December 20th, 2011

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Britz: Nasima's Story - Radicalisation and Suicide Bombing

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Cut and pasted from the BFI website:

Two siblings in two films portray two very different sides to Muslim life in modern-day Britain

Winner of the BAFTA Best Drama Serial and written as well as directed by Kosminsky, this is his first totally fictional work, a complex interlocking story of the reaction of a brother and sister, brought up as Muslims in contemporary Britain, to perceived Islamic terrorism.

Sohail's Story portrays a young Muslim man embracing his British identity to the extent that he is willing to help the British establishment weed out what he sees as those ungrateful enough to turn on their own country.

Nasima's Story shows how an accumulation of heavy-handed victimisation by the British authorities and the extreme experiences of family and friends subject to new anti-terrorist legislation leads to her own fateful radicalisation, although she is bought up in the same environment as her brother.

Kosminsky asks the discomforting question: in permitting institutionalised victimisation of Muslims, are we not all to blame for the radicalisation of Britain's Islamic youth?

Raks's Reaction

I have just seen this again, over at the BFI (I first saw it when it was originally screened on television in 2007).

Of the two films, the one that speaks to my heart and that I find by far and away the most powerful, moving and, ultimately, shocking is Nasima's (Naz's) Story.

Naz is a lot like me and many of my Asian female friends. She is Westernised. She is intelligent and educated - she is training to be a doctor. She is independent. She has real spirit. She thinks for herself, makes her own mind up about things and is capable of standing up to her parents, her family, her community and wider society, in pursuit of a cause which she believes to be just. She has a voice. She campaigns for social justice and stands up for what she believes in. She is committed to equal rights for women. She has a boyfriend (a Black Christian!), with whom she has sex before marriage. I thought when I originally saw this that one of the most ground-breaking scenes was when they showed Naz, an Asian Muslim woman, in bed with a Black Christian man, outside of wedlock and enjoying an active sexual relationship. I personally think that Naz is a great role model for Asian girls and women because she is intelligent and independent, has real fire and spirit, and she stands up for what she believes in.

Naz's story starts by showing Naz's attempts to work within the liberal democratic system and to get her voice heard by engaging in political protest. She becomes increasingly frustrated as she is unable to secure any change by working through the system. Matters are brought to a head when the persecution of Muslims by the British State is accelerated through the introduction and implementation of anti-terrorism laws, and one of her best friends (another Asian Muslim woman) actually commits suicide after being wrongly arrested, imprisoned and put under a control order. Naz then sets off down the path of radicalisation. During the latter half of the film, she is trained to be a suicide bomber in a training camp in Pakistan, and returns to London to die as a suicide bomber, striking right at the heart of the City in Canary Wharf. The film ends with her blowing herself up. She is certain that this is the right thing to do because she has tried to work within the system and achieved nothing. She feels that this is the only path left open to her.

The shock factor is heightened for me because Naz was training to be a doctor, someone who works to look after and heal people, and she ends up as a suicide bomber, a killer. Also, she poses as a pregnant mum-to-be, carrying the explosives strapped to her belly. But instead of creating and giving life, she is destroying life and taking it away.

My reaction to the film?

I completely understand Naz's frustration with trying to use democratic means to secure change and getting nowhere. Everyone who was, and is, a part of the Stop the War movement, feels this very deeply in their heart. Whilst I myself am not a Muslim, I can empathise with what it must feel like to have your friends, family and community subject to discrimination, unfair treatment and persecution, not just abroad but in this country as well (your "home" country).

Where I part company with Naz is that there is no way I could ever harm the country of my birth, or the people in it. I have always wanted to protect London and England; I could never harm either. This is especially true because people come to London to live, study and work from all over the globe; it is a melting pot of all races, nationalities and faiths. I also find it very hard to understand how any sane person can justify harming, maiming, and killing innocent civilians (men, women and children) in the name of God. And two wrongs most definitely do not makes a right; in this particular case it just causes even more heartache, pain and suffering, when there is already more than enough of all of these things in the world as it is.

The question which does fascinate me is how can others who have been born and brought up in this country, who are British and Westernised, and who are intelligent and highly educated, be attracted to Radicalisation, and how can they find it in themselves to want to bomb the country of their birth, injuring and killing their fellow citizens, who they have grown up with and lived alongside?
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Britz, Amazon

Britz is available to buy on Amazon for £6.07 here:

Cut and pasted from the Amazon website:

Britz is a gritty and unflinching two-part contemporary thriller from award-winning writer and director, Peter Kosminsky. Riz Ahmed and Manjinder Virk star in the film as brother and sister Sohail and Nasima - two young, British-born Muslims who are pulled in radically different directions by their conflicting personal experiences in post 9/11 Britain.

Sohail is an ambitious law undergraduate who, eager to play a part in protecting British security, signs up with MI5. When he begins an investigation into a supposed terrorist cell the enquiry soon leads him back to his own community in Bradford, where none of the locals--not even his closest friends--are above suspicion. Unsure if he is being used by the establishment, Sohail is forced to question where his loyalties really lie: with his family and friends or with the country of his birth, Britain.

His sister Nasima, a medical student in Leeds, becomes increasingly angered by Britain's foreign and domestic policy after witnessing at first hand the relentless targeting of her Muslim neighbours and peers. When her best friend falls foul of the Government's anti-terror legislation, Nasima begins to feel even more alienated and is forced to confront her liberal views. Disillusioned by the political process, she embarks on a dangerous path that finally leads her to a terrorist training camp in North West Pakistan.

With action set in Pakistan, Eastern Europe, London and Leeds, Britz reveals a tragic sequence of events from the two very different perspectives of these young siblings. Both feature-length episodes collide in a gripping finale, which ultimately asks us to question whether the laws we think are making us safer are actually putting us in greater danger.