The character of the Mosque Manager is intriguing – possibly a rather clever piece of writing, but we shall see …

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