New Initiative Aims to Change How Movies Portray Muslims

An advocacy group has created a worker database with help from Disney to bring more Muslims into the filmmaking process.

A scene from “Ali’s Wedding” (2017), which was cited in a report about Muslims in movies as having “the only present-day Muslim lead.”Credit…Netflix

A new initiative to promote the inclusion of Muslims in filmmaking has been created by an advocacy group with the support of the Walt Disney Company — following a report issued this year that found that Muslims are rarely depicted in popular films and that many Muslim characters are linked to violence.

The project, the Pillars Muslim Artist Database, was announced on Tuesday by the Pillars Fund, an advocacy group in Chicago. It produced the earlier report on depiction along with the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and others.

Kashif Shaikh, a co-founder of Pillars and its president, said that when the group discussed the findings, those in the industry often said they did not know where to find Muslim writers or actors.

The database, Shaikh said, aims to give Muslim actors, directors, cinematographers, sound technicians and others, who could help create more nuanced portrayals, the chance to compose online profiles that can be reviewed by those hiring for film, television and streaming productions.

That way, “Muslims around the country would be able to opt in and talk about their talents, talk about their expertise,” Shaikh said. “It was really meant to be a resource for studios, for the film industry.”

The report on depiction, “Missing & Maligned,” was issued in June and analyzed 200 top-grossing movies released between 2017 and 2019 across the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jamil Jan Kochai on Americans’ Fear of Islam

The author discusses “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak,” his story from the latest issue of the magazine.

n “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak,” your story in this week’s issue, someone—presumably an F.B.I. agent—is surveilling the home of an Afghan family in West Sacramento, California. How did this scenario come to you?

A blackandwhite photograph of the author Jamil Jan Kochai in front of a bookshelf.
Photograph by Jalil Kochai

Like many of my stories, “The Haunting” was inspired by a joke. I had read an Onion article titled “FBI Counterterrorism Agent Wistfully Recalls Watching 20-Year-Old Muslim-American Grow Up,” which I found hilarious but also oddly plausible. I could imagine an F.B.I. agent growing to feel a disturbing sense of affection for some Muslim family he was surveilling. This figure sort of fascinated me. I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with federal agents myself. When I was in fourth grade, a few weeks after 9/11, I opened the door one day to find two F.B.I. agents standing on our front porch. I remember they spoke with my father for a short time and, fortunately, seemed to disappear afterward. And yet their presence still sort of lingered in our home. In our daily lives. We became very careful about what we discussed on the phone or online or at school. We lived with an odd sense of paranoia, which we often joked about in group chats, but this feeling of being surveilled did weigh on me. The agents had left, but they continued to exist in our lives like spectres. We felt haunted. We still feel haunted. But now, at least, I can write about the ghosts.

Why not tell the family’s story directly? Why see it through the eyes of a spying outsider?

The story started with the agent. I figured out his voice and perspective before I actually knew whom he would be surveilling. It was only after I began watching this family through the eyes of the agent that their characters and relationships and conflicts became apparent to me. I discovered this version of this family through the outsider himself. He was absolutely essential.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORKER

Report finds bullying of Muslims is disproportionate in US schools

Muslim students in California schools are disproportionally bullied, a new report by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations found.

The report released Thursday said roughly half of Muslim students in grades 5 through 12 experienced faith-based bullying, which is more than twice the rate of national statistics, in which 20% of U.S. children face bullying.

It’s also the highest reported level of students feeling unsafe, unwelcome or uncomfortable at school because of their Muslim identity since CAIR-CA began its biennial surveys in 2013.

“Islamophobic harassment discrimination and bullying continue to be real issues that Muslim students face on a daily basis,” said CAIR-California CEO Hussam Ayloush.

The survey titled “CAIR-California’s 2021 Bullying Report: Examining Islamophobia in California Schools,” is based on findings from a statewide survey of 708 Muslim students between the ages of 11 and 18 from mid-2018 until the end of 2020.

In the year and a half period before the pandemic, 47% of Muslim students reported faith-based bulling — a 7% increase from the 2016 to 2018.

