London, United States – From the British television thriller series Bodyguard to the US CIA drama Homeland, portraying Muslim characters on screen has often been considered a problem at best.
Men are marked as boundaries, culturally backward images associated with misfortune, violence and anger. Women are rarely portrayed as victims of any organization.
Tired of stereotypes, a new charity aims to change the script of representation in the entertainment industry and end the general use of anti-Muslim trolls.
Launched last week, the UK has sought to “incorporate the Muslim experience into British culture” through Muslim film and television.
Designed as a year-round center, it will host screenplays and masterclasses among other events and nurture funds reserved for aspiring filmmakers of emerging storytellers from Muslim backgrounds – and other presented groups – to increase their presence in the industry.
The charity, backed by the British Film Institute (BFI), will also offer advice on how to better represent Muslims in cinema and avoid offensive, negative stereotypes.
‘Faith was almost used as a weapon’
Its founder and CEO, British actor Sajid Varda, told Al Jazeera that he was inspired to start the project after witnessing how the entertainment industry portrayed Muslims after 9/11.
“It was about faith too [after that]Barda said. “The story revolved around Muslims, Islam and negativity … [and] Faith with negative association was used almost as a weapon to misrepresent. “
He hopes to reverse these trends and encourage “greater understanding” between Muslims and other communities.
“The media has a huge impact on informing the public, this is the power of storytelling,” he said, linking this misrepresentation of Muslims to the rise of Islamophobia.
“It’s a very powerful educational tool, especially for people who don’t usually come in contact with certain minorities, and so if the media uses common tropes such as: Muslims are terrorists, Muslim men are corrupt, it can be dangerous for Muslim women oppressed and Islam for Westerners.” As a threat. ”
‘Muslims don’t feel included’
Varda is not the first from within the entertainment industry to present Muslims on-screen, or to express concern about whether they exist at all.
Oscar-nominated British actor Reese Ahmed warned in a 2017 speech to the UK Parliament that the historic and widespread failure to diversify into film and television programs has alienated young British Muslims and other minorities.
Ahmed, who became the first Muslim to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor this year for his performance in Sound of Metal, said people would be “switched off” from mainstream society if they did not see themselves represented by cultural output. .
“People are looking for the message they have, that they are a part of something they have seen and heard, and that they have been valued nonetheless or perhaps because of their experience,” Ahmed said. “They want to feel represented. We have failed in that task. ”
Inspired by the speech, the film’s Buffs Shaf Chowdhury, Isobel Ingam-Barrow and Sadia Habib founded the so-called “Ridge Test”.
If the answer to any of the following questions is “yes”, then the film or TV show has failed the test, which means that usually Islamophobic troupes have been fixed, at least somewhat.
- Speaking of, victims of terrorism, or criminals?
- Unreasonably presented as anger?
- Superstition, culturally backward or presented as modern anti?
- Presented as a threat to Western life?
- If the character is male, has he been presented as a liar? If she is female, do her male colleagues present her as oppressed?
According to Ridge Test’s own Twitter review, most parts of the industry still fail.
Supporting these inquiries, Varda said: “Muslims do not feel included in it, we do not feel valued or appreciated, especially when you see content published on-screen.
“So our whole policy is to change the script. We need to address negative stereotypes and tropes because they have a direct impact on Muslims on the streets. ”