Did you watch the first episode of Amir Khan’s Angry Young Men last night on Channel 4? “Over four intensive weeks, Amir and his team take six young men with a history of violent and criminal behaviour, and use the discipline of boxing to try to channel their aggression and turn their lives around.”
“Amir Khan also introduces the men to the values of his family and faith, to give them a sense of right and wrong. It’s an opportunity none of them can afford to miss. The police, courts and anger management classes have all failed to keep the six youths away from fighting. This is their last chance to get off the track that leads to prison or death on the streets.” [Watch the trailer]
The religious element is introduced by having some of the ‘angry young men’ talk about their disdain for religion and then contrasting this with Khan’s quiet, polite, supportive experience of religion and a faith-based youth worker and a local priest who are on his team.
In itself this dimension of the rehabilitation is fine – it’s part of who Khan the mentor is and if it works in sorting them out great: they will “try out different churches in Bolton, as well as learning about Islam from Amir Khan. They may not to pursue this when they go home but it helps them to think about their future and the values they want to embrace when their four weeks of intensive training finish.”
But although the Channel website does state that the men “come from a variety of religious traditions” the way this element is set up it perpetuates sterotypes of the degenerate, binge drinking, nihilistic, unreligious youth set against those of the pious, family-orientated, hard working Muslim. Of course the latter stereotype is better than the extremist Muslim sterotype but it a stereotype nonetheless.
To be fair, one of the angry young men is a Muslim and his presence as a (teetotal) violent, swearing figure certainly breaks the media’s saint/ sinner sterotypes (Skins’ Anwar comes to mind as another – also from Channel 4), but so far the narrative is a generally hackneyed one. Then again what can I expect from a reality TV show? I’ll keep watching though as the narrative and participants could well develop in positive ways.