Actor Riz Ahmed, a star of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, gave a warning to the entertainment industry that due to a lack of diverse roles in television and movies, people could turn to ISIS in an effort to feel they “belong” to something or somewhere.
“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, that they [are] valued? 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. They want to feel represented. In that task, we have failed."
Speaking to the British Parliament, Ahmed suggested that because of this lack of diversity, people would "retreat to fringe narratives, to bubbles online and sometimes even off to Syria."
"If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism…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 [members of Parliament] like Jo Cox because we've been mis-sold a story that is so narrow about who we are and who we should be."
Born in England from Pakistani parents, Ahmed says actors, such as himself, have to go to America to get work. This statement is interesting considering complaints that there’s not enough diversity in Hollywood to begin with:
"We end up going to America to find work. I meet with producers and directors here, and they say ‘we don’t have anything for you, all our stories are set in Cornwall in the 1600s."
The next time former State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is on television, someone should ask if this is what she had in mind when she said it was a lack of job opportunity that caused people to jump on the ISIS bandwagon.