Axed Emmerdale star Shila Iqbal has been slammed for ‘showing no remorse’ over her racist and homophobic tweets.
The 24-year-old actress, who played Aiesha Richards, was fired on the spot when historic tweets containing racist slurs and language dating back to 2013 re-emerged.
Shila used the n-word and slurs about gay people at the age of 18 when she was still in college.
During an appearance on today’s This Morning, she claimed there was “no malicious intent” behind the tweets and it was “banter”.
Shila got emotional as she admitted her life had come “crashing down” after she was sacked from her dream job.
She explained that Emmerdale bosses dragged her into a meeting to confront her with the offensive tweets, sent her back to set, then pulled her back in to fire her.
Shila said: “I felt like I was dreaming. I do not condone the use of those words. They’re not in my vocabulary anymore. For them to be there in front of me, I couldn’t believe it. I knew it was completely wrong for me to do so.”
I think at the time there was no malicious intent behind the tweets. It was a conversation, banter, between my group of friends.
“It was heavily influenced by the hip hop and rap music we listened to. I did use it freely, but very wrongly. I didn’t understand the true meaning and hurt behind the words.”
Phillip Schofield asked the actress if she felt she should be judged on historic tweets made as a young adult.
Shila said: “To be honest I think if the person has changed and shown remorse then no you shouldn’t be judged on that. You should be judged as the person you are today.
“I know I have made a terrible mistake but I want to use my negative situation to bring positives and raise awareness for the young regeneration.
“The words we use have a huge impact on people. We need to take a moral responsibility and think about the words we use.”
Shila confessed the situation had been “so surreal” and claimed she didn’t realise what she was doing at the time.
She said: “I was unaware of the implications and meanings behind he words. Now I’ve grown and matured. I’m a professional actor and I wasn’t at that time.
“I now know young people will look up to me and what I say can influence. I own up to the fact i used inappropriate language but I don’t anymore.”
Shila insisted she will move on from the controversy and remains positive about the future.
While admitting ITV has a “moral oligation” to their audience and she respects the decision, Shila question her sacking.
She said: “We don’t tolerate this language in society but I do question is it fair I’m being judged on something I did as a teenager.
“If we look at the context and intentions there were no negative intentions. I wasn’t abusing anyone.
This Morning viewers rushed to Twitter to slam Shila for ‘excusing’ her behaviour.
One viewer said: “I totally understand attitudes are changing and people grow with them, but you can’t tell me that a 19 year old was freely using homophobic and racist language without knowing it was wrong?!”
“I don’t buy she didn’t know what the words she used meant. In 2012/13 my kids were 16&18. They didn’t use the those words and they certainly didn’t tweet those words because it could have had an implication on their future careers,” added another.
A third argued: “But it was 4 years ago, not 7! You haven’t changed – you’re still excusing your behaviour!!!”
“She’s not sorry she’s showing no remorse and hasn’t learned from her actions 18/19 year olds know right from wrong and her use of language was wrong,” said a fourth.
An Emmerdale spokeswoman confirmed news of her departure, stating: “As a consequence of historic social media posts Shila Iqbal has left her role as Aiesha Richards on Emmerdale.
“The programme took the decision not to renew her contract as soon as these posts were brought to the company’s attention.”
With Emmerdale filmed six to eight weeks in advance, her final scenes are due to air very soon.
Shortly after the news broke, Shila issued a public apology taking full responsibility for her ‘inappropriate language.’
She said: “I am terribly sorry and take full responsibility for my use of such inappropriate language. I have paid the price and can no longer continue the job I loved the most at Emmerdale,” she said.
“Although I was young when I made the Tweets, it was still completely wrong of me to do so and I sincerely apologise.
“The only consideration I would ask is that I have recently received hateful tweets telling me that as a Muslim my Emmerdale role means that I am ‘committing sinful acts, promoting sin and deliberately going against the Quran’.
“We live in sensitive times for members of all communities and especially those in multi-racial Rochdale where I grew up.
“I regret that I too have let people down by the use of such language, albeit six years ago. I, like everyone else have a responsibility about the language I have used on social media as well as in conversation.”
*This Morning airs weekdays on ITV at 10.30am