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January 30, 2005

Islamophobia?

There is an article about Islamophobia by Kenan Malik in today's London Sunday Times (News Review section). Malik challenges the idea that there has been a great surge of attacks and discrimination against Muslims in the UK.

This reminds me of something I read about a recent TV film drama called Yasmin (UK, Channel 4 - it has also had a cinema release in some countries). This tells the sory of a young westernised Muslim woman in Yorkshire who becomes increasingly 'Islamised' in reaction to anti-Muslim prejudice, police raids, etc., in the wake of 9/11. In dramatic terms it's rather good, and Archie Punjabi (a girl, despite the name) is excellent as Yasmin. It is written by the (white) English author of The Full Monty , and has predictable liberal sentiments.

But it's dangerous to confuse drama with documentary. How can we know what incidents are 'true'? At one point in the film Yasmin is walking in the street when she sees a woman in Muslim dress (a jiljab, I think, not a burka) attacked by a group of young white boys on bikes who shout obscenities and throw some white powder (probably flour) over her black dress. Then, rather surprisingly in the context of the film, an elderly white working class woman comes up to comfort her and says 'I must apologise - that was disgraceful, dreadful'.

But here's the thing: according to an article about the film, the boys' 'attack' was part of the script - as one would expect - but the elderly woman's response was not. She was just a passer-by who was unaware that a film was being made and thought the attack was genuine. Rather than reshoot the whole scene, the director got the woman's permission to leave her in. So the most undeniably 'genuine' incident in the film was one showing ordinary human decency.

Posted by David B at 04:48 AM