Riz Ahmed to UK Parliament: Lack of TV Diversity Can Drive People to ISIS

Riz Ahmed to UK Parliament: Lack of TV Diversity Can Drive People to ISIS

“If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism," he said in a speech to MPs

Actor Riz Ahmed, aka Riz MC of Swet Shop Boys, told UK parliament yesterday that a lack of diversity on TV screens can drive people to ISIS, the Guardianreports. Ahmed, whose roles in Star Wars prequel Rogue Oneand Jason Bourne helped elevate his status last year, said UK TV had so far failed to represent people from minority backgrounds, leading some to “switch off and retreat to fringe narratives, to bubbles online and sometimes even off to Syria.” 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.”

Ahmed 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 valued?

He added:

It takes American remakes of British shows to cast someone like me. We end up going to America to find work. I meet with producers and directors here and they say ‘we don’t have anything for you, all our stories are set in Cornwall in the 1600s’. ... 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.

Ahmed also noted that under-representation can foster far-right extremism, such as that which led to the killing last year of British MP Jo Cox:

We are going to see the murder of more [members of parliament] like Jo Cox because we’ve been mis-sold a story that is so narrow about who we are and who we should be.

Yesterday, Ahmed’s Swet Shop Boys released a video for “Aaja” [ft. Ali Sethi]. Watch it here:

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