Having been researching the representation of Muslims and Islam in the media for about the last eight years, I was amazed at a recent story that has hit the news.

The BBC has received 107 complaints – I’m guessing primarily from Muslims – about an episode of ‘Eastenders‘ that was broadcast in September. In the episode, Albert Square resident, Masood Ahmed (played by Nitin Ganatra) who is also a Muslim was seen eating during the day by Ian and Jane Beale in the month of Ramadan (for those who don’t know what this means, a short explanation about Ramadan is included at the end of this post).

As the BBC reported on their website (click here to read):

The BBC said the scene was supposed to show Massod’s “fallibilities” and did not “represent the entire British-Asian or British Muslim experience”.

“Although Masood is a practising Muslim, he has his own fallibilities as a human being,” it said in a statement.

“He’s a fictional character with flaws who realises he has let himself down in a moment of weakness.

“We would like to assure viewers it was not our intention to insult Muslim or Islamic values.”

First, well done to the BBC for not ‘apologising’. As the BBC put it, the show is about ‘his own fallibilities as a human being’. This is what all soaps are about. If those complaining were to be realistic, without human fallibilities, soaps wouldn’t have story-lines. If you want to complain about fallibilities, then why not complain about the Beales, the Mitchells etc…?

Second, do these complainants really believe that ALL Muslims fast during Ramadan? Walking through the Bull Ring Centre in Birmingham during Ramadan, I stood behind a young Muslim hijabi on the escalator who was eating a bag of Walkers crisps. Whilst the hijab provided an interesting juxtaposition with the crisp during Ramadan, I didn’t see anyone suddenly rushing up to the young hijabi to reprimand her or complain about her behaviour. And quite rightly so. She wasn’t the only Muslim during Ramadan – in the Bull Ring or indeed elsewhere – that didn’t fast. Unsurprisingly, not all Muslims are perfect and indeed, not all of them aspire to be.

Finally, complaining about Muslims being represented as ‘real’ people is a massive faux pas. For years, Muslim groups and various researchers – both Muslim and non – have been trying to construct a clear picture and coherent argument about how the media unfairly and stereotypically represent Muslims and Islam. When the media do then represent what some Muslims do in reality – that they are indeed human – the media are inundated with complaints wanting something else. Suggesting that ALL Muslims fast throughout Ramadan is as inaccurate as suggesting that ALL Muslims are supportive of terrorism.

This raises a handful of questions…

Does this type of representation really distort the religion and practice of Islam?

No.

Does it undermine or negate Islam?

No.

Is it, after many years of negative stereotyping and denigratory representations, a fair and reflective presentation of Muslims being as human as you and I?

Yes. Of course it is.

Since the publication of the Runnymede Trust’s report into Islamophobia in 1997, the reality of Islamophobia has been contested by those that suggest that it is little more than a shield against which fair and accurate criticism is deflected.

Suggesting that Eastenders’ representation is negative, stereotypical or even Islamophobic is farcical and completely unfounded. Continuing to do so will merely provide the detractors and critics of Islamophobia with further evidence against which they will try and undermine the valuable work that those who advocate and champion the addressing of Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination and racism.

Let’s be real. Because for once, the media have.

About Ramadan (reproduced courtesy of Wikipedia)

Ramadan or Ramazan is a Muslim religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar: the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It is the Islamic month of fasting (sawm), in which participating Muslims do not eat or drink anything from true dawn until sunset.

Creative Commons License

This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.

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16 thoughts on “Eastenders shows that Muslims are human…it’s Islamophobic !!!

  1. Agree 100%, but, “Walking through the Bull Ring Centre in Birmingham during Ramadan, I stood behind a young Muslim hijabi on the escalator who was eating a bag of Walkers crisps.” She might have been menstruating, of course!

  2. [Transferred from Facebook]
    Although I agree complaining was counterproductive, I’m not sure the reason there were complaints is down to some failure of insight. Like the Imam who appeared on BBC during the Rushdie affair announcing most British Muslims were “on the straight and narrow”, when I knew (in my pre-Muslim days) there was a Muslim only pub in my home town! This guy… Read More wasn’t a liar – I think there are differing perceptions of acceptable representation among sections of the Muslim community and perhaps a legitimate suspicion of media motives.

