Laurence Fox given history lesson over comments about Sikh soldier in war movie '1917'

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LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24:  Laurence Fox attends the 65th Evening Standard Theatre Awards at the London Coliseum on November 24, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Laurence Fox complained the inclusion of a Sikh soldier in the movie 1917 had diverted him from the storyline (Credit: Getty Images)

Actor Laurence Fox has been offered a history lesson over his criticism of the inclusion of a Sikh soldier character in World War I film 1917, directed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes.

Fox, 41, complained the inclusion of a Sikh soldier – Sepoy Jondalar, played by Nabhaan Rizwan – in the movie had diverted him from the storyline claiming “there is something institutionally racist about forcing diversity on people in that way.”

Independent organisation MAMA Project has tweeted: “History lesson for Laurence Fox: Every sixth British soldier serving in WW1 was from the Indian subcontinent, Sikhs made up more than 20% of the volunteer army (close to 1.5m served). 74,187 Indian soldiers died and a comparable number were wounded.”

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The tweet included pictures from the United Kingdom Punjab Heritage Association archive of Sikh soldiers serving in the British army during World War I.

MAMA Project is an independent organisation aiming to measure anti-Muslim incidents in the UK.

(eOne)
(eOne)

Fox, son of actor James Fox and nephew of Edward Fox, made the comments to James Delingpole’s podcast The Delingpod claiming there was an “oddness of the casting” to Rizwan’s appearance in 1917.

The Lewis star said it gave him, “a very heightened awareness of the colour of someone's skin.”

Rizwan’s character engages in a conversation with George MacKay’s Schofield when they share an army transport vehicle as part of the soldier’s ongoing mission.

Indian soldiers in France, First World War, 1914, (circa 1920). A Sikh regiment on the march. Over one million Indian troops in the British Indian Army (of the Raj) fought in the European, Mediterranean and the Middle East theatres of war. At least 74,187 Indian soldiers died, with 67,000 wounded. From "The Great World War - A History" Volume I, edited by Frank A Mumby. [The Gresham Publishing Company Ltd, London, circa 1920]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by The Print Collector via Getty Images)
Indian soldiers in France, First World War, 1914. A Sikh regiment on the march. From "The Great World War - A History" Volume I, edited by Frank A Mumby. [The Gresham Publishing Company Ltd, London, circa 1920]. Artist Unknown. (The Print Collector via Getty Images)

Fox said: “It's like, 'There were Sikhs fighting in this war'... Okay, you're now diverting me away from what the story is.”

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He added: “[Rizwan]'s great in it”, but added the Sikh character, “did sort of flick me out of what is essentially a one-shot film [because] it's just incongruous with the story.”

Nabhaan Rizwan poses for photographers upon arrival at the World premiere of the film '1917', in central London, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Nabhaan Rizwan plays Sikh soldier Sepoy Jondalar in 1917 (Credit: AP)

Fox has attracted controversy for his appearance on BBC1’s Question Time last week when he queried whether the Duchess of Sussex had faced discrimination in the British press.

And earlier this week he labelled “woke” people “racist” in an interview with Talk Radio.

He said: “It’s not hopeful, what world do you want to live in? A world where everyone is racist or where we all try to come together?

“I think there is racism everywhere but I don’t think we are systemically racist – but then again I am a straight white male.”

1917 has been a box office hit for the recently-knighted Sir Sam Mendes, having taken £18.4m in the UK to date after two weeks of release.

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