American Muslims have seen themselves being portrayed as terrorists for the longest time. There have been countless movies, shows, videos, news media in which Muslims, regardless of gender or nationality, have been just been labeled as a terrorist or a menace to society.
Because of this false portrayal in entertainment, people around the world started to believe that Muslims are terrorists and Islam is the problem.
Muslims trying to make it in Hollywood because they struggled to get roles where they were playing the role of a hijacker or a member of Al-Qaeda.
Over the past couple of years, some things have changed in Hollywood and Muslims can now take on roles that don’t demonize them for their looks or their beliefs. This is a good thing, but this good thing isn’t a great thing.
In ABC’s Quantico, the world watched to see Bollywood queen, Priyanka Chopra, breakout into American entertainment. In the show, there was a character who wore a hijab and was seen as a very conservative girl. In one episode, this character is shown taking off her hijab and having sexual intercourse with another character and then afterward, praying on her prayer mat. What a person chooses to do in their personal time is fine, but the issue is that the way Muslim females were portrayed. They showed Muslim females as oppressed women just waiting to be liberated by a man so they can be free to be themselves.
This could not be more wrong.
Majority of Muslim women and girls wear the hijab because they want to and they believe that the hijab actually liberates them from society’s standards. Showing a woman wearing hijab on tv is great, but why is it necessary that she must forgo something like the hijab in order to seem happy.
Another example of this can be seen on Freeform’s The Bold Type. The show focuses on three young women trying to accomplish their professional goals. One of these young women meets a female Muslim artist who also just happens to wear a hijab. Adding another feature to this character, they made her a lesbian. Again, if an individual chooses to live their life a certain way, they are allowed to do that. This character is that they repeatedly showed this character getting frustrated with her country of origin because of the role religion played there. The problem is that these shows are trying to show that Muslims are struggling with their religion.
That may be true and Muslims do struggle as does anyone from any other faith, but Muslims, overall, do not struggle with the same things as these fictional characters. Not to say that there might be some Muslims who do face these struggles as these characters; the point being made is that these issues do not address the real issues Muslims are going through.
TLC also aired All-American Muslims, was the first reality tv show with an all Muslim cast. It took place in Dearborn, Michigan, the highest number of Arab Americans in the United States reside there. The show attempted to reveal the fact that Muslims are just like the rest of the United States. Muslims did appreciate the attempt, but the execution was not done well. There were several problems with this show besides the harsh criticism it received from Caucasian Americans.
First, they only showed Arab Muslims, which demographically speaking, only make up a portion of the global Muslim population. Second, they only showed a certain type of Muslim and did not talk about all the other types and beliefs of Muslims. They also showed Muslims drinking and having tattoos, to show that American Muslims are just like average Muslims. Some Muslims found that offensive and some celebrated this. The problem was not that they showed Muslims drinking having tattoos, the problem was that they showed to Muslims that the only way to fit in while living in this country, is to forgo some Islamic characteristics. Again, if a person chooses to do any activity in their life, that choice is up to them and they do not deserve to be judged by the rest of us for doing those activities, this is just an objective criticism of a television show.
The question that has to be asked now is that why do Muslims have to seem “Americanized/ Westernized” to be accepted in the United States? Isn’t creating characters or shows like these just enforcing the outdated ideals that there is a Western culture and an Eastern culture who cannot mix.
Why is that Muslims get portrayed as terrorists when conservatives want or as oppressed creatures waiting for liberation when liberals want. Muslims are not tools for agenda making or toys to be played with.
Hollywood is trying to change things, but it is highly recommended that they do their research and not let their imaginations run wild because to be honest, how are the portrayal of Muslims in these shows vastly different from the stories the British and other imperial powers told of “The Orient” and of women hidden in harems of sultans. Ask real American Muslims how they live their lives in the United States, they’re the real deal!
One does not have to give up their own culture or beliefs to fit in or live in the United States. The millions of Muslims who live proudly in the United States can tell you that. The United States is a place where cultures can come together and be celebrated, so there is no need to wash away your ethnic or religious background.