  3. [Transferred from Facebook]
    In all fairness, The complaints were counterproductive .. What we must all accept is that even within communities there are differing views of what an accurate representation of that group may be and I would say that goes for all faith groups .. I don’t think that the BBC had any untoward motive in this representation but were simply trying to … Read Moreshowcase muslim’s as real people and not religious fanatics as they are so often showcased via other media streams so I say it should be welcomed but at the same time I do accept that others may not share that opinion with me ..

  4. I think your article is interesting. It is also interesting how we have this innate drive to pass judgement on other people. Istead of thinking this muslimah has a reason for not fasting, the first thought is she is sinning. So convinced, a blog is created about it. It is very difficult, yet very important for us all to refrain from such thinking and actions. This is wisdome behind the hadith “…make seventy excuses for your brother” before labeling him a sinner.

    thank you

  5. Thanks for your comment but I think that I created the blog post about the Eastenders programme rather than about the ‘Muslimah’…I think that I used the example of the ‘Muslimah’ not to pass judgment but to prove that some Muslims don’t fast. I wasn’t passing judgment, just making an observation…

    Think you got it wrong, sorry – am I passing judgment again ???

    Chris

    1. I’d just like to say that the young hijabi may have not been fasting because 1. She could have been ill 2. Pregnant 3. menstruating , these are all reasons why you can not fast, so you can’t just make a judgment like that.

  6. “Whilst the hijab provided an interesting juxtaposition with the crisp during Ramadan, I didn’t see anyone suddenly rushing up to the young hijabi to reprimand her or complain about her behaviour”. This comment is not passing judgement, just showing all Muslims dont fast, right? You blogged about a Muslimah, chris. Most, if not all, will miss some days in Rhamadhan because of their mense. Maybe I read too much into your comment, but it sounded as if you were implying that even muslim women covered from head to toe sin….by not fasting. Again, this type of assuming is something we all do, and all should try to avoid.

    mubarak

  7. “Walking through the Bull Ring Centre in Birmingham during Ramadan, I stood behind a young Muslim hijabi on the escalator who was eating a bag of Walkers crisps.”

    She was probably on her period!

    But otherwise I agree, I’m muslim myself and I love Eastenders. I think it’s great and I have no problem with the way the Masood family is depicted.

    In fact I think it’s great Eastenders has different cultures showing on their show.

  8. Hi there, i beleive it is a disgrace that the BBC have cleverly chosen a gay muslim plot. Yes the producer can sit there and say the programme is about fitting in all people of every race into a normal society, however this is not normal for muslims, if he is a muslim he would not be homosexual. More importantly in islam, there are more muslims practasing their faith FAR more than chritians in christianity! I do not need statistics at all, all you need to do is look around everywhere in one of the most christian countries in the world “Britian”, and you’ll see for yourself that this aythiest race is not practasing at all, no church on sunday no praying of any sort. So on a small note here, it is wrong, and I think any British including myself can say that islam and muslims are being very . . . branded with bad labels to say the least. And for the BBC , (whoo did not display a charity advert to raise funds for an islamic country Palestine, as well as many other anti – islamic thing) to now relese a gay muslim in the most popular programme is a disgrace. i know many mulsims in the world, and in islam its really really disrespectful. Thanks for reading.

    Peace.

  9. id like to say goodby to peggy and phil iv enjoyed you for years enjoyed the programme and really looked forward to half an hour each evening when on but now its lost its identity i shall no longer be watching its a waste of bbc tv licence its taken over by foreighn nationals and im not interested any more when it comes back to our own people then maybe il watch again .

  10. Eastenders is racist the executive producer who decided everything about the Muslim family is a [EDITED BECAUSE I WON’T TOLERATE STUPID, RACIST, CONSPIRACY THEORY NONSENSE].

    Chris

  11. And yet today, yet again, Masood makes a comment, “We can take Mohammed to the mountain”, to Carol. Why use such connotations. I have stopped viewing the programme as i find it quite racist, particularly towards Muslims. Why could they not find a sikh or hindu family. They are much more interesting to the west as they drink, smoke, want to comform to the western ways even though societies in the west is degenerating fast. They have gurus and idols that you can use connotations for. Lets see if you get the same resonse. You will get complaints. EASTENDERS script writers, read your stuff before sending it out to public media or you will lose viewers. Think I will start watching Corrie instead !!!

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