The Channel 4 early evening soap opera is to tackle a radicalisation storyline.
“From the research we carried out, we realised that in Ste Hay we had a character that was disenfranchised and vulnerable enough to be groomed into extreme views. The more we learned about how these groups operate and how insidious they are, the more passionate we became about telling this story, which is about how hate and fear can destroy communities. It’s also a modern story about protecting young people online who are susceptible to fake news, the echo chambers of the internet and the algorithms that can lead people, in this case our much- loved character Ste down a rabbit hole into a terrifying world. This story will show how this can happen and how difficult it can be then to escape from. We have a proud history of exploring hard-hitting issues like self-harm and sexual abuse at 6.30pm. In the same way we hope to engage people in an issue they may not have previously been aware of.” – Executive Producer, Bryan Kirkwood
Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks is to explore the issue of radicalisation into far right extremism to raise awareness of a growing concern in parts of Britain. As the Home Office increases funding into initiatives in major cities to counter anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic sentiments Hollyoaks will examine how far right extremists target, groom and operate.
The continuing drama has worked with a range of expert advisors and charities to bring the story to light. Contributors that have worked with the research and story team include author Jamie Bartlett, whose book Radicals saw him shadow movements with extremist views.
Hollyoaks worked with EXIT UK which works with the Home Office to extricate people who have become involved in far right extremist groups. Ste’s journey to radicalisation into anti-Muslim views and his fight to then extricate himself will begin when stranger Jonny (Ray Quinn) arrives in the village next week.
Jonny has identified Ste (Kieron Richardson) as open to radicalisation as he is in the throes of a vendetta against the Maalik family after holding Dr Misbah Maalik (Harvey Virdi) responsible for his sister Tegan’s death and his business accidentally being burned down by Misbah’s son Imran.
Ste’s public derision of the Maaliks brings him to the attention of the group and unbeknown to Ste he becomes befriended by people with a bigger agenda, during a subtle process of considerable duration whereby initially Ste is completely unaware of Jonny’s views.
“As soon as I saw the storyline I knew it would be a white character that would be subject to the radicalisation. We can’t possibly, like EastEnders and the knife crime (A white gang murdering), show an ethnic character becoming invovled in such things. How sad we’ve gone PC mad, and avoid a large reality in the UK today. Back in the 1970s Crossroads aired a racist abuse storyline, only it was an Asian family turning on a white male character. This would never ever be allowed to be screened these days. Obviously its a worthy Hollyoaks plot, and its a real issue – but there should be a balance rather than the fear of offending and show all creeds and colours and their real issues that exisit out there. Yes show the anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic sentiments but what about the anti-white aminosity that exisits.” – TV Critic Vivian Summers.