citizen khan

‘They all know me’: Re-imagining the British Muslim in Citizen Khan


Introduction: ‘Number One – Citizen Khan

Citizen Khan has been hyped as the first British Asian sitcom and was broadcast on 27 August at 10.20pm on BBC One. The first episode drew an audience of 3.41 million viewers. The critical response was polarised with some declaring the sitcom an innovative portrayal of a British Pakistani Muslim family while others criticised the regressive stereotyping and poor humour. The star of Citizen Khan is Mr Khan (created by and starring Adil Ray[1]) the self-appointed community leader of Sparkhill, Birmingham: ‘The capital of British Pakistan.’ The broadcast of the first episode led to over 700 complaints to the BBC and 20 to Ofcom, with claims the sitcom caused offense to Islam and ridiculed British Pakistanis. The first series of Citizen Khan ran successfully for six episodes, leading the BBC to commission a new series. Citizen Khan, given its mainstream status, is a rarity since both Pakistanis and Muslims are marginalised within the British media.

I want to start by delineating the major areas of this essay. The first section traces the fragmentation of Black identity over the last decades, leading to the emergence of terms such as South Asian, British Asian and now British Muslim. I will also frame my investigation by contextualising British Muslim identity as a highly politicised one, positioning it within broader historical events. The next section will cover a transitory history of Black representations in the British sitcom. Discussion will moreover converge on the significance of contemporary British films such as Four Lions in paving the way for a reimagining of the British Muslim in Citizen Khan. The following section will examine citizenship, assimilation and segregation as key themes and their relationship to immigration and settlement policies implemented by the New Labour government in 2002. The final section addresses racial and ethnic stereotyping and the relationship to the sitcom form. Discussion will revolve around the types of representations (the deployment of the coon stereotype) normalised in a mainstream sitcom and if it is possible to question, subvert or challenge hegemonic racial and ethnic representations.

The evolving language of identity

The 1970s in Britain was a time in which the cultural politics of race was deliberated in terms of a Black discourse: ‘Prohibited from taking on a British identity, black migrants began to search for more solid ground in their history. The new identity they took on was black, a term which had emerged from the Civil Right movement.’ (Ross, 1996: xiii) ‘Black’ identity was politicised by cultural academics such as Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, whereby its metonymic potential was used to contest identities along not just racial lines but wider ethnic and cultural ones. Black identity incorporated migrant communities such as West Indian, Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi. A mutually inclusive and heterogeneous discourse sought to articulate a collective voice of solidarity, resistance and protest in a time of endemic racism. A paradigm shift in the late 1980s in the way race was constructed in popular discourse was reflected in the ‘fracturing of the inclusive definition of black’ (Gilroy, 1987: 37), signalling a shift ‘away from political definitions of black based on the possibility of Afro-Asian unity’ (Gilroy, 1987: 36). The dissolution of an Afro-Asian united front, although it may have been symbolic, led to redefinitions of race along the lines of ethnicity and ‘specific notions of cultural difference’ (Ross, 1996: xiii).

The emergence of a South Asian discourse questioned monolithic perceptions of Black identity: ‘However similar all Asians may seem to outsiders, they actually constitute a far more diverse population category than is commonly realised’ (Ballard, 1994: 3). Comparably, research on diasporic identities[2] accelerated a transference from conventional ways of thinking about race to a concentration on how the South Asian diaspora in the UK made active use of popular culture, most notably the media, to construct their own identity. The discourse of racial politics has changed over time so that minority groups have continuously pushed to reclaim an ethnic identity that has often been suppressed through economic, political and cultural marginalisation. A more apposite historical explanation for the reconfiguring of race along the lines of South Asian identity was to do with the racism of the past. In truth, the language of identity for subordinate groups is concomitant to racial hatred. It is the traumatic, on-going dialogue of renegotiation with past historical narrative(s) of racism that opens up a space for legitimising their integrated position within the national community.