A third of students who wear the Muslim headscarf, known as a hijab, also reported having their hijab tugged, pulled or offensively touched.

And nearly 1 of every 4 Muslim students reported they had a teacher, administrator, or other adult at their school make offensive comments about Islam or Muslims.

“This is particularly alarming,” said Amr Shabaik, the author of the report, considering the relationship and responsibility teachers have to their students.

Ayloush called these figures disturbing.

“This form of hatred and harassment does not occur in a vacuum, and it’s certainly not restricted to California,” Ayloush said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SM DAILY JOURNAL

New poll reveals how much we presume about Muslim Americans’ politics

October 15, 2021By Simran Jeet SinghShareTweetShare

(RNS) — Twenty years ago, Americans hardly gave their Muslim neighbors a thought. Then came 9/11, and our opinions suddenly blossomed. Two decades later we may be past assuming that Muslims want to topple the American government, but other supposed givens — that Muslims tend to be conservative, for instance — have been challenged in a new poll that shows how rudimentary our understanding of American Muslims can be. 

Start with the finding in a new poll, commissioned by Emgage and Muslim Public Affairs Council, that Muslim Americans voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden in 2020, with 86% support. Only 6% voted for Donald Trump.

These numbers should not surprise those who have followed Trump’s multiple negative comments about Muslims, his hotly debated travel bans that disproportionately targeted Muslim countries and the spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes under his leadership.

But the survey of more than 500 Muslim Americans also gives us a picture beyond the vote into how Muslim Americans view the Biden administration and key domestic and foreign policies.


RELATED: America and US Muslims have come a long way since 9/11. We have a long way to go.


It’s not surprising that a majority of Muslim Americans want the administration to combat white supremacy, Islamophobia and hate-violence, which have direct, negative consequences for Muslim Americans. Their interest in addressing inequalities and enhancing access to health care, however, is more counterintuitive for a group we think of as first-generation immigrants. More than three in four American Muslims support Medicare for All, and 78% of Muslim voters believe the tax system is too generous to the rich."Hate Crimes, White Supremacy, Other Issues" Graphic courtesy of Change Research

“Hate Crimes, White Supremacy, Other Issues” Graphic courtesy of Change Research

These progressive stances are easier to understand if one is familiar with the justice orientation of Islam, as well as the demographic makeup of the American Muslim community. One-third of Muslim households in America are at or below the poverty line, making Muslims the most likely faith community to report low income levels.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

20 years without complexity: The legacy of 9/11 for American Muslims

by Anjabeen Ashraf | 13 Oct 2021

What is it like to hold a crossroads within your body? For many American Muslims, our identities have become a crossroads between familiar and foreign. Between safety and danger. Between belonging and othering.

In the years prior to 9/11, people were ignorant of Islam. There were opportunities to inform and people would listen. There were discriminatory policies like secret evidence that was rampantly used by former President Bill Clinton’s administration but at least we were on the verge of change. That is, until 9/11.

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approached, as an American Muslim, I noticed anxiety creep up within me. As the date got closer, the anxiety was replaced with dread because I knew that the narratives we have constructed about 9/11 and what followed lack the complexity required of such a deeply impactful event. Narratives that erase the impact for American Muslims.

Safety and security

Americans were willing to accept the subjugation of an entire group of people under the guise of safety, but the resulting impact of the policies and practices of the post-9/11 environment led to an unleashed security apparatus that has never been held accountable. It has also led to the strengthening of local policing norms that are just as destructive as the federal ones.

As former FBI agent Mike German writes in “Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy:” “With the encouragement of Congress both the Bush and Obama administrations, the FBI transformed itself into a domestic intelligence agency of unprecedented power that operates primarily in the dark, all but immune from traditional methods of oversight. This unconstrained and highly secretive FBI predictably turned its sight on those it has always viewed as most dangerous to the established order: minority communities, immigrants, and those agitating for political, economic, and social change.”

What this meant locally for Oregon’s Muslims can be understood through two stories.

