Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Gay Muslim in Eastenders and Reality

The other week both The Speaker wrote in disgust of how the Eastenders storyline where Syed Masood starts an affair with Christian Clarke in his own words that the BBC were using what 'frowned upon within [Islam]' and South Asian culture and 'exploiting that is totally wrong'.

While it may be frowned upon it is not, as one recent Gallop poll declared, that 0% of British Muslims believed that homosexuality was morally wrong. This month's Attitude magazine looks at the story from the side of those looked down upon not just from the Islamophobia that has sprung out of 9/11 and 7/7 et al but also from Homophobia within their own families and communities. Indeed contrary to what The Speaker thinks the writer of the article, Jamie Hakim, spoke to a number of gay Muslim groups and experts in the area each one of which was consulted by Eastenders in their research. Being a gay Muslim is just like being a gay in other religion where the leaders say it is wrong a hard thing for the individual to deal with. However, no matter how closeted they may feel they have to be doesn't mean they do not exist.

Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee said of the Eastenders storyline:

'The Muslim community deserves a character that represents them to the wider public because Islamophobia is so great right now. There's a lack of understanding of Muslims already and I think that Eastenders really lost an opportunity to present a normal Muslim character to the British public.'

Of course ignores the fact that Syed is a recently returned prodigal his mother, father, sister and brother have been portraying a normal Muslim family on Albert Square before his recent return. Indeed the three gay Muslims all took a differing view to Mr Bukhari's comments. One said:

'What's to say he isn't normal? He could be a model example of someone who is proud to be British and Muslim and he just happens to be gay.'


'The story is very brave and positive. It's a real opportunity to show the Muslim community not as one homogenous block, because we're not.'

And the other, who is a South Asian Gay Men's Worker at the Naz Project in London:

'It's about time that the invisible became visible. It's a positive step for gay Muslims and for the gay community as a whole to be honest..... I'm glad that the BBC had the guts to go ahead with it'

Sadly it is still a matter of courage that's the thing. We had the first gay kiss on British TV in Albert Square back in the 80s of course one of the partakers in now Michael Cashman MEP. We recently had Hollyoaks cross the Catholic line of John Paul's l McQueens's love for and with Father Kieron Hobbs.

We've yet to see how the BBC and the Eastenders scriptwriters play the story arc out. The Masoods appear to be a normal family so I suspect there will the normal range of family reactions to the story. After it adds to the drama and reality of the storyline if not all of the family are fine with the discovery of Syed's sexuality. As indeed the man himself seems to be having issues himself coming to terms with it. He may well be in for pleasant surprises when they do find out. I hope so as that was far easier for me than I dreaded it would.

1 comment:

Stuart Winton said...

Is there such a thing as a 'normal' family in a soap opera? It would be extraordinary if the scriptwriters didn't go for an extraordinary angle.

Indeed, isn't Syed's dad supposed to be having an affair with Ian Beale's wife Jane, who just happens to be Christian's sister?

Thus the Muslim father and son could be having relationships with a non-Muslim sister and brother respectively, and the latter just happens to be called Christian!!


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