Riz Ahmed feels lack of diversity on TV will drive youth to ISIS
Los Angeles, March 4 (IANS) Actor-rapper Riz Ahmed has warned that the enduring failure to champion diversity on TV is alienating young people, driving them towards extremism and into the arms of ISIS.
Ahmed, who saw his international star soar last year thanks to major roles in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Jason Bourne”, said lack of diverse voices and stories onscreen led people from minority backgrounds to “switch off and retreat to fringe narratives, to bubbles online and sometimes even off to Syria”.
Delivering the annual diversity lecture from network Channel 4 in British Parliament, Ahmed said that in the light of the rise in racial and religious hate crimes post-Brexit, TV had a pivotal role to play in ensuring different communities felt heard, and valued, in British society, reports theguardian.com.
He said: “If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism. 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?”
Ahmed’s recent roles include “Night Of” and “Girls” — both American TV shows. Ahmed also used the platform to criticise the fact he still had to go to the US to land major parts, reports theguardian.com.
“It takes American remakes of British shows to cast someone like me,” he said, adding that “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’.”
Ahmed said British television still perceived diversity as a “frill or an added extra” and that if it is not addressed immediately, it would create more divisions across the country, guardian.com reported.
He said: “If we don’t step up and tell a representative story Â… 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.”