Thursday, November 01, 2007

Apples do not exist

Neither do practicing Muslims who are active and positive members of society. Muslims are either totally assimilated and vaguely nominal Muslims or Jihadist. Nothing else.

Such prejudices will not have been altered by the second installment of Britz, which focused on Nasima, the female character. There was so much wrong with this show. It would take a massive post to list it all, so I will summarise.

We are introduced to Nasima as a typically ordinary girl. A bubbly medical student with a passion for politics. We see her praying with her family (although she doesn't cover her hair properly during salah, the first of many inconsistencies).

Sadly, our insight into her religious beliefs and motivations pretty much ends there. For a drama supposedly about Muslims there is actually very little about Islam.

It was just completely unconvincing.

Nasima's best friend is arrested, imprisoned and release under a control order, despite not being involved in any illegal activity. She subsequently commits suicide.

After this Nasima attends a student meeting for Muslims, where she is told that Jihad is the duty of all Muslims, even women and that nothing else will help to end the war in Iraq e.t.c. In fact, the women are told that they could make excellent jihadists as they are less likely to be detected.

Meanwhile, Nasima still fits in the time for a non-Muslim boyfriend. In one of the most unrealistic scenes (and there were many), she tells her boyfriend he doesn't understand, because he's not Muslim, then proceeds to kiss him, just after he drank some beer and they sleep together. Because that's the behaviour of a committed Muslim. *Eye roll*

Cue Nasima confessing to her parents about aforementioned boyfriend in order to get sent to Pakistan so that she can train for her 'mission'.

The director proudly claimed to have spoken to Muslims before making this film. I'm not sure what he spoke to them about, but it wasn't Islam or how Muslims interact with each other.

Nasmina is shown making wudu and praying by the side of the men. Considering this is meant to be an 'Islamist' camp, neither she nor the other women wear hijab. When she agrees to do the mission. The leader makes this bizarre convenant which makes no mention of Allah. While doing so, he puts his hand directly on her head.

She then returns to London to finalise the preparation for her mission. While in London she lives with a male fellow terrorist, which would also be a no-no islamically, but the script remains unconcerned with such matters.

She looks a bit troubled that there might be children there at the planned detonation site, but this doesn't last long. This is another major problem. We know she is mourning her friend and blames the government for her death, but again, it's just not convincing. Her motives are unclear. A character tells her she will "sit at God's right hand", which is an odd statement from a Muslim, as there is nothing in Islamic theology about anyone sitting at the right hand of Allah. However, she replies that she is not doing this for that reason. Yet if she is doing this for emotinal reasons, i.e to avenge her friends death, she seems curiously lacking in passion. I'm not sure if it's the fault of the actress, the script or both.

So she goes to her final destination, wearing virginal white and an empathy belly to hide her bomb. Before she can detonate it, her brother finds her, they struggle in slow motion. Then the screen goes fuzzy.

Now for some statistics. Remember the director has spoken to real Muslims, so we are treated to statement about 81% of young Muslims think UK foreign policy is an attack on Islam and will increase the likelihood of terrorism in the UK. Then information about the Government anti-terror legislation laws passed.

Following this is a clip of Nasima's suicide video, where she declares the public are all guilty for electing the current government she declares that Muslims will fight ending by saying "So Help Me God", which is just not the sort of terminology a Muslim would use. Considering the number of real video messages made by suicide bombers, you've think this would not be difficult to portray in a mildly authentic manner, but it's fair to conclude this programme as the same relation to authenticity that a tree slug has to moonwalking.

Anyway. According to the director, my criticism is:
"disrespectful to the many Muslims who worked on the script and the production."

I stand by my opinion, they should be ashamed at how they earn their money. I would rather clean toilets with a toothbrush for a living then be involved in making such prejudiced garbage.

The above comment came from a live discussion forum on the show held on the Channel four website after the show. Here are some other choice tidbits:

"The 2 Pakistani girls at the bomb factory were hot. Liked the bra scene. Good work Peter."

"The fact you showed just how easy it was for Nasima to create her bomb in the 2nd part from odds and ends from any hardware store. It seems like there could be a bomb workshop in every other house all over the country."

"I know that so far we (the British people) have been very lucky so far. 7/7 was an atrocity but could have been so much worse. Are you not afraid that young Muslims will watch the documentary and be inspired?"


This is just the latest in a seemingly never ending torrent of negative portrayals of Muslims and Islam. Both films and television will claim to tackle any number of difficult issues, yet they find it impossible to show Muslims in a realistic manner. If there is no room for our reflection in their media mirror, then it's time we made our own mirrors.


Anonymous said...

Nothing but ratings drive this onslaught of poor programs to date. May the British people think beyond these easy stereotyping and inaccurate portrayals of their loyal counterparts. Its fiction at its best, and expect more.

Yusuf Smith said...

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

I wrote a comment on this entry and on the stupid programme here:

Britz: Another Exposition

danny said...

The programme was basically saying that young Muslims become terrorists because they are angry about Britain's foriegn policy and feel oppressed by anti-terrorism laws such as control orders.
I thought this would go down well with a lot of Muslims.
Guess I like the programme makers were wrong.

Osama Saeed said...

My little cousin, a hijab wearer, was abused by a guy on a train who cited the programme the day after it was broadcast. He asked the driver to throw her off.


Hi Safiya :),

your post is very interesting,although I do not know the programme you are writing about.However,I know that the TV and the media in general portrays Islam in a very distorted way.This is why I try to get only the news about what is currently happening in the Islamic coutries.Anyway,even the news can be sometimes very deceiving.
You know what Franz Kafka,one of my fovourite writers said:Just LIVE your life and do not question it so much!
This is how I try to live and discover Islam.I just live it out as much as I can.The above thought helps me a lot when I get bad responses from people around me when I tell them about my interest in Islam.
Still,I really understand your concern about how TV describes Islam.

I wish you a nice week!

Anonymous said...

I don't necessarily think showing the terrorists as not being religiously observant was a bad thing. This seems to be a common pattern in fact; the 9/11 hijackers didn't have devout lifestyles, neither have many of those who have been found plotting in the west and in the Muslim world. It's even commonly noted that many Palestinian suicide bombers are not all that observant. I didn't see the show but if it portrayed the issue as being more one of politics and nationalism than religious zealotry, I would say that this is not in itself a bad thing.


Safiya said...

Salaam Alaikum everyone

Anon 7:27 - Hear, Hear!

Yusuf Smith - JAK for the linkage and your further comments.

Danny - The vast majority of Muslims find acts like 7/7 completely evil and without any justification and that is the sort of view I'd like to see more of on tv.

Osama Seed - This is exactly the sort of reaction I feared. I also wear hijab and I hate the thought of anyone linking me to the characters in the programme.

Natashaamina - I hope you have a nice week, I love your quote, thanking you for sharing it ;)

Dave - Firstly, the whole show was really poorly done and unconvincing .
Secondly it's the fact that there are virtually no positive practising Muslims in the mainstream media that makes the constant negative portrayals harder to take.

Think of all the hospital dramas there are, there are so many Muslims in the Health profession, yet this is not reflected at all.