Reprinted with permission from Peace News Network
Written by Kate Roff
When Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan met with neo-Nazis, she was scared – but she ended up being surprised by what she experienced.
“I decided to pick up my camera and go and see if I could sit down with people who feel this intense dislike, or even hatred, towards people like me,” Ms Khan told Peace News.
The daughter of immigrants, a Muslim woman, a feminist, a liberal and a human rights activist, Khan is familiar with being a target for hatred and prejudice.
“For these movements, I very much represent something that they absolutely despise and that they are trying to prevent,” Khan said.
But part of the reason why Khan released her film White Right: Meeting the Enemy last year was to bridge divides between opposing groups and see if it was possible to “hate in-person”.
“For me it’s about primarily getting in touch with our common humanity,” Khan said. “To see if it’s possible for us to break down the prejudices that exist between groups.”
Her first interview was with the leader of the US National Socialist Movement. She was more than a little intimidated. Death threats are not a new experience for Khan and the violence she has encountered was at the forefront of her mind when she went into the interview.
“He asked me to come to where he lives, in his neighborhood, at a specific motel,” Khan said. “We set up all our cameras and were just waiting for him to arrive and I remember thinking ‘what are you doing?’. I was thinking ‘What if he’s armed? What if he’s bringing people with him?’”
Once he arrived, however, Khan said the experience was extraordinary. It was awkward at first, but without the usual context of angry mobs facing each other and shouting, Khan said the dynamic shifted. She said that – just by being ready to listen – everything changed.