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Muslims are very not often depicted in motion pictures, and when they’re, it’s often as a stereotypical terrorist, what Oscar nominated actor Riz Ahmed calls a “dangerous trope.” Having spoken out about this difficulty for a number of years, he’s been in search of laborious knowledge. Now’s he received it. This week, The University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative got here out with the report he requested for. It’s titled Missing and Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies.
USC’s researchers combed by means of 200 well-liked movies from the U.S., the U.Ok., Australia and New Zealand from 2017 to 2019. They discovered that solely six of them had a Muslim in a co-leading function, and solely a type of was feminine. Of the practically 9,000 talking components, fewer than two p.c have been Muslim. And there none in animated motion pictures.
“Being confronted with the hard stats themselves was in a way shocking to see how bad it was,” Ahmed informed NPR. “Just the extent of Muslim erasure, the extent in particular of erasure of Black Muslims, and Muslim women, it was really shocking.”
The report pointed to a number of examples, together with the movie Hotel Mumbai, which featured Muslims as terrorists. Movies resembling Aladdin depicted Muslim characters solely previously. Other movies portrayed Muslims as outsiders or subservient to white characters. In 2017’s Wonder Woman, the character Sameer needed to play up a stereotype. He later complains about his restricted alternatives. “Not everyone gets to be what they want to be all the time,” he says to the superhero. “Me? I am an actor. I love acting.”
Ahmed and the Inclusion Initiative additionally labored on the examine with The Pillars Fund, a basis for Muslims within the U.S. The group’s cofounder and president, Kashif Shaikh says that whereas the Muslim neighborhood is racially and ethnically various, it’s not often proven that manner in motion pictures. He mentioned Hollywood has created and strengthened harmful portrayals.
“When you are constantly depicting Muslims as terrorists, there are consequences to that,” says Shaikh. “It’s easy … to now dehumanize us.”
Shaikh says his group isn’t essentially calling for less than optimistic portrayals, however he advocates for extra Muslim roles with nuance. That consists of extra LGBTQ roles, or these with disabilities, like Riz Ahmed’s character within the 2019 movie Sound of Metal.
In a video asserting the USC examine, Ahmed mentioned he was one in all solely a handful of Muslim actors who get to play Hollywood roles which might be “either non-Muslim or unremarkably Muslim.”
“I ask myself if I’m the exception to the rule, what must the rule be about people like me? What must the unwritten rule be about Muslims, a quarter of the world’s population and their place in our stories, our culture and their place in our society, if any?”
Ahmed recalled having been interrogated at an airport after he appeared within the movie The Road to Guantanamo.
“I recoiled when that MI5 agent said ‘did you become an actor to further the Muslim struggle?,’” he remembers, saying he’d a lot somewhat be performing than be a poster boy for this difficulty. But he says he realized later he needed to converse up.
“Maybe I did become an actor to be seen and portrayed with empathy and dignity, to be seen as fully human as much as any other character.”
The report features a “blueprint” for Muslim inclusion: options for movie studios, movie faculties, and philanthropies. The Pillars Fund is awarding a brand new fellowship for Muslim artists. Ahmed can be teaming with Mahershala Ali, Ramy Youssef, Sana Amanat, Karim Amer, Rosa Attab, Nida Manzoor and Jehane Noujaim. They’re difficult movie corporations to safe offers with Muslim creators and to “sunset” the outdated tropes.
This story was edited for radio by Rose Friedman, and tailored for the online by Rose Friedman and Mandalit del Barco.
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