Riz Ahmed calls for urgent change in “toxic representations” of Muslims on screen

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Riz Ahmed announced a new initiative to tackle the “problem of misrepresentation of Muslims” on screen, saying, “The industry of Islamophobia is one that measures its cost in blood.

In a passionate speech to the film industry, posted to social media and YouTube, the Sound of Metal star described his own difficult experiences, including aggressive interrogation at airports, and said, “The problem with Muslim misrepresentation is a problem that cannot be ignored anymore… and it is a problem that a handful of prominent Muslims in business cannot resolve.

Referring to an essay he wrote for The Good Immigrant in 2016 and published in The Guardian, he added: “The progress that a few of us have made does not give a full picture of the progress if the Most on-screen portraits of Muslims are either non-existent or embedded in these stereotypical, toxic, two-dimensional representations.

The actor has harshly criticized the Oscar-winning films American Sniper, The Hurt Locker and Argo, calling them “downright racist” and that they are “films that dehumanize and demonize Muslim characters, insofar as they are authors. or victims of violence, unworthy of empathy or incapable of empathy ”. He also said he was “gutted” by the portrayal of Muslim characters in the Amazonian series The Boys, “a show I loved.”

Saying “this would not happen to any other minority group,” Ahmed pointed to the shortcomings of the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther (“one of the most awakened progressive moments in our culture in recent years”) in which Muslims appear in the streets. first scenes. like kidnapping terrorists.

Ahmed’s speech was accompanied by the release of The Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion, co-published by his production company Left Handed Films with the Pillars Fund, and a USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative research study titled Missing & Malaligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Films.

Of the 200 films analyzed for this latest study (including 100 from the US, 63 from the UK and 32 from Australia), less than 2% of the speaking roles were Muslim characters. In American and British films, that figure fell to 1.1% in both cases. (This compares to the estimated percentage of the national population of 1.1% in the United States and 5.16% in the United Kingdom.)

The study also analyzed elements of the portrayal of Muslim characters, finding that 39% of Muslim characters in the sample films were perpetrators and 53% were targets. More than 58% of Muslim figures were migrants or refugees, almost 88% did not speak or accentuated English, and more than 75% wore clothing related to their religion.

The Master Plan for Muslim Inclusion makes a number of recommendations to the film and television industry, including “tropes of extinct terror” and the hiring of Muslim creators for early deals. The report also suggests that industry organizations “officially recognize Muslims as a marginalized, erased and underfunded group in their diversity, equity and inclusion agendas,” “reform casting practices” and ” intentionally seek out polycultural Muslim talents ”.

In a statement posted on the Pillars website, Ahmed added: “The portrayal of Muslims on screen fuels the policies that are implemented, the people who are killed, the countries that are invaded. Data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the extent of the problem in popular cinema and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives.


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