Is Zulu-1 an innocuous war game, or a cheap attempt by its creators to capitalise on the current (and profitable) Islamaphobic climate?
Teams playing the Zulu-1 Tactical Airsoft Simulations war game are attired as soldiers and Arabs
Upon hearing of the launch of a war game based in Lincolnshire (N.England) where the enemy is distinguishable by shemaghs (Palestinian scarves), my initial reaction was that of mild amusement. A game where ’soldiers’ chase shemagh-wearing ‘Arabs’ — how clichéd. The tabloids seized upon the opportunity to promote the game and the game’s producers attempted to justify their controversial choice of apparel: “We simply use the shemaghs to differentiate between teams. Just because some terrorists decide to wear them doesn’t make it racist.”
So said the game’s producer Peter Jenkins in an interview with the Daily Mail.
Does Mr Jenkins has a point? After all, the shemagh is a contemporary fashion item, with celebrities such as David Beckham and Sting wearing them. Our local market is full of them — shemaghs that is, not celebrities. On a more serious note, when a shemagh is used to identify the ‘enemy’ in a simulated war setting, surely this is an irresponsible move given the current climate.
The Muslim Association of Britain’s (MAB) executive member Mokhtar Badri reasoned: “Any sort of game that associates guns and violence with a particular culture is clearly wrong. They could use any other type of colour or dress to tell between teams which would not cause offence. Using Arab dress, especially in the current climate, is short-sighted and foolish.”
The tabloids predicably pounced upon this statement to air the popular notion that once again, Muslims are ‘whining’ about being victimised.
Are we making too much of a big deal out of a ‘harmless game’? Whilst writing this article, I paused to take another look at the pictures from the Zulu-1 website. At that moment, my son entered the room. Peering at the image on the screen, he was clearly perturbed. “Why are those men shooting at a Muslim?”
he asked. If a young child who has no knowledge of the Zulu-1 game can immediately comprehend that shemagh=Arab=Muslim, how could the producers who are Gulf War veterans not?
One wonders how the inhabitants of Lincolnshire would react, should a group of Asian or Arab men sign up for this game. Would the sight of brown-skinned men wearing shemaghs and sporting Airsoft guns be dismissed as harmless fun? And does it make a difference that the organisers are Gulf war veterans, and not a group of Muslims without a military background? If the later scenario were the case, would the game have taken on more sinister connotations — as was the case of the recent ‘terrorist training plot’ involving another combat sport: paintballing?
Is Zulu-1 an innocuous war game, or a cheap attempt by its creators to capitalise on the current (and profitable) Islamaphobic climate? In an interview with the Lincolnshire Echo, producer Peter Jenkins contradicts his earlier statement to the Daily Mail that the choice of a shemagh is not racist: “We use the shemaghs to differentiate between the teams with the other in army uniforms. Any self-respecting terrorist would wear one.“
[Peter Jenkins, 'Terrorists' Prepare To Fight 'Soldiers' In New War Game — Lincolnshire Echo]
There you have it then — straight from the horse’s mouth. The bad guys wear shemaghs.