Something good on TV

Eve Dugdale
Eve Dugdale - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Being insulted or hearing people talk badly about you or your way of life is always difficult to take.

Luckily, as adults, we learn to dismiss the opinions of people who don’t know us. We see past the hurtful words of ignorant people and sometimes even pity their lack of education about the world around them.

And while we may not be at the point of understanding Donald Trump’s ignorance just yet, most of us have the knack for letting his words go in one ear and out of the other, even finding humour in his inane ramblings.

But imagine if you were a child growing up in this world. A world where people are being divided because of passports and where prejudiced voices have a platform and what seems like a wider audience than ever for their vitriol.

Imagine if you were a Muslim child growing up in a community of suspicion. Would it be feasible that you could start questioning the faith that you were being raised in?

The creators of new British TV show ‘Extremely British Muslims’ say they were eager to combat negative stereotypes and reach out to children facing prejudice with their series documenting the everyday lives of young Muslims.

Speaking to the UK’s Press Association at a screening of the show - which airs on the UK’s Channel 4 on Thursday - one of the stars of the series, Naveed Ahmed, said: “We can remember life before 9/11 but children can’t and they are growing up in a world where they are being told by other people what they are and what their religion is about.

“It’s like if you go into work and everybody tells you that you look unwell - you start to believe it.”

The three part program follows the Muslim community in Birmingham, focusing on issues for its members. Filmed over a year, the series covers everyday situations such as dating and unemployment, as well as the Paris terror attack in 2015 and former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s launch of the Prevent scheme to combat terrorism.

Producer Fozia Khan says she wanted her kids to watch something that will make them ‘feel good about themselves’.

It’s something that resonates with British Muslim dad of two, Ismael Khan, who says he does have concerns about the world his daughters are growing up in.

He says: “I experienced prejudice as a child and always hoped it would disappear one day. I don’t think it will now and in some ways it’s worse than ever.

“Things were easier when we were kids and everyone got along. Now there is more segregation than ever in my opinion and we all have a fear through lack of information.”

His thoughts are echoed by fellow British Muslim, Mohsin Butt. He believes prejudice increased just after 9/11 and says: “Since then every time something bad happens in the world that is labelled as a terrorist attack, or more so an Islamic extremist attack, I feel things get worse. People's behaviour changes towards me, almost like I should apologise for these atrocities like I knew they were happening and condoned or agree with the idiots who carry out these attacks. Some people no longer see the difference between genuine Muslims and the terrorist who carries out attacks in the name of Islam based on their warped views of the religion.”

Mohsin worries that Islam is ‘being attacked from all angles’ and says an increase in stories about Muslims in certain publications worry him.

He adds: “There are more stories about mosques in Britain, women wearing hijabs, halal meat. To me this is breeding hatred towards Muslims and racism to anyone of colour. I do fear for future generations and although I don't have children now I fear if I did how society would treat them.”

The two stars of the new show, Naveed Ahmed and Waseem Iqbal, faced a huge backlash from their families and an imam for starring in the series. However, they say they didn’t want to keep quiet. If extremists such as ISIS have a platform for their hatred, they felt decent people should too.

Waseem told the UK’s Press Association: “I thought, is that what Muslims are supposed to do, just keep quiet? Then the only people who get a platform are the crazy geezers with guns.

“I’m British and I’m Muslim and that’s a beautiful thing.

“I want the children to see this and people from other areas to see this and the man who sat next to me on a flight to America who asked to be moved to see this.”

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