Where Is BBC's Apology For 'The Bodyguard' Muslim Terror Plot?

There are two major stereotypes involving Muslim women in the Western entertainment industry; 1) the oppressed, 2) the terrorist. 'The Bodyguard' portrayed both.



In early June, ABC issued a rare apology after its popular crime drama “Quantico” featured Hindu nationalists in India trying to frame neighboring country, Pakistan, in a terrorist plot.

The episode sparked online outrage against Indian actor, Priyanka Chopra, who plays a lead role in the show.

The U.S. television studio admitted while the series had portrayed "antagonists of many different ethnicities and backgrounds," it "regrettably stepped into a complex political issue."

Nearly three months down the lane, an equally popular British drama, "The Bodyguard," also featured a terrorism storyline in its season finale, however, this one, didn't involve Hindu nationalists -- it was about Muslim extremists.

But that wasn't the only difference.

While ABC apologized for the "complex" episode, following widespread outrage, BBC has not, despite widespread outrage.






Here's a brief summary of the controversial plot: A white British male bodyguard, formerly an Afghanistan war veteran, successfully prevents a suicide attack, the perpetrator of which, initially, appeared to be a hijab-clad Muslim woman, who had bombs strapped to her vest. It later transpired that she was, in fact, a vulnerable victim and the white British bodyguard, ultimately, saves everyone.

Now, people acquainted with the Western entertainment industry are well-aware of the fact that here are two major stereotypes involving Muslim women;

1) the weak and oppressed, and

2) the terrorist.

The Sept.23 season finale of The Bodyguard featured both.

And it was a hit, apparently.

Around 11 million people tuned in to the last five minutes of the episode. No other BBC drama except Doctor Who in 2008, with 11.7 viewers, managed to attract a similar amount of viewers.  

It's disturbing to see how an episode that reinforced negative stereotypes about a particular religion attracted a record number of viewers at a time in a country where Islamophobia is soaring and you read headlines like:

- UK Right-Wing Party Suggests 'Muslim-Only' Prisons

- 'Punish A Muslim': 'Psychological Terrorism' Engulfs Muslim Community

- In 2017, Record Number Of Anti–Muslim Incidents Were Reported In UK

- Acid Attack In England: Two Muslims Targeted In Suspected Hate Crime

It's even more disturbing to note that it wasn't the first time that such an episode aired on BBC.

Previously, in 2012, another smash hit BBC TV series, "Sherlock," featured an episode in which they portrayed Karachi, a city in Pakistan, a Southeast Asian Muslim-majority country, as a medieval region where Muslim terrorists rode on camels in the desert and forced women to don long black robes called "burka."

The depiction was as misguided as it was offensive.

Here's why: Karachi is a metropolitan city where it's certainly not common to see terrorists riding camels in the desert. In fact, Karachi is not even a desert. Also, women there are not forced to wear the burka.

However, it's not just BBC.

Muslim characters have long been portrayed as perpetrators religiously-motivated violence in both television and film, be it American or British. And unlike the case of Qunatico's Hindu terror plot, not a single writer or filmmaker or company has ever issued an apology, so far.

British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed addressed the issue in a powerful statement in March 2017:

“In the mind of the Isis recruit, he’s the next James Bond right? Have you seen some of those Isis propaganda videos, they are cut like action movies,” he said during a Channel 4 address. “Where is the counter-narrative?"

“Where are we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories, that they are valued? If we don’t step up and tell a representative story… we are going to start losing British teenagers to the story that the next chapter in their lives is written with Isis in Syria," he added.

There are around 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and Muslim women across the world are not only working as writers, doctors, lawyers, architects and politicians, but also thriving in their respective professions.

It's 2018 and about time we got to see more of them on the big and small screens.

Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

View Comments

Recommended For You