It is not often these days one is moved by a TV program, but I found the two part Channel 4 DocuDrama Britz, written and directed by Peter Kosminsky an unusually perceptive piece of work, especially the second part. The program centered on two young Bradford born Muslim siblings as they make their way in the wider world. Like many from the Indian sub continent who came to the UK, their parents came from Pakistan to work in the Textile Mills and Factories of the north of England, settling in Bradford. They worked all hours building what they came to regard as a reasonably successful life in their new homeland, hoping their children would do even better by studying hard.
The first part of Britz followed the brother Sohail, [Riz Ahmed] a clever, articulate young man who sees little point in pushing against the UK’s established norms, he is British to the core, prejudices and all. When after 9/11 the British Security Services come calling at his university to recruit bright young British muslim, he accepts their offer enthusiastically. Despite the incompetence and prejudice he comes up against within the security services and police he is not the type to have self doubt, he had made his bed and he intended it to become as comfortable as he could make it.
The UK security services, Special Branch and the police, perhaps a little unfairly are portrayed in the film as the incompetents we have come to accept after the WMD fiasco and the killing of Electrician Jean Charles de Menezes. What is new in this film is the portrayal of the way the police and security services have manipulated the new laws that have been placed on the statute book post 9/11. Control orders, curfews, tagging and anti social behavior legislation are all used by the State in a detrimental manner to intimidate Britain’s working class muslim communities and to control and defeat those who protest against the New Labour governments foreign policy. [Ah! the fools the fools the fools, have these people learnt nothing from recent Irish history]
Part Two moved from the big picture to focus on the momentous impact this reactionary and oppressive legislation has on a single young British Muslim woman, Nasima. I found the actor Manjinder Virk’s portrayal of Nasima both inspiring and heartbreaking; and so recognizable as once the scales were removed from her eyes she came to political activism in much the same way as previous generations of working class young people, although Nasima’s politics were not socialist and secular but based on religion.
We are first introduced to Nasima as a first year medical student, having done well at school she had the world at her feet, outside of the home she is almost unrecognizable from her fellow students no matter what their faith, inquisitive, funny, angry, combative and secretive as many young women tend to be, especially with their parents.
But every single day she is being politicized in a thousand small ways by the actions of her government and its agencies, true islamic groups are about her with there leaflets and meetings, but this is not what motivates her to become increasingly political. The key to understanding her radicalization is the way governmental policies impact’s directly and indirectly upon her life. Like countless people before her when combating an oppressive government, which has a foreign policy that can only be described as wicked, she slowly comes to believe that only violence will awaken the British people from their thoughtless stupor as far as the suffering of muslims is concerned.
The way Nasima manipulates the racial prejudices that exist within the British Muslim communities is extremely clever and heartless; and when this occurs we understand that before our eyes and without noticing it Nasima has become a committed and able soldier of extreme political islamism. From that moment she is doomed on this earth as to are those she will take with her on her final journey, for nothing is going to stop her mission, not even the death of her beloved brother. Such commitment is both admirable and terrifying and also such a heartbreaking waste of young lives. For this type of outrage amongst others we must thank Bush and Blair and all those parliamentarians who voted for the invasion of Iraq.
At the end of the film Nasima having carried out her bloody task, comes back from the dead as we watch a clip of her last will and testament. It is obviously based on the video the leader of the 7/7 bombing Muhammad Sidique Khan willed to the Al Jazeera TV station and which was broadcast around the world. Whilst many of the critics disagree I found the ending of Britz very powerful. Not least because as with the Muhammad Sidique Khan video, it portrayed the suicide bomber at the end of their short life not as a young British muslim, but an international soldier engaged in what they perceive to be a war against muslim oppression and as we are reminded time and again when yet another suicide blast occurs, this is not a profession which allows for even a smidgin of sentiment.
Some may not like me saying this but it was the type of statement that Irish Republican Maireed Farrell* might have left behind had she had the opportunity and there is a lesson here for us all, but especially those who govern the UK State. People like Maireed Farrell and the actual Nasima’s will never by brutalized into oblivion, for the reason they had/have taken up arms is because they have real grievances against the UK State and believe there is no democratic avenue available to address these injustices. What fair minded person can doubt that these anti-terror laws etc are targeted against all British muslims, just as their forerunners were directed against all Irish people. The invasion of Iraq and the continuos oppression of the Palestinians is wickedness incarnate which must be addressed. For if you couple these oppressive laws with the UK governments disastrous foreign policy you have a recipe for the making of hundreds of Muhammad Sidique Khan’s and that is in none of our interest, what ever our religious beliefs.**
* PIRA volunteer shot dead by SAS in Gibraltar.