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'Enders Syed for gay love plot

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'Enders Syed for gay love plot

Marc Elliott as Syed Masood

EastEnders newcomer Syed Masood is to embark on a gay love affair with caterer Christian Clarke.

Penniless Muslim property developer Syed, played by actor Marc Elliott, will find himself torn between his feelings and faith after sharing a gay screen kiss with Jane Beale's (Laurie Brett) brother Christian (John Partridge). The pair will then launch into a full-blown affair of the heart.

The story will primarily focus on Syed's struggles to come to terms with his sexuality as a practising Muslim.

Describing the plot as a "traditional love affair, albeit with a modern multicultural twist", the show's production team has conducted a large amount of research into the issues surrounding such a taboo topic.

EastEnders executive producer Diederick Santer said: "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.

"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."

He continued: "In this regard, it's not dissimilar to the story we told when Dot Cotton's deeply-held Christian beliefs came into conflict with her desire to alleviate Ethel's suffering [in a euthanasia plotline].

"To all intents and purposes, Syed's a 'good' Muslim man: he doesn't drink, smoke or engage in sex before marriage. But he struggles with his sexuality when he finds himself drawn to Christian and he believes this goes against his faith.

"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."

He added: "Syed has already been ostracised from his family and community once and if he's true to his heart he risks losing his family again."

Syed was first seen in the Walford soap at the end of last month when his mother Zainab (Nina Wadia) made contact with him for the first time in four years.

Soon after his debut, viewers met his screen girlfriend Amira Shah (Preeya Kalidas), who failed to meet his mother's high standards. More recently, Zainab has been seen attempting to set Syed up on dates with her friend's numerous daughters.

During the extensive research period, University of Nottingham sociology professor Dr Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip and Adnan Ali, head of Al-Fatiha, an international organisation for gay Muslims, were among those consulted.

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month revealed that none of the 500 Muslims interviewed believe that homosexuality is morally acceptable.

At the end of last year, Ofcom received nearly 150 complaints over a gay kiss (above) between Christian and his then-boyfriend Lee Thompson (Carl Ferguson). The scene saw them sharing a passionate embrace on Arthur's bench in the Square's gardens as devout Christian Dot Cotton (June Brown) walked by.

During the same week, over 100 people complained to the BBC after it aired a scene during Ramadan which showed Syed's father Masood Ahmed (Nitin Ganatra) snacking on a chapatti during daylight hours.

The Masood clan were introduced in 2007 after the show was criticised for lacking an authentic Asian family. From the outset, it was decided that the family unit would be moulded as "rounded human beings tackling the issues of day-to-day life in Albert Square".

Santer added: "The dynamics of Muslim relationships and families are not radically different from any others, but the importance that Muslim culture places on family and married life can make the same issues more charged."

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