Congratulations to EastEnders

Last week I headed north to Glasgow to be a guest on the recently revamped Newsnight Review show – now called simply The Review Show. I was on with John Bew, Ian Rankin and Yasmeen Khan, discussing Four Lions (which I review in this month’s magazine), Iron Man 2, Peter Pan and the election coverage. You can see it here.

Yasmeen is an adviser on the BBC’s Eastenders, particularly on the recent story line involving a gay relationship between a white character and a Muslim who has effectively been forced into marriage (a picture of the two illustrates my article about gays and Muslims, also in this months magazine). I journeyed some of the way back from Glasgow with Yasmeen and was interested to hear that this high profile strand in the show had received almost no complaints from the public. That is indeed very encouraging.

But also, credit where it is due, the writers on EastEnders have not been mealy-mouthed in their portrayal of the reaction of the Muslim family to the revelation that the son is gay. They have been rigorous in showing the parents in a bad light; the white lover has been beaten up by Muslim heavies, and even hitherto sympathetic characters have been shown up as heartless and cowardly, a major risk in a soap series. It would have been easy for the BBC to have simply not taken this issue on, so the makers of EastEnders should be congratulated on the fact that they have not minced words, or tried to pretend that the experience of gay Muslims is anything other than hideous.      

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