Journalist, Producer & Researcher

Friday, 23 March 2012

Channel 4's Proud and Prejudiced Portrays Inaccurate Impression of Extremism

On Monday night, Channel 4 screened a documentary entitled Proud and Prejudiced. The show aimed at portraying the two forms of extremism: 'right-wing' extremism and 'Islamist' extremism. Such extremism is currently a threat to British National Security and has been dominating the media in Britain. To add to the media's scrutiny, this documentary has portrayed a completely inaccurate and thoughtless impression of extremism.

 The show featured the English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson and Sayful Islam, the leader of now banned extremist group Muslim Against Crusades (MAC) (Also, previously known as Al-Muhajiroun).

The programme compared and contrasted these two groups and concluded that they were both alike and extreme as the other. This is far from the case.

MAC is/was a group with no less than one hundred followers out of the hundreds and thousands of Muslims in Britain. The EDL, on the other hand, has a massive grassroots influence with thousands in membership and thousands more unofficial followers.

Muslim Against Crusades believe that Britain should be under Islamic law and conduct their activities mainly through offensive protests and insensitive rhetoric. The EDL opposes the existence of Muslims in Britain and have been at the forefront and cause of mosque attacks and Islamophobia outbreaks across Britain. One can merely look at Andres Breivik, the man behind the Norway attacks, whose motivation and influence to commit acts of terror was heavily influenced by the English Defence League views, to see how dangerous the far-right movement really is.

Proud and Prejudiced portrayed the views of MAC and EDL to be the views held of the people of Luton, either being ' Islamist' or ' right-wing.' The show made Luton appear as a community segregated and marred with violence and protests. The voice of the community of Luton was ignored and replaced with violence, hatred and intolerance.

There was also no mention of the majority of Muslim across Britain who has condemned MAC's activities or the other religious groups who have condemned the EDL.

What was also strange was that Unite Against Fascism, a group which counters every EDL protest was briefly mentioned in the documentary but not featured in the film despite being opposed to both forms of extremism. Why weren't they interviewed? Shouldn't there have been moderate views to counter these arguments?

Let's also not forget the publicity this has given both groups, especially the EDL. Tommy Robinson had the opportunity of declaring to the public that he was not against 'black' people or people of other ethnic minorities. He was only against Muslims.

This could only be an open door for recruits from other ethnic minorities to join his cause. It would be hard for anyone neutral watching the show not to sympathise with him. And this sympathy was prevalent all over Twitter with tweets such as "Well done tommy robinson, well said" and ''Muslims are just scum'' by Twitter users tuning into Channel 4. 

On the other hand, there was no prevalent sympathy towards MAC, rather condemnation of both groups from majority of Muslim individuals. Tweets included "Some of the plaquards from MAC are just downright disgraceful & downright unIslamic" by Muslim Public Affairs Committee and "People need to understand that one who is an #extremist can NEVER be a #Muslim and one who is a Muslim can NEVER be an extremist" by a Muslim individual."

The producers of Proud and Prejudiced could not have been more misguided in portraying how extremism operates in Britain.

Instead of challenging MAC and the EDL, Channel 4 essentially encouraged extremism by providing Tommy Robinson and Sayful Islam a platform for their extremist views. This will doubt benefit them by serving as a major recruitment tool for their causes.

First Published by Huffington Post UK:

Copyright Reyhana Patel. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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