JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

BBC

Real Housewives of ISIS – why the sketch creates a dangerous perception of Muslim women

The BBC has come under fire for one of its programmes, Revolting, airing a sketch called ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’. The programme, which depicts four women who have left the UK to join ISIS, was first published online on BBC3 on 5 January. In the show, the four women, in hijabs, interact and joke about the gifting of suicide vests by their husbands. The two-minute clip has been controversial, with many viewing it as satire while others view it as mocking the plight of women under ISIS.

The sketch portrays Muslim women as having manipulated views of Islam, in which violence, not peace, is the answer. And it creates further division as the women seem to be British citizens and used to live in Britain, implying that Muslim women must all have intolerant views and are not willing to integrate into society. The name of the sketch, ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ further trivialises the issue, comparing life in Syria and Iraq to popular reality shows.  Some say that the sketch criticises the women who have voluntarily chosen to leave the UK and join ISIS. However, what is not recognised is the plight of women and those who are groomed online to join ISIS and that we must be sympathetic in understanding why these women have decided to join in the first place and try to understand what has been offered to them to convince them to join.

Furthermore, there is the overlooked aspect that many women have been forced against their will to join ISIS, many are emotionally and physically abused, and traded as sex slaves. One of the creators of the programme, Jolyon Rubinstein, stated that the target of the satire was ISIS and that it aims to make viewers aware of the servitude of Muslim women to ISIS: “The target is online grooming, it’s about people who are vulnerable to these kind of approaches.” However, it seems that the aim of the sketch has been lost as it just comes across as offensive to those who have lost family members as a consequence of the strength of online extremist communities.

The fact that the sketch is part of a BBC programme is even more shocking considering that the BBC is funded by the taxpayer and the government, and that it should, in theory, remain balanced. This sketch has created further division and bigotry within British society as some may find it difficult to differentiate between Islamic extremists and moderate Muslims.

At JAN Trust, we aim to help mothers who fear for their children’s safety online with our Web Guardians© project. The project helps mothers to prevent and prevent online radicalisation of their children. Many families have been destroyed by ISIS, the women and men who have joined are victims of a very sophisticated online network that uses lies.. JAN Trust is helping in the struggle against homegrown radicalisation, which is being set back with sketches such as these which further isolates and marginalises Muslim women within British society.

If you are interested in finding out more about Web Guardians© go to http://webguardians.org/.

What the headlines aren’t telling you about the BBC pay gap

By now, most people are aware of the shocking (but perhaps not surprising) gender pay gap among the top earners of the BBC. The numbers were released to the public last week, and damning headlines about the gender pay gap ensued. However, there is even more discrimination within the BBC than the headlines would have you believe. The pay gap faced by the BAME community is also large, but this is hardly the focus of most articles on the big reveal. Why is this, and how can the BAME community and society at large handle the challenges they face in terms of representation and equal pay?

First, let us review the disappointing numbers released by the BBC. Only 10 out of the 96top-earners at the BBC were from a BAME background. The BBC’s top earner, Chris Evans, earned roughly the same amount as all of the BAME top earners combined! These numbers are perhaps shocking, but to charities such as JAN Trust who work to combat issues of racial discrimination and prejudice every day, it is no surprise. These numbers show clearly that BAME individuals remain excluded from the elite, and statistics from other research confirms this. People from BAME background account for only 6% of top management positions, despite making up 14% of the working-age population.

Diversity is hugely important in the workplace, and even more so in high profile organisations like the BBC. In our modern society, who we see on TVandwho we have in the background of entertainment (such as screenwriters, directors, and crew) is hugely influential. Entertainment should be a reflection of society, and if the BBC does not represent society as it is, people will develop a skewed view of the world, one where minorities are invisible. Ultimately, viewers might find the real world difficult to deal with because it appears too different from the world they immerse themselves in through TV. Arguably, a lack of diversity in entertainment will ultimately result in a worldview where diversity seems unnatural, leading to prejudiced and racist attitudes.

In terms of representation, sticking to “tradition” is often more comfortable and safe than to venture into the uncharted land of “diversity”. Reluctance to represent BAME individuals in popular entertainment can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle. Casting directors may be hesitant to increase diversity in entertainment over concerns that a break from tradition will reduce audience numbers. This results in no change ever taking place, because no one wants to take the first leap. More diversity within the entertainment industry will be a progressive step towards representing multiculturalism in society.

When even the headlines hesitate to call the BBC out for its lack of diversity, it is apparent that we still have a long way to go. Of course, the gender pay gap is also an important issue to highlight, but the fight for one type of equality should never overshadow another.

See more about the work we do empowering BAMER women and supporting diversity on our website http://www.jantrust.org.
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