Known as the ‘Oscars’ of the documentary world, The Grierson Awards are held in high regard. Jihad: A British Story, made by TEDxExeter speaker Deeyah Khan, has just been shortlisted for the award in the Best Documentary on Current Affairs category.
The film was also nominated for a BAFTA 2016 in the Current Affairs documentary category and a 2016 Golden Nymph Award at Monte-Carlo TV Festival and won a Norwegian Ministry of Arts & Culture Human Rights Award.
The film shows that Westerners embracing jihad and death is nothing new. For three generations now, young people across Europe have fallen prey to extremist groups and fought, killed and died with mujahideen movements from Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kashmir, to Chechnya and Burma.
In the film, Deeyah, who has herself faced threats from extremist fundamentalists in the past, sets out to find out why the jihadi message has such an alluring hold on young Westerners.
Deeyah spoke passionately and movingly at this year’s TEDxExeter conference about her experience growing up as a Muslim in Norway. Aged 17, she fled from Norway confused, lost and torn between cultures. Unlike some young Muslims she picked up a camera instead of a gun. She now uses her camera to shed light on the clash of cultures between Muslim parents who prioritise honour and their children who desire freedom.
She argues that we all need to understand what is happening to fight the pull to extremism. “We can’t afford to give up on each other, or on our kids, even if they’ve given up on themselves.” she said. “We are all in this together.”
The film features another of this year’s TEDxExeter speaker, Manwar Ali, also known as Shaikh Abu Muntasir. One of the early British jihadis he fought in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Burma and recruited others to fight too. Back in those days he would arrive at Heathrow in his battle dress to fly to Afghanistan.
In his very personal and thought-provoking talk, Reclaiming Jihad (I was moved to tears even though I’d heard him rehearse it several times), he reflects on his experience of radicalisation and violent Jihad and how his views on what is Jihad have completely changed. He makes a powerful and direct appeal to anyone drawn to Islamist groups who claim that their violence and brutality are Jihad to think again.
Click here to watch Deeyah Khan’s talk: What we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids and why we should care.
Click here to watch Manwar Ali’s talk: Reclaiming Jihad.
We will be screening Jihad: A British Story in Exeter later this year with a Q&A with Deeyah and Manwar. Sign up to our newsletter (top right corner of the website) to be first to hear more.