The Stream

What will it take to boost Muslim representation in film?

On Thursday, June 24 at 19:30GMT:
When it comes to representation in film, Muslims around the world continue to be “either invisible or villains.” That’s according to a new landmark study from the US-based Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which examined 200 top-grossing movies released between 2017-2019 in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Missing and Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies found that Muslims accounted for less than 2 percent of all speaking roles in popular films. In contrast, 24 percent of the world’s population is Muslim. The films also largely portrayed male Muslim characters as threatening and/or “foreign,” while Muslim women were primarily stereotyped as submissive romantic partners or relatives.

These negative stereotypes feed real-life perceptions of Muslims, spurring on “the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, [and] the countries that get invaded,” said Riz Ahmed, an Oscar-nominated actor who supported the study.

To tackle the problem, Ahmed and a team of “Muslim Avengers” recently launched the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion, which includes funding and mentoring for Muslim storytellers in the early stages of their careers. The group is also urging film and TV makers to sunset “terror tropes,” hire Muslim creators and “formally recognise Muslims as a marginalised, erased, and under-resourced group.”

They are not the only ones trying to change things behind the scenes. And after decades of effort from many different groups, the Muslim narrative is starting to be reshaped on the small screen. New groundbreaking television shows include Ramy, a comedy about a millennial Egyptian-American man wrestling with career, family and faith issues; We Are Lady Parts, a British comedy about an all-Muslim women of color punk band; and the upcoming Ms. Marvel, about a Pakistani-American teenage superhero.

But despite evidence that diversity improves box office numbers, Muslims continue to be left out of movies in any meaningful way. In this episode of The Stream we ask, what will it take to boost Muslim representation in film? Join the conversation.

Kashif Shaikh, @kmshaikh
Co-founder & President, Pillars Fund
Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, @DrSaud
Scholar and Activist
Jenna Mahmoud Bosco, @jennabosco
Writer, Filmmaker, Actress