Muslim filmmaker turns his talents to countering UK Islamophobia

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Rizwan Wadan. (Photo/Supplied)
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Rizwan Wadan. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 05 July 2021

Muslim filmmaker turns his talents to countering UK Islamophobia

  • Rizwan Wadan has worked on ‘Star Wars’, ‘The Favourite’ and ‘Luther’
  • His latest project is closer to home, tackling prejudice, fear and extremism across Britain

LONDON: A Muslim filmmaker known for his work on blockbuster films including “Star Wars” and Oscar-winner “The Favourite” is approaching the climax of a two-year project aimed at countering myths that lead to extremism and Islamophobia in the UK.

Rizwan Wadan made a name for himself as one of the few Muslims to rise to the top of the global film industry, and on Wednesday he will release a film aimed at countering the myths that promote Islamophobia while deterring Muslims from pursuing a path that leads to extremism.

He has been behind the camera on major film and TV projects, but he told Arab News that a series of terror attacks and the rise of far-right groups in the UK prompted him to take a break from his entertainment career to tackle something close to his heart.

He will release his film “Error in Terror” on Wednesday and resume an accompanying project — paused due to the coronavirus pandemic — in which he screens the film in pubs nationwide, talking with people and trying to dispel myths and promote dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslim.

“The biggest stigma, and the biggest cause of division between the Muslim and non-Muslim world, is that our community is tarnished with the brush of terrorism,” Wadan said.

“In a fight, you’re supposed to take out the biggest guy first, so I thought before I tackle any other stigmas, I need to first set the record straight on terrorism,” he added.

“I need to make people understand that Islam and Muslims don’t stand for extremism and terrorism. In fact, no religion stands for extremism and terrorism.”

Wadan’s film, produced through his Pixeleyed Pictures company, aims to “separate Islamic teachings and principles from being associated with terrorism.”

He said it has the additional benefit of educating non-Muslims on the true principles of Islam — an exposure to the religion that he said is hard to come by for many regular people.

“Error in Terror” will be released on July 7, 13 years since the 7/7 London bombings that killed dozens of people in the UK’s capital.

The film depicts the “cause, action and effect” of a bombing in a crowded market area somewhere in Britain.

He and his team had already begun touring the UK and showing the film in pubs nationwide when the pandemic arrived in Britain, and he said he has been actively seeking out people who might have prejudiced views against Muslims for dialogue and to hear their opinions.

Wadan added that in order to make the film, he had to play “devil’s advocate” and put himself in the shoes of a terrorist.

“What would stop me carrying out an attack on a marketplace? What would deter me from pressing that button?” he said. “The only thing that would stop me is if I believed that my religion doesn’t allow this.”

Wadan, of South Asian descent and sporting a long beard, said when he walks into the nation’s cherished pubs, “it’s like a Western film every time. You can hear the tumbleweed.”

He added: “If I was dressed like a cowboy, I wouldn’t get the looks I get when I walk in. They think, ‘Who’s this guy? Asian, bearded, Muslim. But when we do a screening, people start tuning in, they start asking questions. They start to probe and they become interested, and ultimately they tell me they’ve never seen a Muslim do this.”

He concluded: “It pushes them to ask some questions, and then they ask, ‘Why do people like (terrorist preacher) Anjem Choudary get all that attention, but people like yourself aren’t in the news?’”