The BBC’s Experiment on British Muslims #MuslimsLikeUs
I alongside many other young people founded the British Muslim Youth after the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, to reach out to other young Muslims across the nation, to provide a narrative of hope in some of the nations darkest days.
The foundations of our organisation have been to stand against all types of hate, bigotry and extremism. My argument has always been that there is no force greater to stand against groups like Daesh/ISIS than young British Muslims condemning them and calling them out for what they are. Yet, when the BBC commissioned the show, Muslims like us, they showed people like me that they were not interested in the same.
It made me feel that industries such as the BBC were willing to use British Muslims as a political football, so long as it would hit ratings and viewership.
After watching both episodes of the show, I would not question the intentions of many of the participants within the show. Maybe they had the best of intentions and many of those participants showed the diversity of ordinary British Muslims and how they are like ordinary members of the British society.
But what I found difficult to comprehend is the fact that we can place ten British Muslims within a house, on television to almost ask what do British Muslims really think? This for me, is like seeing British Muslims as aliens that have just landed on earth, placing them within a lab experiment to see how they react and if they are safe to live amongst us.
Would we do this to any other community? Or is this microscopic view only reserved for Muslims, whether on the media, on these types of TV shows or even in governmental reports, such as the recent integration report by Dame Louise Casey.
Even if I contend for a moment that the experiment they conducted was ethical. What was the motive of including an individual like Anthony Small, (also known as Abdul Haqq), when all along they were well aware of his extremist views? An individual that was an associate of Anjum Choudary, who ran the banned group, Al Muhajiroun. Is it because Choudary has now been in-prisoned for showing support for Daesh and the BBC can no longer give air time to him; so they counter this imbalance with an old associate?
Groups like Daesh have directly attempted to build a sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shias and even radicalised individuals to believe it was their religious duty to kill Shia Muslims for some theological views they hold. We have worked tirelessly to stand against that propaganda that has been fiercely plunged across social media. Yet within this very ‘social experiment’ Small, inadvertently condoned such narratives and used a British public institution to share this view that could have led to further sectarian divides between Sunnis and Shias and even the radicalisation of some young people.
So I ask the BBC, what is next? Do you stay consistent with this racist and xenophobic narrative with other social experiments on marginalised groups? Blacks like us? Jews like us? Immigrants like us? Gays like us? Women like us? I guess you’d get the picture by now. However, I hope we can learn lessons from this, in not marginalising a group further or giving an opportunity to clear extremists, just to build ratings.
Muhbeen Hussain is the Founding member of the British Muslim Youth. He has uniquely proven with his abilities that young people can make positive, lasting impacts within society. His success has come through his engagement both with people on the grass routes, whilst also being a regular contributor and leading voice on many media platforms. Muhbeen writes in a personal capacity.