The BBC Television Drama Sensationalizes the Muslim Female Terrorist

Image result for bbc the bodyguard

The new BBC television drama called “The Bodyguard” sensationalizes the Muslim female terrorist. The hit-drama that drew in millions of viewers opens with a nervous, scared and seemingly innocent female bomber–yes, she wears a suicide belt with a trigger in her hand–on a busy train. Anjli Mohindra played Nadai in the drama–the finale which was watched by 11 million people. (Image below)

You have to watch the TV drama to the last episode–there are only six episodes–to understand the gross stereotyping of Muslim female terrorists. In this case, the terrorist is not-so-innocent and not a victim but a victimizer. 

The Telegraph describes the Bodyguard’s worst offense as “its desperate stereotypes about Muslim women.”

Image result for bbc the bodyguard female terrorists

According to one commentator: The BBC drama “was lazy, unimaginative and a simple re-hash of almost every other story told about Muslim women being oppressed victims, and evil terrorists. Can you think of more than a handful of other representations of Muslim women on screen? No, me neither. Something that is all the more frustrating when you consider how many people watched the series – 11m during the finale alone, some 48 per cent of the audience share – and how great an opportunity it would have been to do something that wasn’t painfully derivative.”

Of course, the actress, herself, offers a different viewpoint. In an interview, she says that playing the part of Nadia was “empowering.”

Anjli Mohindra plays Nadia in Bodyguard

How can a Muslim female terrorist be empowering? Honestly, it’s an odd choice of words and a damning defense.

As a counter-terrorism expert on female terrorists, I do acknowledge that some females are strong-willed and staunchly committed to a twisted cause and perverted reading of Islam. Some females have been suicide bombers. Others encouraged deadly / violent action by their men and recruited other (younger) women to extremist groups.

There is plenty of literature today, including my new book, on why some women and girls join terror groups from the Muslim faith. 

So why the fuss? Why did the Bodyguard offend so many Muslims? 

The drama missed an important factor: the men. Where are the extremist men? What role did a male recruit (e.g., husband, brother, father, uncle, friend) play in indoctrinating the female character? Female extremists are often tied to a male. And The Bodyguard fails to highlight this truth and instead wants the viewer to believe that a female alone can commit an act of terror. (To be fair, the so-called husband in the first episode is arrested and he acted as a male accomplice, but the drama says nothing more about him and the attention is with the female terrorist.)

Secondly, stories matter. And the media, as we all know, plays an important role in shaping the way we think and possibly act. If all we see is the deadly Muslim female bomber, then that is not only misleading but confirms to the ignorant that Islam is a deadly faith. 

Perhaps if The Bodyguard included a strong female Muslim lead who embodies true Islam–a peaceful, merciful religion–then the general audience would be able to see “both” sides of Muslim women in a Western society. 

Still, if you are interested, you can watch The Bodyguard on Netflix, or watch the trailer here. 

 

 

 

 

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