Actor Laurence Fox under fire after accusing '1917' of 'forcing diversity on people' by including Sikh soldier

Albertina Lloyd
Entertainment reporter, Yahoo UK
British actor Laurence Fox complained that the inclusion of a Sikh soldier in the movie 1917 had distracted him from the storyline (Photo: Getty Images)

British actor Laurence Fox (Lewis, Victoria and Becoming Jane) 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, the 41-year-old son of actor James Fox (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Patriot Games), complained that the inclusion of a Sikh soldier — Sepoy Jondalar, played by Nabhaan Rizwan — in the movie had distracted him from the storyline, claiming, “there is something institutionally racist about forcing diversity on people in that way.”

The MAMA Project, a U.K. organization working to prevent anti-Muslim attacks, responded to Fox’s complaint by noting that “every sixth British soldier serving in WWI was from the Indian subcontinent,” with a considerable number of Sikhs involved.

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

Fox complained about 1917, which is up for a Best Picture Oscar. (Photo: eOne)

Fox, who is also the nephew of The Day of the Jackal star Edward Fox, made the comments on James Delingpole’s podcast The Delingpod claiming there was an “oddness of the casting” to Rizwan’s appearance in the Oscar-nominated film.

He 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.

A Sikh regiment during World War 1. (Photo: The Print Collector via Getty Images)

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

He added: “[Rizwan]'s great in it,” but said 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 plays Sikh soldier Sepoy Jondalar in 1917. (Photo: AP)

Fox has attracted controversy for his appearance on BBC1’s Question Time last week when he expressed doubt over whether Meghan Markle had faced discrimination in the British press.

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

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

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