Oregon Attorney Brandon Mayfield understands the destructive power of the FBI and local law enforcement very well because he was a victim of it. Back in 2004, in the wake of the Madrid commuter train bombings, several fingerprints were discovered. The Spanish National Police shared the fingerprints with the FBI and it returned 20 possible matches. Brandon’s prints were flagged, because of his prior military service. Even though the Spanish National Police found that his prints were not an identical match and communicated this to the FBI, the FBI still went after him. They began sifting through personal life to find out that he had converted to Islam, he represented defendants in national security cases and he worshipped at a mosque frequently surveilled by the FBI.

FULL ARTICLE FROM STREET ROOTS

Muslim community grows, matures in New Hampshire following ‘terrifying’ aftermath of 9-11

As news reports fixated on images of crumbling towers and Osama bin Laden 20 years ago, Muslims living in New Hampshire and across the country became the focus — and in some cases, the target of scorn — of their neighbors.

Muslims suffered taunts — “go back to your country” — from motorists as they left the mosque in Manchester, which at the time was hidden away in an office building just across the street from the future police station.

In schools, children endured insults and in some cases assaults from fellow students.

When they left their homes, adults had to weigh whether traditional garments that would identify them, such as a hijab, were worth the risk to their safety.

“It was terrifying,” said Salaam Odeh, a Manchester resident and Muslim activist.

Odeh was the first victim in a hate crime case against Muslims following 9/11, after an apartment neighbor elbowed her while uttering racist slurs. The incident took place about a month after 9/11.

“We were already being mistreated, and then when this happened, people found a reason to bully us and mistreat us even more,” Odeh said.

“A label was put on you. You got the sense of having to explain yourself,” said Sheraz Rashid, who was in the seventh grade in Salem on 9/11.

A software engineer, Rashid is now the secretary of the Islamic Society of New Hampshire, which is building a mosque in Manchester.

Through the struggles, Muslims said they found comfort, too. Odeh said her host family — Vivian McDonald of Manchester and her daughter — doubled down and were very protective.

Rashid said teachers kept an eye on him.

“There was a lot of bad, but also a lot of good,” Rashid said. “People out and said, ‘No one is blaming you.’ A lot of people wanted to learn and understand.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE UNION LEADER (NEW HAMPSHIRE)

‘Those people are not me’

US Muslims reflect on how 9/11 changed their lives and what the future holds for them

By Alaa Elassar, CNN

Updated 10:53 AM ET, Fri September 10, 2021Watch CNN’s “Shine A Light,” a commercial-free 9/11 20th anniversary tribute, hosted by Jake Tapper and featuring musical performances by Maroon 5, H.E.R., Brad Paisley, and Common on Saturday, September 11 at 8 p.m. ET.(CNN) — Many Muslims in the United States point to September 11, 2001, as the day their relationship with the country changed.Islamophobia had always existed, but the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia seemingly made it worse — much worse.Muslims of all stripes — citizens, immigrants and refugees — faced backlash. Many were ostracized and harassed, some physically assaulted and even killed. Charged rhetoric, successive wars and attacks further inflamed the situation.Feeling condemned for crimes they didn’t commit, some Muslims changed their names and clothing to conceal their identities, while others clung even tighter to their faith. A few became outspoken advocates for the community.Every Muslim in America has a story to tell. Here are some of them.

Ruwa Romman

Ruwa Romman, 28, is a Palestinian American community organizer and policy analyst living in Duluth, Georgia.When the terrorists attacked, she was 8 years old and had just recently immigrated to the US with her parents. But the dream she had of building a new life in America quickly turned into a nightmare.Ruwa Romman and her husband Shahzaib Jiwani. Ruwa Romman and her husband Shahzaib Jiwani.”I remember the hallways and the day seemed darker even though I remember it was sunny outside,” Romman told CNN about her experience in school that day. “I don’t think I fully understood what was happening since I barely spoke English.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Two decades after 9/11, American Muslims still fighting bias

Mistrust of Muslims didn’t start on 9/11, but it dramatically intensified with the attacks.

