Channel 4 pace viewers are about to see the moment Ste Hay is unwittingly introduced to Jonny Baxter’s right-wing extremist friends.

The episode is part of a long-running and much-researched storyline about radicalisation into the Far Right. The soap has been working with author Jamie Bartlett, charity Small Steps and the Home Office to ensure an accurate and sensitive portrayal.

“This is a story about how hate and fear destroys communities. It is also a timely story about protecting young people online, making them question information, understand the echo chamber of the internet and the algorithms that can lead people, in this case our muchloved but troubled character Ste, down a rabbit hole into a terrifying world.” – Bryan Kirkwood, Executive Producer

The special-episode features new characters Stuart Sumner (Chris Simmons) and Shahid Shirani (Alex Williams) and provides confirmation that Ste’s new ‘friends’ are in fact dangerous and grooming him.

The episode begins with footballing novice Ste (Kieron Richardson) setting off to a match with his new pals while Liberty Savage (Jessamy Stoddart) is invited for lunch at the Maaliks, the family at the centre of Ste’s misplaced anger.

During the episode Ste is courted by the possibility of a new freindship group who welcome him as a gay dad and support him in his recovery from alcohol. He falls for the allure of having his first group of mates who take him to watch football and offer him a ‘family’ after the death of his sister Tegan, which has fuelled his vendetta against Dr Misbah Maalik.

Unbeknown to Ste, he has been actively targeted by Stuart and Jonny’s (Ray Quinn) Far Right group, as they recognise him as vulnerable for grooming with their anti-Muslim agenda. While Ste is unaware of their sinister motivations, his niece Peri has already picked up on an anti-Muslim remark from Jonny, but Ste doesn’t think Jonny meant it ‘like that’.

However, out of sight of Ste, the gang attack an Asian man who comes into the pub in what is clearly a racially motivated attack. Victim Shahid Shirani, played by Alex Williams, will return to Hollyoaks in future episodes as the storyline develops.

Ste is unwittingly introduced to Jonny’s right-wing extremist friends

Tonight’s Channel 4 episode also sees the Maaliks having a traditional Indian meal

Meanwhile at the Maaliks’ Aunty Kameela’s traditional Indian lunch with Farrah (Krupa Pattani), Sami (Rishi Nair), Imran (Ijaz Rana) Yaz (Haisha Mistry), Grace Black (Tamara Wall) and Liberty, has started a discussion about what being a British Muslim means to different members of the family.

“The devastating impact of racism on people’s lives is a well-documented story that has appeared on screens for many years. But we wanted to look at racism from a different angle altogether and Hollyoaks have chosen to look at radicalisation through a different lens.

 

“Many people dismiss radicalised young men as unintelligent or uneducated and therefore ignorable, but this doesn’t help us to understand where feelings of marginalisation come from in the first place. These angry young men are the product of a world that has pushed them to the fringes of society, to me they are the lost boys. As a teacher, I’m passionate about these lost boys. At school, they were cheeky, funny and ferociously loyal, all the qualities that I adore in the young. wing groups?

 

“This is unashamedly, Ste’s story. A tale of how a decent white working-class young man with strong family values, can be lured into the murky world of organised racism. We’re trying to create an understanding of how and why this journey occurs and ultimately we hope that through this story we can encourage dialogue to bring about change.” – Jayshree Paterl, Co-writer of the episode

Hollyoaks announced the storyline last year after the Home Office increased funding into city-based initiatives which endeavour to combat anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic sentiments. The Home Office note that the number of suspected far-right extremists referred to the Prevent anti-radicalisation programme has increased by more than a quarter, new figures show, as the number of Islamists falls.

Of the total 6,093 people referred in the year to March 2017, 61 per cent (3,704) had raised concern about Islamist extremism, and 16 per cent (943) over far-right extremism. More than 1,600 children under the age of 15 were flagged as a risk, as well as 1,800 between the ages of 15 and 20 – the largest age group represented.

Hollyoaks, tonight at 6.30pm on Channel 4. This episode has already aired on E4.

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