Riz Ahmed wishes to change Hollywood's representation of Muslims

05:30 PM | 11 Jun, 2021
Riz Ahmed wishes to change Hollywood's representation of Muslims

Amidst the debate about Islamophobia and the revelation that Muslims are seldom featured in movies in a negative light, British actor Riz Ahmed leads bid to change the way Muslims are represented in Hollywood.

Recently a study showed that Muslims are barely seen in mainstream media and if they do they are shown in a negative light.

Ahmed launched an effort to improve the way Muslims are depicted in films and said that the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion would include funding and mentoring for Muslim storytellers in the early stages of their careers.

"The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded," he said.

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Further, he added, "The data doesn't lie. This study shows us the scale of the problem in popular film, and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives," 

The study titled Missing and Maligned by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that less than 10% of top-grossing films released from 2017-2019 from the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand featured at least one speaking Muslim character.

The representation of Muslim characters was shown as outsiders, threatening, subservient. About one-third of Muslim characters were perpetrators of violence and more than half were targets of violence.

"Muslims live all over the world, but film audiences only see a narrow portrait of this community, rather than viewing Muslims as they are: business owners, friends and neighbours whose presence is part of modern life," said Al-Baab Khan, one of the report's authors.

The 30-year-old said that offering funding would be game-changing in getting more Muslim actors, writer and producers into the film and TV business.

"Had I not received a scholarship and also a private donation, I wouldn't have been able to attend drama school," he said.

The $25,000 fellowships for young Muslim artists will be decided by an advisory committee that includes actors Mahershala Ali and Ramy Youssef and comedian Hasan Minhaj.

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