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Exclusive interview with Director of JIHAD.

June 15th at 10.40pm will see the first broadcast of the documentary JIHAD. Directed by the EMMY winner DEEYAH KHAN. recently interviewed Deeyah regarding her new programme JIHAD and here is what she had to say:

  1. Can you explain to us what the documentary JIHAD is all about?
    Jihad is the result of my own explorations into what lies underneath the attraction of extremism. I wanted to add a human dimension to the debate which has often become rather rigidly about ideology, to show that there are a range of social and psychological factors that we need to be looking at as well.
  2. Can you explain to us why, as a director you were interested in making this film?
    I have always been interested in the issues arising from growing up and living in different cultures, due to my own upbringing in a Pashtun/Punjabi household in Norway. It informed the dynamics that ran through my first documentary, the Emmy-winning Banaz: A love story. These same dynamics are visible here, in many senses. I’ve also made it my mission to dig up the kind of stories that are very much part of the media attention upon minority communities, that are often understood in very distorted ways, and present my take on the issue. I want to  shed light on the unseen people and the unheard voices and perspectives.
  3. Do you think radicalisation is a bigger problem than the authorities make it out to be?
    I can’t really say. I think that Britain has been very inconsistent with its treatment of radicalisation: earlier it was tolerated, and the UK knowingly allowed Al Qaeda to use London as its nerve-centre in the expectations that there would be no attack in the UK. Since 7/7, that has changed, and now our political leaders are getting carried away and are on the look out for radicalisation everywhere, from schools to prisons. Certainly, we have a generation who are both more educated and more politicised than their parents, and some who are adopting more and more radical forms of religiosity. The younger generation in Muslim families are laying their own path. One manifestation of this is the increasing visibility of ex-Muslims, and on the other hand it is also this trend of radicalisation.
  4. Were you at all worried about making a programme such as Jihad taking into consideration that you’re a woman with strong views on humanitarians issues around the world?
    As a woman who stands for equality, but who also supports secularism, which I think protects religion from state intervention as much as it protects the state from religious intrusion, it was challenging to enter into the worldview of extremists – even where these extremists have turned away from violent actions, some still had attitudes which I disagree with. But I found that there were a lot of connections on a human level. I learned a lot from the experience, most of all that we must understand the underlying emotional and human dynamics in order to better tackle the manifestation of violence and extremism.
  5. Do you believe there is a fundamental issue with the teaching of Islam in the UK and will Muslim children of the future be able to be British and Muslim in identity?
    I certainly believe that if we are going to teach religions, we should teach them all. I don’t agree with faith-based schools. I think schools teach us how to operate in society as much as they teach us to read and write, and we need to have schools that reflect and respect cultural diversity by not privileging one religion over another or to segregate children by their parents’ religion. In terms of religious institutions, I think this speaks of a failure for the old guard to appeal to or to  reflect the interests of second generation Muslims, dealing with issues of clashes with their parents and experiences of racism. This has left some of them vulnerable to more charismatic types with a better understanding of the second generation experience. But the other problem is that the radical forms of Islam are very well-resourced and have very efficient outreach methods.
  6. Do you believe that some parts of the UK have become Muslim ghetto areas and that this is bad for British society as a whole?
    I think you can certainly find some very closed off communities, but I don’t want to suggest that’s just because Muslims don’t want to interact with other people. There are a variety of historical and economic issues which are the reasons why this has happened. Certainly, I don’t think a divided society is a healthy one. It’s important for people of all backgrounds to interact with people from others, to develop cross-cultural understandings and empathy. The aspiration of course is for us all to do our part in building and nurturing a society that is inclusive and diverse, where everyone matters, has a voice and can flourish as a human being, where we don’t let the agendas of fear, prejudice and hatreds drive us apart from each other.
  7. Do you think that the UK does enough to understand what young Muslim want from today’s society and if not than what would you do?
    At base, I don’t think young Muslims want anything that is different from what other human beings want. I want to get away from treating people as units or communities instead of appreciating individual rights. And we all, as individuals, need justice, dignity a chance to fulfill our potential as human beings and express ourselves, financial security, freedom from fear, oppression and harassment. What we need is for these needs to be appreciated as rights, and to be guaranteed to all citizens.
  8. As an EMMY winning Director, what will you be doing next film wise and will we ever see Deeyah the politician or the humanitarian awareness leader?

I’m hoping to make some short films which will open up the issue of radicalisation to more viewers through social media and possibly create some projects to show the rich diversity and alternate views of South Asian history. I don’t think you will ever see Deeyah the politician, but I am and will always be a humanitarian.

JIHAD will be broadcast at 10.40pm JUNE 15TH on ITV.