Actor and rapper Riz Ahmed has warned that a lack of diversity on TV is driving young Muslims toward extremism and into the arms of the savage terror group ISIS.
Ahmed, known for his roles in the terrorism comedy -- you read that right -- Four Lions and the the Star Wars prequel Rogue One, said that the lack of diverse voices and stories onscreen leads young minorities to “switch off and retreat to fringe narratives, to bubbles online and sometimes even off to Syria.”
According to the UK Guardian, Ahmed said while delivering Channel 4’s annual diversity lecture in Parliament that TV had a crucial role to play in reassuring minority communities that they are valued, especially post-Brexit, .
“If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism,” he said. “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. Where is the counter-narrative? Where are we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories, that they are valued?”
Ahmed said that if British television doesn't take diversity seriously, it would cause more social division.
“People are looking for the message that they belong, that they are part of something, that they are seen and heard and that despite, or perhaps because of, their experience, they are valued. They want to feel represented. In that task we have failed.”
“If we don’t step up and tell a representative story," he added, "we are going to start losing British teenagers to the story that the next chapter in their lives is written with Isis in Syria. We are going to see the murder of more MPs like Jo Cox because we’ve been mis-sold a story that is so narrow about who we are and who we should be.”
Ahmed, from a Pakistani Muslim family, said that while growing up, the lack of Muslim characters and stories on TV made him believe he could never become an actor. "I really want you to understand how much that meant to someone who doesn’t see themselves reflected back in culture. It’s a message that you matter.”