Marc Elliott plays Syed Masood in EastEnders
British soap opera EastEnders will feature a controversial romantic storyline between the characters of openly-gay Christian Clarke (John Partridge) and Muslim businessman Syed Masood (Marc Elliott).
The storyline has been billed a “traditional love affair, albeit with a modern multicultural twist” by the BBC. “We’ve always tried to make EastEnders reflect modern life in multicultural Britain and we’ve always told social issue stories relevant to our diverse audience,” said Executive producer Diederick Santer.
“This isn’t a moral tale of right or wrong, it’s very much a human interest story where a young man struggles with the conflict between his faith and his feelings. This is not a story about Syed and Christian’s physical relationship – we don’t see anything beyond one kiss. It’s more about the inner turmoil and conflict Syed endures trying to remain true to his faith while questioning his sexuality.”
Santer said the BBC1 soap’s production team had researched the plot while working with academics, gay Muslim support groups and the Muslim Council of Great Britain. However they will still have to deal with the negativity of many Muslim people.
Asghar Bokhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee said: “There’s a lack of understanding of Muslims already and I think EastEnders really lost an opportunity to present a normal friendly Muslim character to the British public.”
A recent poll found that not one of the 1,001 British Muslims interviewed believed homosexual acts were morally acceptable.
“To pretend that homosexuality does not exist within the Muslim community in Britain is deluded. Increasingly confident gay Muslim support groups have recently emerged to provide a voice for the minority and acknowledge its presence,” commented Samia Rahman of the UK’s Guardian.co.uk.