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Riz Ahmed Tells Parliament That British TV’s Lack of Diversity Might Inspire People to Join ISIS

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29: Actor Riz Ahmed attends The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. 26592_018 (Photo by John Sciulli/Getty Images for TNT)

Yesterday, actor and rapper Riz Ahmed (Rogue One, The Night Of, Swet Shop Boys, etc.) gave the yearly lecture on diversity to the UK Parliament, which is broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4. As The Guardian reports, Ahmed theorized in the speech that entertainment plays a direct role in pushing minorities in the UK toward fleeing the country or joining terrorist organizations like ISIS. Because of the lack of ethnic diversity on British TV, Ahmed argued, POC in UK may be inspired to look for “fringe narratives, bubbles online” and other places where they can be a hero.

“If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism,” Ahmed said. “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?”

Later, Ahmed stated his argument more explicitly:

If we don’t step up and tell a representative story … 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.

The actor made the easier-to-substantiate point that many black, Asian, and other minority actors from the UK often head to America to find their fortune—Ahmed himself being a perfect example—because “producers and directors here… say ‘We don’t have anything for you, all our stories are set in Cornwall in the 1600s.’”

Watch Ahmed’s speech below, and read Spin’s interview with him from last year here.