After a blaze of publicity and controversy Netflix’s Harry and Meghan documentary is now airing, with racism expected to once again figure at some point in the six-episode series for which the couple will earn millions of dollars. But will the two part series do more harm than good? And is Harry really the right person to be on this platform, given the ease with which critics can seize on his own problems with racism in the past? National Security News reports on what may yet turn out to be a security issue for the UK and its allies, should far right extremists seek to take advantage of any backlash.
PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markel’s new Netflix series will air tonight with the couple opening up about their lives, and also firing what are expected to be a series of broadsides against the Royal Family.
And as we saw last month with the race row which engulfed Buckingham Palace over honorary aide Baroness Hussey stepping down after repeatedly asking a Black British charity boss where she was “really from,” some members of the institution are still seriously out of step with our modern multi-cultural society.
However, given the furore which followed talk show host Trevor Noah branding Britain as a racist country in a skit about Rishi Sunak being appointed as the Prime Minister, labelling is a dangerous thing in whatever form it takes.
in early previews of the documentary Harry blasted the Royal Family for “unconcioua bias,” and not seeing the “race element” in the coverage of his relationship with Meghan.
Harry himself knows what it is liked to be labelled, including having to apologise in 2009 after a video diary was leaked in which he labelled an Asian member of his army platoon as “our little Paki friend.”
Mohammed Shafiq, director of Muslim youth organisation the Ramadan Foundation, said at the time that the comments would be offensive to many Asians.
“The use of this sort of racism has no justification and I am saddened by those that are advocating using this term is not racist,” he said.
“Prince Harry, as a public figure, must ensure that he promotes equality and tolerance and this rant, whether today or three years ago, is sickening and he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.”
Speaking yesterday to National Security News (NSN) Mohammed wanted to make clear that he was not on either “Team Harry and Meghan” or “Team Buckingham Palace,” as he called it.
He also recalled speaking to Harry’s private secretary at the time and hearing just how heartfelt the then 25-year-old had been in his apologies.
“I think it has been an amazing transformation from someone who had been using terminology which was not acceptable and offensive,” said Mohammed. “Back in 2009 I remember speaking to his private secretary at the time and he was very apologetic, and he has been on an extraordinary journey since then.
“To marry someone who has lived experience in this area and to learn more about mixed race people and what they have experienced. I think it is absolutely right that we reflect on that lived experience.
“You can’t eradicate racism without looking at that lived experience. And that for me is really, really key. The Duchess of Sussex and her experience is something that we should be prepared to listen to.
“Whether you agree with it, whether you are in Team Royal Family, or Team Harry and Meghan, is irrelevant. I think it is about what have they been through? And how can we make it better the next time. And I think the way Prince William dealt with Lady Susan Hussey, I think was a real positive change.”
“Because you know she was his godmother, she has got a long history of service for her country, and for the Royal Family, been a lady in waiting. But he understood the changing dynamics of our society, and I am really glad that this is helping that. So I don’t know the ins and outs of what happens at Buckingham Palace, we are not privy to that, but I certainly have seen a big change since 2009, not just in Prince Harry, but in the way the Royal family addresses these things as well.”
He did, however, strike a note of caution in response to whether he felt that British society was ready to have an open and frank discussion about race on the back of the documentary airing and perhaps sensationalising the views of the now matured 38-year-old Prince Harry.
Mohammed said: “I would say No we are not. I think we get very defensive when it comes to talking about race. We just need to look at what happened in the Euros two years ago with the black players.
“And people finding that unacceptable. But you know I think this is part of the problem. We have forgotten the ability to listen, and I think that is what we need to rediscover. I have travelled around the country a lot, had lots of conversation with people who have had to deal with racism, islamophobia on a massive scale. And they just want to be heard, and people to understand that that is not right. We are some way away from that.”
Whether the Royal Family will want to hear what Prince William previously dismissed as misrepresentations on the part of his brother about racism within the walls of Buckingham Palace is quite another thing – particularly as Netflix has already drawn criticism over what many saw as sensationalising the trailers for the six part series.
One so-called shot depicting Harry and Meghan being hounded by the press in the documentary was actually an approved photo call which took place five years before they met.
