Lack of representation will push youngsters towards Islamic State: Riz Ahmed

Published: March 4, 2017
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PHOTO:FILE

PHOTO:FILE

Minorities discouraged by negative portrayals and a lack of representation on television may be driven to accept propaganda put forth by jihadists such as the Islamic State group, also known as IS, according to British star Riz Ahmed, reports International Business Times.

The actor, famous for roles in Academy Award-nominated titles such as last year’s Star Wars Rogue One and 2014’s Nightcrawler, told the UK parliament during an annual diversity report on Thursday that a perceived rejection of minority communities by mainstream media has led some to “switch off and retreat to fringe narratives” supported by jihadist groups who exploit dissatisfied youth.

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Around 850 people from the UK alone have reportedly joined the IS’s ranks in Iraq and Syria, along with tens of thousands of other foreigners from across the globe. “If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism,” Guardian quoted Riz as saying. “In the mind of the IS recruit, he’s the next James Bond, right? Have you seen some of those IS 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?”

Ahmed, who is a British citizen of Pakistani origin and Muslim, has explored his ethnicity and religion in past roles such as last year’s HBO miniseries The Night Of in which he played a New York University student facing media prejudice during a murder trial and 2010 dark comedy film Four Lions, in which he satirically portrayed a wannabe IS attempting to conduct a terror attack in the UK.

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Ahmed criticised the UK’s portrayal of minorities and said he had to go the US in order to get parts in which he was not typecast for his race or religion. He recalled hearing his parents shout “Asian!” while watching television growing up and pausing his video games just to catch a glimpse of actors that looked like him, according to the Telegraph.

The 34-year-old actor has also touched on the subject of racial diversity in his career in hip hop, a genre that established a platform to express the struggles of the black Muslim community through artists such as Nas, Mos Def and the Wu-Tang Clan. Last year, Ahmed released Englistan that discussed the multicultural scenery of the UK.

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