A BBC sitcom has been labelled as “Islamophobic” during a Commons debate about whether the BBC’s programmes and staff reflect UK diversity.
Labour’s Rupa Huq criticised Citizen Khan’s depiction of a “quite backward” family of Muslims.
The show, which is set in Birmingham and was created and starred by Adil Ray, was accused of stereotyping Muslims when it started in 2012.
When the show initially launched it prompted complaints and Mr Ray has previously said in interviews that he had received abuse from people who believed it was making fun of Islam or stereotyping Muslims.
Despite that the BBC have said on their website that the show had ‘received much positive feedback’ and has won various awards at the Royal Television Society and Asian Media Awards.
However, Ms Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, whose sister Konnie is a former Blue Peter presenter, said: “I feel as if I didn’t know what the year is … you would think it’s an everyday tale of a Birmingham family of Muslims but they’re really quite backward.
“Again, the Islamophobic point [Labour MP Chuka Umunna] made, it’s a beardy weirdy chap and they’re not quite cutting off people’s hands but I can imagine that being in a future episode.”
According to the BBC website a BBC spokesman said: “The fact that Citizen Khan returns for its fifth series this year is a sign of its popularity with all audiences – indeed the show has won several awards, including Best TV character at the Asian Media Awards.
“We’ve also had positive comments from members of the Muslim community for the show and for creator Adil Ray who, like the family portrayed, is a British Pakistani Muslim. As with all sitcoms the characters are comic creations and not meant to be representative of the community as a whole.”
Labour MP for Streatham, Mr Umunna had earlier attacked the “representation of our Muslim communities” on TV.
He said “rising Islamophobia” could partly be blamed on broadcasters’ use of “community leaders who purport to speak for that community but have no mandate whatsoever to do so”.
The BBC responded and said it was “making good progress” on becoming more diverse but said it would continue to develop “new and innovative ideas to do even better” and would soon be setting out its new diversity strategy.
“Almost half of our workforce is made up of women and the proportion of our workforce who are black, Asian and other ethnic minority is at an all-time high,” the BBC spokesman added.