If South Asian identity equated to a symbolic form of integration then reaction from conservative Muslims to the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1998 led to a new discourse addressing religious identity. South Asian identity may have brought together all ethnicities under one aegis but this also meant the dissolution of religious diversity. As Muslims in Britain reclaimed their religious identity under the politically contentious term of British Muslim, the tabloid press amplified British Muslim identity as a source of extremism. The 1990 Gulf war and the genocidal invasion of Iraq galvanised a resentment amongst the Muslim population, mainly British Pakistanis, questioning their relationship to the nation-state: ‘Muslims, more than ever, came to be imagined as outsiders, excluded from the essential notions of Britishness’ (Ansari, 2004: 1). Imaginings of Muslims as outsiders essentially laid the origins of Islamophobia.

On July 7 2005, four suicide bombers carried out coordinated attacks in London. The suicide bombers were British Muslims, three of Pakistani descent, who had been radicalised. Subsequently, British Muslims were reimagined yet again, this time as a social problem by the media. British Muslim youth radicalised by Islam is a moral panic that finds comparative resonance in the work of Stuart Hall. In ‘Policing the crisis’ (1978) Hall acknowledged the amplification of mugging during the 1970s in Britain as a way of labelling Black youth as deviants and displacing wider social anxieties. The recent politicisation of British Muslim identity has meant a further narrowing of cultural representations but it has also led to an Islamophobic mainstream visibility and invisibility contested by an emerging discourse (encompassing film, television and literature) questioning ‘notions of national cultural British hegemony’ (Ansari, 2004: 1) and arguing the media have deliberately construed alienation, assimilation, religion and tradition as social anxieties. Contestation in terms of identity and representation is on going and Citizen Khan needs to be framed as a text that negotiates ‘readings through which various social groups can find meaningful articulations of their own relationship to the dominant ideology’ (Fiske, 1992: 126).

Representing Race in the British Sitcom

The sitcom form has a long and complicated history with race and the discourse of racial politics. One of the most ideologically potent sitcom creations of the 1960s was Till Death Do Us Part featuring Alf Garnett as ‘a flawed, bigoted and reactionary character’ (Malik, 2002: 92). Writer Johnny Speight sought to confront racial prejudices and the sitcom was broadcast against the hardening of attitudes to immigration as typified by Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968. Malik (2002: 93) argues that ‘Alf emulated some of Powells real-life panic’ towards immigration, symbolising wider white working class racial anxieties. Speight’s original intention of taking on the problem of racism within contemporary British society seemed to backfire as the right wing views of Alf Garnett reinforced similar prejudices harboured by viewers. Speight’s follow up Curry and Chips was even more antagonistic in dealing with racial anxieties. Comedian Spike Milligan browned up as Irish Pakistani Kevin O’Grady (’Paki Paddy’) and ‘represented the kind of bumbling foreigner stereotype that was to be recycled again and again in other popular television comedies’ (Malik, 2002: 94). In episode one, when O’Grady refuses to eat pork he is lampooned by his workers for his religious beliefs and his difference becomes a source of unease. Later in the same episode, Kenny who is the token black character tells Arthur (Eric Sykes) that all Pakistanis are ‘puffs’. Not only does this moment underline the sitcom’s repugnant homophobic attitudes but also naturalises British Asians as threatening and aberrant.

Next I want to briefly reflect on some of the major breakthroughs that were achieved at the end of the 1990s[3]. With multiculturalism firmly on the race relations’ agenda in Britain during the 1990s, the first Asian sketch show Goodness Gracious Me was broadcast on BBC2. The major problem with comedy shows of the past had not been with racist stereotyping but that a further disempowerment existed for Black audiences since the writers were in many cases exclusively white. Goodness Gracious Me was a comedy show written and performed by British Asians and labelled as interventionist: ‘Part of the trick of the series is the way the comedy team go inside the stereotype, often reverting to it’ (Malik, 2002: 102). More decisively, much of the humour was generated at the expense of white middle class culture. Goodness Gracious Me opened up a new space in television for Asian comedy, neutralising racially motivated representations of the past and reversing the butt of the humour.

Citizen Khan’s reimagining of the British Muslim is a result of shows like Goodness Gracious Me but we should not discount recent British films such as Four Lions. With the success of Four Lions it is the comedy genre that has been the most substantial to confront the radicalisation of British Muslim youth. Four Lions made it safe for white audiences in particular to laugh at British Muslims for both their foolishness and intimacy. Satire is used to neutralise the Otherness of British Muslim youth ‘who became the ethnic Folk Devils during the 1990s’ (Malik, 2002: 54). An oppositional reading would be that by satirising religious fundamentalism Four Lions trivializes the ideological complexity of contemporary identity politics, closing off British Muslim discourse. This is made more problematic given that the director and writers are of a white middle class background. What Four Lions underlines is the complex way in which audiences interpret representations; the process of contestation occurs both within the text itself and amongst the audience.

Questions of Citizenship, Assimilation and Segregation

The imaginings of British Muslims in Citizen Khan are predicated on themes such as citizenship, assimilation and segregation, recalling the ‘explicitly integrationalist project’ of multicultural programming in the 1980s that hoped to eradicate ‘any problems which Asian people faced in Britain by the assimilation of Asianness into Englishness’ (Malik, 2002: 57). The title of the show offers an ideological link to New Labour’s advocating of citizenship[4] as a questionable attempt to reconstruct national identity through old age principles of allegiance to the state. If the title emphasises Mr Khan’s status as a citizen and his superficial integration into mainstream British society, it also suggests incorporating subordinate groups into the hegemonic mass is dependent on a degree of assimilation by acknowledging a direct association with the state. Today citizenship ceremonies demand immigrants pledge allegiance to Britain, questioning the existence of a dual or global citizenship that marked the identity of first generation British Asians.

The title Citizen Khan is also misleading in many ways since Mr Khan is more of a citizen for the Pakistani community than the state. If Mr Khan does selfishly self promote his own interests then such a representation reinforces a right wing ideological rhetoric propagated by both the BNP and EDL since they continue to advocate that ethnic communities are segregated on the basis of choice rather than wider socio-political determinants. The duality of identity is made clear in the opening montage in which the title appears on screen with the Pakistani flag separating the word Citizen from Khan. In many ways Pakistan as the distant, imaginary homeland comes in between Mr Khan’s duties as a citizen for the community and his role as a father/husband to his family. New Labour credulously propagated the concept of active citizenship after the 2002 Bradford and Oldham riots. In this respect, Mr Khan’s activism within the religious and business affairs of the Pakistani community can be read as a response to the promotion of active citizenship. Yet progressive notions of citizenship in which everyone partakes in protecting British values within the community was questioned by British Muslims as a way of forcibly assimilating ethnic differences into the mainstream.

The question of assimilation is exemplified in the character of Alia, the younger of the two daughters, who wears the hijab as both a way of masking her desire to assimilate while retaining a link to her identity as a Muslim. In episode one, Alia is first seen in the kitchen. She is wearing makeup, false eyelashes and reading a glossy fashion magazine. In front of her is a blackberry mobile phone. Initially, Alia’s ordinary teenage construction is familiar enough to us yet her separateness from the rest of the family positions her as someone who feels the most uncomfortable with her Muslim identity. As soon as Alia hears Mr Khan in the distance, she hurriedly puts on the hijab and begins reading the Quran. Alia’s desire to integrate fully is hampered not because of cultural traditions but religious obligations. Yet Alia’s manipulation of her father undercuts any dominant interpretations of Mr Khan as the controlling patriarch commonly associated with representations of British Asian families. If Alia symbolises the ideological progressiveness of contemporary British Pakistani youth we need to reflect on why her character is the least developed and most invisible in the series. In many ways, Alia seems trapped in the family and although this is a convention of teenage representations often associated with the sitcom form, it is an entrapment brought on by the politics of segregation.

Karen Ross (1996: 109) says that television series in the 1980s with Black or Asian characters were ‘usually placed in ghettos.’ The ghettoisation of Asian communities in Britain is linked to on going debates centring on segregation. The opening montage of Citizen Khan is ideologically complex in its imaginings of British Muslims, establishing segregation as a key thematic. The montage begins with a yellow 1970s Mercedes making its way through the streets of Sparkhill juxtaposed to the Bhangra beats of Kam Frantic. The collision of the Mercedes and Bhangra underlines an underlying ideological contest between tradition and modernity, between the old and new generation of British Pakistani Muslims. If the Mercedes is a symbol of Mr Khan’s associations with the past then the deployment of Bhangra music taps into a hybridity of cultural forms signifying Alia’s progressive generation. The voice over that accompanies the montage depicts Mr Khan as a delusional figure echoing Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses. As the Mercedes moves along the high street, segregation is presented as a social reality and imagined in a public space. Race is not the only exclusive segregatory political statement. The intercutting between the women (Alia, Shazia and Mrs Khan) in the back of the Mercedes to Mr Khan waving at the people offers a reading of gender segregation. This is made explicit by the space occupied by the characters within the Mercedes – Mr Khan is literally in the driving seat and in control of his family. Nevertheless, this is a reading contested in the series and best encapsulated by episode five in which Mr Khan loses the battle to watch a cricket match in his own house because his wife has organised a prayer meeting.

The opening montage ends in calamity as Mr Khan drives the Mercedes up a public footpath to park outside their terraced house, obstructing an old woman on a mobility vehicle. This final moment is substantial since the violation of public space, in this case the street and footpath, contradicts Mr Khan’s positioning as a cooperative citizen of the community. The ideological implication of the old white woman coming to an abrupt halt suggests Mr Khan is presented as an obstacle in the path of integration. Such public space cannot be shared, implying that racial coexistence is a near impossibility. Another reading of this racial encounter can be contextualised further still in the reports of ‘no go areas’ in Pakistani communities such as Oldham in which whites were likely to be chased out. The media amplified such reports, implying it was widespread within British Pakistani communities especially in the North of England. Segregation and integration are themes that reappear in the series. In episode two, Dave, the white Muslim convert and mosque manager agrees to Mr Khan’s suggestion that he should take the old lady pensioners out to the shopping centre in Birmingham: ‘It will help to integrate the mosque worshippers with the wider community.’ This repeats the anxiety of religious segregation not only with wider British society but also more specifically within ethnic communities.

The final shot of the montage contests such a reading of segregation as Mr Khan’s two daughters and wife react with dismay since in their view Mr Khan’s actions are embarrassing and socially unacceptable. We must not neglect the comic value of such a moment as it establishes Mr Khan as a bumbling fool and since he is the butt of the joke it makes the text problematic as we are already laughing at him rather than with him, and this even before the sitcom’s narrative has started in earnest. Citizenship, assimilation and segregation are themes that intertwine, presenting a discourse of ethnicity that are directly related to many of the New Labour policies which failed to create a dialogue of trust with a generation of British Asians who in truth are more integrated in the mainstream of British society than their parents.

Contesting Racial Stereotyping in the Sitcom Genre

The representations of British Asian women (not British Pakistani) have been much more progressive and are in many ways broader than the stereotypical way in which Asian men have been depicted since the 1970s. Representations of British Asian men (mainly from the Indian, Sikh or Pakistani ethnic communities) have resulted in narrow and regressive stereotyping: the violent husband, the repressive father, and the religious fanatic. Such stereotyping is predicated on a notion of hyperbolic disruption whereby British Pakistani men are rarely ever seen within a normative state. The mainstream media has found it incessantly impossible to disassociate British Pakistani masculinity from Islamic ideology. Even in recently contested texts such as My Son the Fanatic, Four Lions and Britz, the British Pakistani male’s radicalism is ultimately depicted as a political threat to the norms of British society. Given the mainstream status of Citizen Khan, in terms of representation the stakes are much higher but we have to bear in mind that stereotyping is bound by genre and in the case of the sitcom, ‘narrative energies are directed towards containing transgression and reasserting norms’ (Langford, 2005: 18).

If Mr Khan’s buffoonery recalls dysfunctional characters such as Basil Fawlty, Alf Garnett and Del Boy then racial stereotyping needs to be positioned within a broader argument regarding the way sitcom opposes character development, contains radical social and political thought and functions to reinforce ‘dominant ideological values’ (Langford, 2005: 16). Nonetheless, I would argue Mr Khan’s ethnic status as a British Muslim Pakistani complicates simplistic genre interpretations since it is his ethnicity that separates him from past sitcom protagonists. Mr Khan’s buffoonish antics actually need to be read within the discourse of Black stereotyping such as the Coon. Stuart Hall (1981: 39 – 40) in his ‘grammar of race’ identifies three racial constructs: ‘the slave figure’, ‘the native’ and ‘the clown or entertainer.’ The clown/entertainer is a variation on the Coon stereotype (extending from minstrelsy) that depicted the black man as lazy, stupid and comical. The Coon stereotype functions largely to make a white audience laugh at the Black man’s foolishness.

Much of the humour generated in Citizen Khan is largely at the expense of Mr Khan. He is first introduced in episode one with a bag of light bulbs bought on special offer from the local cash & carry. The problem with the humour is not Mr Khan’s depiction as a cheap skate, although this is an old stereotype, but its deployment within the narrative since we are constantly laughing at him and his antics. Mr Khan may lack the typical characteristics associated with the coon stereotype such as laziness and while it is the primary function of the protagonist in a sitcom to make us laugh, it is a representation bound up in the discourse of Muslim, Pakistani and British identity. Interestingly, the private space within which Mr Khan is ridiculed, usually at home amongst his family, can be contrasted to more public spaces such as the Mosque in which humour is generated at the expense of Dave and Omar (the Somali immigrant with a ‘funny accent’).

Therefore, Citizen Khan is significant in depoliticising a public and religious space such as the Mosque, which has taken on damaging ideological associations with terrorism. The mosque as a space is neutralised and made safe since the office in the mosque becomes a symbol of progressiveness, as it is a space occupied by a white Muslim convert. The mosque office can also be read in opposition since it is a space that replicates the existing power relations of Britain today. Although Dave is a Muslim convert, his status as a white manager indicates his power and authority over Mr Khan, thus reiterating the position of social and economic inferiority occupied by British Pakistani Muslims in reality. In many ways, the characters of Dave and Omar are used to extrapolate the racial prejudices harboured by Mr Khan who says: ‘Im not an immigrant. Ive been here more than 30 years. Immigrants are Eastern European, coming over here, taking our jobs, jobs meant for us Pakistanis.’ Such racialised address recalls Alf Garnett’s attitude to immigration and normalises Mr Khan’s status as an accepted member of mainstream British society, transforming the discourse from exclusionary racial politics of the past to more current inter ethnic prejudices.

Citizen Khan propagates the notion that on screen bigotry is no longer exclusively white, but has been complicated over time by the ways in which certain ethnic groups have become accepted as part of the mainstream. Nevertheless, it is religious identity that remains a problem in Citizen Khan. Mr Khan as the Muslim patriarch is a compromised stereotype (maybe slightly inverted) since it is a construction that keeps more of the dominant rhetoric at a critical distance such as violence, oppression and fundamentalism. In some respects, by reimagining Mr Khan as just another father normalises Muslim identity but only to a certain extent.

A key tradition of the British sitcom is family. Citizen Khan is arguably one of the first contemporary television texts to fully represent a British Pakistani family. Yet why are we not presented with a prosperous, middle class family with aspirations? By representing the British Pakistani family as economically defunct, obsessed with religion, socially segregated, and suspicious of other ethnicities may conform to the sitcom lexicon of family as dysfunction but in fact such a problematic representation is counter productive, undermining the intentions of giving a voice to an invisible minority, since it reinforces pre existing misconceptions regarding the British Pakistani community. Although the sitcom form denies the potential of subversion, be it gender or political, Citizen Khan depicts a British Pakistani family in which no one except for Amjad is shown to be in full time employment. Interestingly, the only character who is ‘shown’ to be working happens to be white: Dave, the mosque manager.

Nonetheless, both The Desmonds and The Cosby Show offered representations of middle class black families who were moderately affluent, educated and integrated. With The Cosby Show in particular, social mobility for the black community in America may have been illusionary but at least it was on display for audiences to witness. The star of Citizen Khan Adil Ray mounts a paradoxical defence predicated on genre, excluding potential ideological consequences: ‘Citizen Khan is not a Muslim comedy, its a British family sitcom. It doesn’t represent all Muslims or all Pakistanis, theres no way it could do that because theyre not all the same’ (18/11/12, Birmingham Mail). This may be true but Adil Ray seems to overlook what is at stake. Very few mainstream media representations of British Pakistanis exist in the first place and the one’s that do are situated within the ideologically contentious and predominantly realms of religious fanaticism. As Ross (1996: 4) argues, ‘Images thus become transformed over time, from being mainly symbolic to connoting reality.’ In many ways, who has the power to represent and how they represent in this case a particular ethnic group returns to the ‘burden of representation’ (Ross, 1996: 50) that was faced by Black artists in 1980s Britain. Since Citizen Khan is uniquely singular in its representation of British Muslim identity, it inevitably faces criticism for what it includes and excludes.

In terms of racial and ethnic stereotyping, contestation is most visible in the characters of Shazia and Alia. Since Islam is often represented in the mainstream as a religion that oppresses women, it is here in the opening up of a new space for British Muslim and Pakistani female voices that have long been silenced and rendered invisible does Citizen Khan offer an ideologically progressive discourse. Much of the early criticism of Citizen Khan was directed to the character of Alia and the responses on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook brought forth a familiar reactionary religious conservatism that wish to render such counter hegemonic texts illegitimate solely on the grounds of racism.

I want to finish by taking a brief look at Shazia’s character. The choice of representing a British Asian family with two girls reverses the common assumption that boys hold a more valued position in the British Pakistani community. Shazia is older than Alia but we are given very little in terms of backstory. We assume since she is living with her parents it is a decision determined by tradition rather than choice. Determining to what extent Shazia is stereotyped as a typical British Asian girl is complicated by the dearth of British Pakistani representations in British television especially those of girls. In episode six, Mr Khan spreads a malicious rumour about Shazia and a boy Imran Parvez. Mr Khan does this so he can invite Mr Javed, a respected figure in the community, to the wedding and hope that the Parvez family stay away. The plan backfires and momentarily jeopardises the relationship between Shazia and Amjad. When Shazia discovers what has happened, she is furious at her parents: ‘My body is my own. It doesn’t belong to anybody else. It shouldn’t matter to Amjad what Ive done in the past and it shouldn’t matter to you either.’ Shazia’s words articulate a collective ‘speaking out’ against the way British Pakistani girls are judged on a value system based on honour, duty and chastity. Innumerably, Shazia’s words momentarily contradict the argument that the sitcom form suppresses radicalism. The contextual allusion to a wider debate centring on honour killing in British Pakistani communities is a pertinent one, hinting at the subversive potential to incorporate social commentary into the sitcom form. The radicalism of Shazia’s gender status is contained by the limited spaces (living room, bedroom, kitchen) in which she is situated, reinforcing traditional gender roles. The significance of Shazia as a British Pakistani Muslim girl is merely symbolic and like her mum who is stereotyped as the oppressed housewife both remain, ‘invisible in the public domain and trapped within the family framework’ while ultimately they lack ‘any active agency to change their condition’ (Ansari, 2004: 252). Still, Langford (2005: 17) argues change is an impossibility since the ‘cyclical structures’ of sitcom ‘induces a particular amnesia, in which whatever lesson has been learnt one week is forgotten the next.’

Conclusion – Incorporating Otherness

To falsely dismiss Citizen Khan as populist entertainment with instantaneous escapist pleasures would negate the ideological implications of a text that reimagines the British Muslim as a contested site of social anxieties. If this a serious attempt by a mainstream broadcaster, in this case the BBC, to ‘naturalise and normalise’ (Hall, 1981: 42) the presence of British Muslims, then, by posing questions centring on assimilation, segregation, citizenship and patriarchy leads back to an argument posed by John Fiske (1987: 38) on the relationship between form and ideology: ‘the effect of putting a socially interrogative view of the world into a conventional form is debatable.’ Whether Citizen Khan is ‘interrogative’ should not detract from its attempts to show fictional acceptance of the British Muslim.

Neutralising the threat of the Muslim as the Other is complex since we also see examples of incorporation in the sitcom. As a reaction to Islamophobia, Muslim women sought refuge in the hijab and it was transformed from a symbol of religious oppression to a political one articulating an opposition to mainstream western culture. In Citizen Khan, incorporation works to ‘rob the radical of its voice and thus of its means of expressing its opposition’ (Fiske, 1987: 38). This certainly is the case with Alia’s de-politicisation of the hijab. If Citizen Khan incorporates and legitimises the Muslim as part of mainstream dominant culture then we can see a hegemonic process at work since it is our consent that is being sought over such representations.

Perhaps the proof that such consent has been won is evident in the re-commissioning of Citizen Khan for a second series. If this is true then we need to find out who exactly has given this consent and why – is it the traditional white middle class BBC television audience or is it an integrated audience also made up of British Asians? Whichever is the case, we must never lose sight of the struggle and contest over meanings that takes place in the cultural discourse produced by Citizen Khan.

[1] Adil Ray co-writes Citizen Khan with Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto who both worked on Goodness Gracious Me (1996 – 2001) and The Kumars at No 42 (2001 – 2006).

[2] Roger Ballard’s work is of importance here since he undertook a qualitative examination of the characteristics of South Asian settlements in the UK addressing family, religion, difference, migration, caste and the hybridisation of youth culture.

[3] My essay does not have the scope to detail sitcoms like Love Thy Neighbour, Mind Your Language, The Fosters, Tandoori Nights and Desmonds. For a detailed reading of the aforementioned texts, see Malik’s (2002, pg. 91 – 107) chapter on ‘The black situation in television comedy’.

[4] Not only do we have The Citizenship Test (first introduced in 2002) immigrants must take before they naturalise and settle in the UK but Citizenship was also introduced in the English Curriculum in 2002.


Akbar, Arifa (2012) ‘Citizen Khan is not just outdated, but lazy and offensive’, 29 August 2012, The Independent, (accessed January 5)

Ansari, Humayun (2004), The Infidel within: The History of Muslims in Britain since 1800, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers

Ballard, Roger (1994), Desh Pardesh: The South Asian Presence in Britain, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers

Cashmore, Ellis (2004), Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies, Routledge

Chen, Kuan-Hsing & Morley, David (ed.) (1996), Stuart Hall: Critical dialogues in cultural studies, Routledge

Chillax – it’s just a comedy, says Citizen Khan star Adil Ray, 18 Sep 2012, Birmingham Mail,—its-just-a-comedy-4183 (accessed January 5)

Dyer, Richard (2002) The Matter of Images: Essays on Representation, Routledge

Fiske, John (1987) Television Culture, Routledge

Gilroy, Paul (1987) There Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack, Routledge

Gillespie, Marie (2002), ‘Television and Race in Britain: Comedy (From Comic Asians to Asian Comics)’ in Miller, Toby (ed.) Television Studies, BFI, 116 – 119

Hall, Stuart (2004) Stuart Hall, Routledge

Hall, Stuart (1995), ‘The Whites of Their Eyes – Racist Ideologies and the Media’ in Dines, Gail and Humez. Jean M., Gender, Race and Class in Media – A Text Reader, Sage Publications, 29 – 52

Jones, Steve (2006) Antonio Gramsci, Routledge

Langford, Barry (2005), ‘Our usual impasse: the episodic situation comedy revisited’ in Lacey, Stephen & Bignell, Jonathan (ed.) Popular Television Drama: Critical Perspectives, Manchester University Press, 15 -33

Loretta Collins Klobah (2003): Pakistani Englishness and the Containment of the Muslim Subaltern in Ayub Khan-Din’s Tragi-comedy Film East is East, South Asian Popular Culture, 1:2, 91-108

Mills, Brett (2005) Television Sitcom, BFI

Malik, Amjad (2012) Citizen Khan splits opinions, 28 August 2012, Asian Image, (accessed January 5)

Malik, Sarita (2002) Representing Black Britain: Black and Asian Images on Television, Sage Publications

Mita Banerjee (2006): BOLLYWOOD MEETS THE BEATLES, South Asian Popular Culture, 4:1, 19-34

Ross, Karen (1996) Black and White Media: Black Images in Popular Film and Television, Polity Press


My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985, Stephen Frears

My Son the Fanatic, 1987, Udayan Prasad

Four Lions, 2010, Chris Morris

Television texts cited

Till Death Do Us Part, 1966 – 1975, BBC

Curry and Chips, 1969, LWT

Love Thy Neighbour, 1972 – 1977, Thames Television for ITV

Mind Your Language, 1977 – 1979, 1986, LWT for ITV

The Fosters, 1976 – 1977, LWT for ITV

Citizen Smith, 1977 – 1980, BBC

Only Fools and Horses, 1981 – 1996, BBC

The Cosby Show, 1984 – 1992, NBC

Tandoori Nights, 1985 – 1987, Channel 4

Goodness Gracious Me, 1998 – 2000, BBC

Kumars at No. 42, 2001 – 2003, BBC

Britz, 2007, Channel 4

Citizen Khan, 2012, BBC


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