The online series — which features both high-profile and ordinary American Muslims sharing their personal experiences of being Muslim in the United States — has clocked up millions of views since it premiered in November
Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed found himself routinely typecast as a terrorist when trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood in the 1990s.
“I played a terrorist in the movie Executive Decision … I played a terrorist on the sitcom Rosanne … In a film called Steel Sharks, I played this evil Persian submarine commander,” says the 47-year-old in the first episode of the Secret Life of Muslims online video series. “All my lines are like, ‘I’ll kill you in the name of Allah!’.”
The hugely popular series is one of a number of projects harnessing the power of the internet to try to change the narrative about Muslims amid rising Islamophobia in the US. Others have launched on Facebook and Instagram, such as Muslim American Faces, where the photographer and filmmaker Heidi Naguib posts photos of Muslim Americans from all backgrounds, along with a caption sharing a little of their life story.
Secret Life of Muslims has clocked up millions of views since it premiered in November, a few days before the presidential election. In the intervening months, Donald Trump has been back and forth with the US courts over his plan to implement a travel ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries. And alongside this, the series has featured both high-profile and ordinary American Muslims talking about what Islam means to them and sharing their personal experiences of being Muslim in the US.
The series’ American Jewish director and executive producer, Josh Seftel, said his own childhood experiences with anti-Semitism made him feel compelled to do something to counter Islamophobia.
“As a Jewish kid growing up in upstate New York … I had experiences where I was called names, where people used to throw pennies at me sometimes and someone threw a rock through the front window of our home. And so, I felt a connection to the kind of discrimination that Muslims are facing in the United States,” he told The National.