NEW YORK–As the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks approaches, Shahana Hanif still recalls her confusion over how anyone could look at her, a child, and see a threat.

She remembers when a car passed, the driver’s window rolled down and the man spat an epithet at two little girls wearing their hijabs: “Terrorist!”

It was 2001, mere weeks after the World Trade Centre fell, and ten-year-old Hanif and her younger sister were walking to the local mosque from their Brooklyn home.

“It’s not a nice, kind word. It means violence, it means dangerous. It is meant to shock whoever … is on the receiving end of it,” she says.

But the incident also spurred a determination to speak out for herself and others. She’s become a community organiser and is strongly favoured to win a seat on the New York City Council in an upcoming election.

Like Hanif, other young American Muslims have grown up under the shadow of 9/11. Many have faced hostility, suspicion, questions about their faith, doubts over their Americanness.

They have also found ways to fight back against bias, to organise, to craft nuanced personal narratives about their identities. In the process, they have built bridges and challenged stereotypes.

There is “this sense of being Muslim as a kind of important identity marker, regardless of your relationship with Islam as a faith,” says Eman Abdelhadi, a University of Chicago sociologist.

Mistrust of Muslims didn’t start on 9/11, but it dramatically intensified with the attacks.

America’s diverse Muslim communities were foisted into the spotlight, says Youssef Chouhoud, a political scientist at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University.

“Your sense of who you were was becoming more formed, not just Muslim but American Muslim,” he says. “What distinguished you as an American Muslim? Could you be fully both, or did you have to choose? There was a lot of grappling with what that meant.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ARAB WEEKLY

Muslims are a growing presence in U.S., but still face negative views from the public

Muslim woman in a scarf holding American flag during fireworks at night.

An unprecedented amount of public attention focused on Muslim Americans in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Muslim population has grown in the two decades since, but it is still the case that many Americans know little about Islam or Muslims, and views toward Muslims have become increasingly polarized along political lines.

A chart showing that in the U.S., the Muslim population has been growing steadily

There were about 2.35 million Muslim adults and children living in the United States in 2007 – accounting for 0.8% of the U.S. population – when Pew Research Center began measuring this group’s size, demographic characteristics and views. Since then, growth has been driven primarily by two factors: the continued flow of Muslim immigrants into the U.S., and Muslims’ tendency to have more children than Americans of other faiths.

In 2015, the Center projected that Muslims could number 3.85 million in the U.S. by 2020 – roughly 1.1% of the total population. However, Muslim population growth from immigration may have slowed recently due to changes in federal immigration policy.

The number of Muslim houses of worship in the U.S. also has increased over the last 20 years. A study conducted in 2000 by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership identified 1,209 mosques in the U.S. that year. Their follow-up study in 2011 found that the number of mosques had grown to 2,106, and the 2020 version found 2,769 mosques – more than double the number from two decades earlier.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH CENTER

America’s Muslims come from many traditions and cultures

Kalpana Jain, The ConversationAug. 30, 2021 Comments

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Kalpana Jain, The Conversation

Journalists and scholars have pointed out how Muslims in the U.S. are often cast simplistically either as good or bad: The good ones are raising their voices against terrorism and the bad ones are violent, or likely to be.

This view blocks out an “otherwise fascinating spectrum” of American Muslims, writes scholar Abbas Barzegar. “Outside of Mecca itself,” he says, “there exists no other Muslim population that displays the theological, ideological, class and ethnic diversity as that which resides here” in the U.S.

So, what are the different ways of being a Muslim?

Many American Muslims belong to one of the two main sects in Islam – Sunni and Shiite. Each draws its faith and practice from the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The two agree on most of the fundamentals of Islam.

But the two groups split after the death of Prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632, when issues over leadership emerged, writes religion scholar Ken Chitwood. The majority of the Muslim community sided with Abu Bakr, one of the prophet’s closest companions. A minority, however, opted for the prophet’s cousin – Ali.

Muslims who rallied around Abu Bakr came to be called Sunni – meaning those who follow the Sunna, or sayings, deeds and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOUR