Yes, I know, the title is somewhat misleading and slightly clickbait-ish, so apologies from the start…
I recently watched 2 brilliant documentaries, Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma and The Chronicles Of Nadiya. Both are highly recommended.
Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma (2016) is a HBO documentary based on the book United States Of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists by the brilliant investigative journalist and academic Peter Bergen. It could easily have been called The Chronicles Of Homegrown terrorists. The documentary focuses mainly on American citizen Shifa Sadequee, who is charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism against the USA, and the struggles of his family to prove his innocence. It also covers the 2009 Fort Hood shooting by Major Nidal Hasan, along with the effects this shooting had on families of victims and on the relatives of Hasan.
If you wish to glean an insight into why people do bad things in the name of Islam, why and how others are trying to stop them, and how the online world is complicating matters for all sides, then this documentary is well worth watching. Unfortunately I cannot find a link to the full documentary online, but if you get a chance to watch it on TV then please do. Anyways, below are some of my favourite quotes from it:
He was online. He was online all the time. So he got all these different versions of Islam through online interactions with people. – a sister of Shifa Sadequee
The conversations online are very often the blind leading the blind, posting of articles and scholarly works and trying to interpret them themselves. – lawyer for the Sadequee family
We all need to create safe spaces for folks to have conversations and to express unpopular views, out in the light of day, so that we potentially redirect these young men into a much more positive use of their intellect. – lawyer for the Sadequee family
Before looking at what is happening overseas, before looking at what is happening in our society or even our campus, the first thing to take control of is our hearts. – Imam Omer Mozaffar, Loyola University
Online, you are as potent as your words. – lawyer for the Sadequee family
A lot of the conversations that happened online are with folks who don’t have the level of knowledge he has. And therefore he is looked up to. And that sense of status is positive reinforcement. And it also gives one a sense of confidence. And that confidence makes you keep going down the same road. – a terrorism expert, referring to online conversations between Shifa Sadequee and other Islamists
I looked at this and I know this makes a lot of people angry, but I said “I’m not sure as a professional with decades of experience in the counter-terrorism business, I would characterise this as terrorism. Because if you’re looking at the psychological state of the person, do you want to jump to the conclusion that he clearly had a political intent? I though he was mentally imbalanced.” – Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the CIA Counter Terrorist Center, speaking about the 2009 Fort Hood shooting by Major Nidal Hasan
That’s the basic start. You just have to admit that things aren’t perfect and you want to make them better. – Kerry Cahill
You could argue there are a lot more dangerous things than terrorism. We ought to be focused more on cancer research, or obesity, or drugs, or gun violence. But that doesn’t capture America’s imagination as much as the threat from ISIS. – Andrew Liepman, former Deputy Director of the National Counterterrorism Center
Look, I understand why Americans get concerned about terrorism. It can happen at the Boston marathon. It can happen in a military base in Texas. The randomness of this affects Americans. The fact that they cannot explain the ideology. But if I have to balance this against other things that affect American life, I would step back and say “I’m somebody who has practiced this for decades. I don’t worry about it very much.” – Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the CIA Counter Terrorist Center
We live in a 24/7 news cycle. ISIS is a big news story. 7 out of 10 Americans believe ISIS is a very serious threat to the United States, which is pretty astonishing because, if you think about it, the fact is that neo-Nazis, far right anti-government terrorists, are killing quite a number of people. Timothy McVeigh, in the Oklahoma city bombing, killed 168 people. So the point is there are homegrown terrorists who are motivated by ideologies other than jihad. If you do the thought experiment where the guy in the Kansas Jewish Centre in 2014 shouted “Allah-hu-akbar” instead of “Heil Hitler”, it would have got a lot more attention. – Peter Bergen
I’ve had people challenge me. People who don’t know the counter-terrorism business. Moms in suburban America say, you know, “You say you shouldn’t worry much. You’re wrong. I worry a lot. There’s this Muslim wave of terrorism that’s coming at us and it’s changing our culture.” My answer to them is, to be blunt, “You have GOT to be kidding me. You are welcome to worry, that’s your responsibility. But I’m an analyst and I deal with fact. The fact is if you judge threat by the impact on the American family, terrorism has a miniscule to near zero impact. – Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the CIA Counter Terrorist Center
On to the second documentary. Since winning The Great British Bake Off last year, Nadiya Hussain has written an adult cook book, she has written a children’s cook book, she has regularly spoken out against Islamophobia, she has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, she has become a columnist for The Times Magazine, she has become the poster child for British multiculturalism, she has baked a cake for the Queen, and soon she will be on the BBC comedy quiz program Would I Lie To You?
She has also made a two part program for the BBC called The Chronicles Of Nadiya. Aside from being a very clever play on the book title The Chronicles Of Narnia, the program is a cookery based travelogue with Nadiya visiting her family ‘back home’ in Bangladesh.
The first part aired a few days and is well worth watching, not just for the amazing food that is shown, not just for the positively infectious Nadiya, not just for the stunning scenery of Bangladesh, but also because it portrays Islam, Muslims, Bangladesh and its inhabitants in such a positive light. Nadiya, just by being herself, counters all the Islamophobic narrative that is out there in abundance. She effortlessly manages to speak out against negative stereotypes of Muslim women, so much so that journalist Abigail Chandler said:
The Chronicles Of Nadiya should be mandatory viewing for anyone who thinks that Islam is nothing more than the violence and terror that is regularly reported on the news…Nadiya is a natural, personable presenter, and The Chronicles Of Nadiya marks the debut of a powerful, engaging presence on British TV. She demystifies Islam in the most light-handed way, but in a way that could do more good than any amount of serious documentaries could. – Abigail Chandler
Her comments about the hijab also received some positive tweets, especially in light of recent burkini-related events in France:
If anyone thinks wearing a hijab is oppressing women then turn on #chroniclesofnadiya and listen to nadiya and her cousin talk about it..—
Frankie Says Relax (@frangoddard) August 24, 2016
Loving Chronicles of Nadiya. Esp. good given news from France to hear young, empowered Muslim women explaining why they choose to wear Hijab—
Sarah Brush (@DocBrush) August 24, 2016
Found Nadiya's description of the hijab massively poignant + moving after the news today. #chroniclesofnadiya should be compulsory viewing!—
Anna Murray (@AnnieMurray) August 24, 2016
Nadiya talking about her hijab the day we saw French police harassing woman feels very important. So clear/concise. #TheChroniclesOfNadiya—
Kevin Brady (@Kevin_J_Brady) August 24, 2016
Below is a link to part 1 on BBC iPlayer, along with a few quotes. Enjoy!
Nadiya on where “home” really is…
It’s odd because when I come here [to Bangladesh] I call back home [in England] “home”, and when I’m back home [in England] I call Bangladesh “back home”, so it’s odd because I feel like a confused person myself, because I don’t know where home is, because home’s here and home’s there, and I’m always constantly fighting for home to be Britain. And there’s times when I’m back in England where I’ve had abuse just stood on a platform on the train station. And then suddenly I kind of question whether it is home. And then I come here [to Bangladesh] and I feel so out of my depth and I think, “Well, how can this be home, then?” You know, I do sometimes wonder whether I’ll ever discover where home really is…But I don’t know, I just quite enjoy the pull of the two, I quite like being a part of two things. – Nadiya Hussain
Nadiya on emotionally reminiscing about good times with close relatives…
It really got quite teary, which I didn’t expect. And it’s odd because I think…sometimes, when you live away from all of this, you feel like you are the one who made you. You forget that these are the people who quietly sit and pray for you and think about you. I think I’m taken aback a little bit by everybody’s reaction. – Nadiya Hussain
Naidya and her cousin Eva talk hijab…
Nadiya: My religious beliefs also have an impact on what I wear…So, for me, I’ve been wearing my hijab for, since I was 14. So it’s like, that’s a long…17 years! I’ve been wearing it for a very long time. It’s not specifically because I came from a religious family. In fact, I think I came from quite the opposite. It was something that I found myself and, the first part of me finding religion, that was the first act that I actually did, it was to cover my hair, and I realised the importance, or the significance. It’s a sign of being a Muslim and it’s a sign of practising Islam. It’s a sign of modesty. And it’s just one of those things that you do do and I think everybody finds it at different stages of their lives.
Eva: I can’t imagine myself just taking my hair out and go out without my headscarf. I can’t do it.
Nadiya: I’m sure your hair’s desperate for air and sunshine. Mine is. Mine desperately needs some sunshine.
Eva: I feel uncomfortable without it now.
Nadiya: It’s your modesty. It’s covering your modesty, and hair is seen as something beautiful and you preserve that for only specific people.
Eva: It helps you not to attract people.
Nadiya: The only people who can see your hair are the people you can’t marry so, apart from the person you do marry. So your husband, your dad, your dad’s brothers and, um…
Eva: Nieces and nephews. Your own nieces and nephews.
Nadiya: Your mum’s brothers…and your own brothers. So these are the people you can’t marry.
Nadiya: And Grandad.
Eva: They keep us, like, as a jewel, don’t they? In Islam, that’s what they call us. Like, you don’t let your queen out, like, on the street.
Nadiya: When something has been sort of polarised by the media, or an event, there is fear of, “Oh, my God, I’m wearing something that everyone’s going to look at and say, ‘Well, we blame you,’ ” and that fear of being chastised or being, you know, just being criticised or, you know, being blamed for something we’re not responsible for.
Eva: We haven’t done anything wrong. So why should we change ourselves?
Nadiya: I think it strengthens my belief in who I am and the choices that I make.