And while Neil Basu, the Met’s former head of counter terrorism, said last week that threats from the far right against Harry and Meghan had been “credible and real,” there is a fear in some quarters that the far right will use any sensationalised claims about racism in the Netflix documentary to recruit more people to their cause.
Small Step, a consultancy specialising in training and mentoring people about the threat of the far right, states on its website that social media has become a hunting ground for extremists looking “to recruit and radicalise people, predominantly young white men online.”
Social media is split over whether Britain can be deemed to be a racist country in the light of Harry’s claims that both its Royal family and media is racist – a vacuum which the Far Right could potentially step into.
Last night a former Scotland Yard detective with considerable experience of dealing with far right extremists said: “It would be a great pity if Harry and Meghan, who know what it is like to be targeted by these people, actually did them a favour with this documentary.
“I for one don’t want to hear about it being used to expand the divides in our society. That could be very dangerous indeed.”
When Harry first made the claim about the Royals being racists – in a bombshell interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey last year, in which he curiously declined to name the individual involved – there was criticism worldwide.
Among those, however, not taken in by the claims was the father of Captain Ahmed Raza Khan, the Sandhurst cadet who was the recipient of Harry’s racist slur.
Muhammad Yaqoob Khan Abbasi, a former vice-president of Pakistan’s Muslim Bank, told reporters: “Prince Harry might have his problems with the Royal Family, but I don’t agree with him at all.
“I don’t think the UK people or the Royal family are racists.”
Mr Abbasi, who met Harry’s father King Charles at a 2006 reception, added: “I have met members of the Royal Family and they were extremely polite and loving.”
He said that Harry’s use of the P-word had undoubtedly caused problems, but stressed: “You cannot ignore the love shown by other members of the Royal family.”
Earlier this week breakfast TV presenter Rob Rinder also attacked Harry and Meghan for accepting a human rights award ahead of their Netflix documentary.
Co-hosting Good Morning Britain with Susannah Reid, he said the couple had lacked “humility” in accepting the Ripple of hope award for making a stand against racism in the Royal family.
“The thing that strikes me is… just have a little bit of humility,” the presenter began. He compared the couple to human rights campaigners around the world, saying: “I’m certainly no Dalai Lama, but you think of people who have spent their lives campaigning for human rights — Baroness Doreen Laurence, Kwajo [Tweneboa] who works in housing, the women of Iran who are fighting for freedom at the moment, ordinary citizens in China.”
He added: “The idea that you… would go and collect a human rights award for taking lots of money to gripe at your family and – in my view – not really do anything meaningful to expose structural racism, but rather instead damage an institution.”
Former award-winning Sun journalist Jamie Pyatt broke the story about Harry attending a fancy dress party in a Nazi uniform, complete with a Swastika armband, back in 2005. It was awarded Front Page of the Year at the British Press Awards made headlines around world.
The story was also published two weeks before Harry’s grandmother joined other dignitaries at a service to remember the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Jamie recalled: “We had in fact been contacted about Prince William attending a native and colonial themed party in a Gorilla suit, and wanted to run that story. But the source at the party only had photographs of William in the suit, so you couldn’t tell who was wearing it.
“As an aside I asked him who else had gone to the party and he said Harry was there. So I asked what he had gone as and the guy said, as a Nazi. I had to get him to repeat is as I didn’t believe my ears, and we had to go through his whole camera before he found the only now very infamous photo.
“When I told the office they was a shocked silence and I know at the time there was a discussion over whether it was fair to have the Queen go to Auschwitz with that hanging over her head. Her Majesty, as we know, never ducked anything so she went anyway, but I did feel for her.”
He added: “What still bothers me is why Harry didn’t tale the advice of the Royal Protection Squad and consider the larger consequences of what he is doing. He was a 20-year-old man and all they could so was offer words of advice. He wasn’t required to listen to them and obviously didn’t.
Jamie, who now works as a freelance in South Africa, added: “It was no great surprise to me that in this Oprah Winfrey interview Harry didn’t once again consider the larger consequences of labelling the Royal family as racists.
“By not naming the specific individual he cited as making racist remarks about Meghan he instead smeared all the other members of the family. I won’t be watching the documentary but I am hoping he will learn something from what happened last time.”