Citizen Khan: A white, middle-class illusion of what Muslims should be like

The BBC sitcom Citizen Khan

The cardinal rule of comedy is that you have to make your audience laugh. If you don’t it’s not comedy. Therefore Citizen Khan is not comedy, writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.

I should declare an interest before I go any further: I think Adil Ray (the creator of Citizen Khan) is a bit of a knob. I mean anyone who supports the Quilliam Foundation’s view of the world must be.

But for various other reasons I also think that Ricky Gervais is a bit of a knob. But I have to admit that Gervais is extremely funny, a comedy genius in fact – despite being a bit of a knob.

Whereas Adil Ray is both a knob and not funny.

Lame jokes

Last night’s episode of Citizen Khan was about Mr Khan’s quest to secure a school place for his grandchild which would at the same time cement his position as the head of the family. He needs to do this to avoid the dawning reality that he really is an old, useless imbecile.

Khan’s strategy is to apply to be the lollypop man on the road where the sought-after school is so that he can supposedly gain influence over the headmaster.

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Along the way there were one or two moments which made me nearly smile – Mr Khan’s throat-clearing, when he slurped tea out of his saucer and his subcontinental aggression when crossing the road for example. But that was it.

Otherwise the jokes were lame throughout and the whole atmosphere was more “traditional 1970s sitcom” than the edgy, modern comedy we should expect from the BBC in 2015.

The show may work as short skits in a more general sketch show but 30 minutes – let alone 4 series – is stretching it way beyond its natural life.

I also can’t really believe that any of that audience laughter was genuine. Surely it was pre-recorded canned laughter or perhaps the audience were being collectively bribed or threatened?

Or perhaps they were all knobs like Adil Ray is. There’s a lot of them about.


In fact, the whole show smacks of a patronising version of how middle-class white folk would like British Muslims to be – cheeky chappies, a bit bigoted and ignorant at times, but ultimately harmless and with their hearts in the right place.

This is Asian/Muslim comedy but with a white, middle-class audience firmly in mind. It’s a PREVENT agenda version of what British Muslims are. It’s Uncle Tom getting a prime-time audience on the national broadcaster and using it to please his masters.

And I guess that’s why the risk-averse BBC commissioned it.

On the other hand, the Muslim community that I know isn’t like that at all. Our humour is edgy, subversive, rude, nuanced, sarcastic and often directed against our oppressors. It’s a mixture of the funniness we’ve picked up from our homelands and the best traditions of British sarcasm and causticness.

But the BBC would never commission anything like that.

So instead, we’ll all have to put up with their warm, fuzzy fantasy land version of the Muslim community. And we’ll all have to put up with that knob Adil Ray.


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