The stars of a series documenting the everyday lives of young Muslims in Britain have said they want to reach out to children facing prejudice.
Described by the Channel 4 show’s creators as “pioneers”, Waseem Iqbal and Naveed Ahmed aimed to portray a real and positive picture of Islam to counteract the media’s attention to extremism.
At a screening of Extremely British Muslims on Monday, Ahmed, 26, told the Press Association: “We can remember life before 9/11 but children can’t and they are growing up in a world where they are being told by other people what they are and what their religion is about.
“It’s like if you go into work and everybody tells you that you look unwell – you start to believe it.”
The three-part programme follows the Muslim community in Birmingham, focusing on key issues for its members, including unemployment and dating.
These British men have accepted their experience of "Flying While Muslim." @Channel4 #flyingwhilemuslim, #extremelybritishmuslims, #channel4 pic.twitter.com/OEcmhSHhst— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) February 20, 2017
Iqbal, who works for the Human Relief Foundation charity, that delivers aid first-hand to refugees and people living in war torn Syria and Iraq, says on the programme: “There’s no extremism here, we are a nice community – the most extreme thing here is the size of the rats.
“Extremists are just a gang, the biggest baddest gang in the world…they want to feel part of something.
“Our response is the same as every other member of the British public – we feel unsafe like everybody else.”
But the pair explained how they faced a huge backlash from members of their own families for taking part in the programme.
“I had an imam from another mosque telling me not to do it, warning me that our words would be twisted and my dad told me to my face that I shouldn’t do it,” Iqbal said.
“But I thought, is that what Muslims are supposed to do, just keep quiet? Then the only people who get a platform are the crazy geezers with guns.”
Filmed over a year, the documentary covers the Paris terror attack in 2015 and David Cameron’s launch of the Prevent scheme to tackle the possibility of radicalisation in schools.
Commenting on the current Government, Ahmed said: “There needs to be policies created and backed by Muslims if we are going to combat terrorism.”
But the programmes also bring humour, capturing moments such as Ahmed and his friends paintballing and recording video blogs about pizza. “I’m British and I’m Muslim and that’s a beautiful thing,” Iqbal said. “I want the children to see this and people from other areas to see this and the man who sat next to me on a flight to America who asked to be moved to see this.”
The first episode of the series sees young Muslim friends Sabrina and Bella struggle through the challenge of finding boyfriends.
They said: “We want young girls to have a voice and show the world they are not oppressed and they can be modern British women with expectations and still love their family and religion.”
Producer Fozia Khan added: “I just want my kids to watch something that will make them feel good about themselves.”
Extremely British Muslims begins with episode one, All The Single Muslims, on March 2 on Channel 4.