British Actor Says If Roles ‘Fail To Represent’ Minorities They Could Turn To ISIS
British actor Riz Ahmed is warning the television and movie industries that a lack diverse roles is causing minority viewers to turn to terrorism propaganda and potentially to join ISIS.
Ahmed has had a breakout year for his acting career with a leading role in HBO’s “The Night Of” and a major role in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The 34-year-old actor, whose parents moved to England from Pakistan in the 1970s, was chosen to deliver a diversity lecture before British Parliament on Thursday where he argued that TV shows and movies are failing to resonate with minorities in British society.
“The Night Of” star argued that a lack of diverse actors and stories have caused people from minority backgrounds to “switch off and retreat to fringe narratives, to bubbles online and sometimes even off to Syria,” The Guardian reports.
“If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism,” Ahmed said before Parliament.
“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,” Ahmed said. “Where is the counter narrative? Where are we telling these kids they can be heroes in our stories, that they valued?”
The “Star Wars” actor claimed that the lack of roles provided to minorities in the UK led him to search for work in America instead. He argued that if British television continues to see minorities as a “frill or an added extra,” it would cause more division across the country.
“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,” Ahmed proclaimed. “They want to feel represented. In that task we have failed.”