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

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

Opinion: A Muslim cemetery was finally approved in Virginia. Now bigotry needs a proper burial.

A suburban Virginia county south of D.C. recently put a quiet end to a five-year saga in which the odor of Islamophobia grew into a stench as time dragged on. That the events surrounding a proposed Islamic cemetery in Stafford County unfolded under color of local law, and were allowed by county officials to fester for year after year, was more than poor judgment. It has become a sterling example for local governments of how not to deal with minority communities.

Stafford is a diverse place of more than 150,000 people, and the Islamic cemetery in question would not be the county’s first. In fact, the nonprofit All Muslim Association of America (AMAA) had run a small cemetery there for about 20 years when, nearly out of capacity, it bought a new parcel of land in 2016 with plans for a larger cemetery where Muslims of modest means could be laid to rest.

What ensued was an embarrassment to Stafford and a Kafkaesque odyssey for the county’s Muslim community. That it ended, mercifully, with the county’s capitulation — authorities there ceased their attempts to block the proposed cemetery last year, and recently agreed to a $500,000 settlement, without admitting guilt — does not mitigate the gratuitousness of the entire episode, which was a waste of taxpayers’ time and money.

The details of the county’s preposterous rationale in drafting a bespoke new land-use scheme, whose only discernible intent was to impede the new cemetery, are byzantine. Urged on by two landowners — one of them a county Planning Commission member — whose property abutted the tract for the proposed 45-acre cemetery, the county adopted new rules banning cemeteries located within 900 feet, almost the length of three football fields, of any private homeowner’s well used for drinking water. The state standard required a separation of only 100 feet, and there was no science justifying a broader buffer for cemeteries and drinking water sources generally or this parcel in particular.

When AMAA officials found out about the zoning maneuver months after the fact — no one had mentioned the new rule to them, nor solicited their input — they were shocked. Not only had the group not been informed of the change, but county officials had affirmed at the time of the parcel’s purchase that a cemetery could be built there “by right,” with no special zoning approval needed. After the controversy erupted, a state official affirmed that a 100-foot setback was adequate for public health.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

9 tropes about Muslims that are a product of Islamophobia

There are nearly 2 billion Muslims in the world, and the religious group continues to grow rapidly. Yet Islam continues to be largely misunderstood by many, which has given way to Islamophobia and even violence against Muslims.

While Islamophobia existed long before 9/11, a dislike for Islam and Muslims became more deliberately weaponized in the service of war and politics in the post-9/11 world, says Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU).

Mogahed and others say that post 9/11 Islamophobia has manifested in different ways around the world, including the adoption of the Muslim travel ban — one of former President Trump’s signature policies; the persecution of the Uyghur people in China since at least 2017; and the mass murder of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Twenty years after 9/11, ignorance about Islam and an “othering” of its adherents continue to be driven by tropes. Here are the most common:

1. All Muslims are Arab

Islam started in the Middle East, but has since spread all over the world. From the Rohingya in Myanmar, to the Uyghurs in China, and Bosniaks in the Balkans, Muslims are an extremely diverse community and do not come from a single region.

Although many people use the terms “Muslim” and “Arab” interchangeably, it is not accurate to do so.

“Arabs are actually a minority of the Muslim population, both globally and in United States,” Mogahed told CNN. “They make up 20% of the world’s Muslims.”

Muslims are not a monolith, and are of all different races, skin tones, ethnicities and speak different languages.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY NEWS

Why Did Muslims Become the New Enemy in Norway and Europe?

Posted July 9, 2021 by Katrine Fangen & filed under Culture and ConflictMigrationReligion

Anti-Muslim views have become more widespread in Europe over the past 30 years, but it is important to distinguish between criticisms of certain forms of Islamic practice and the belief that Muslims are taking over Europe.

Mosque in Oslo, Norway. Photo: Oskar Seljeskog / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0

People with anti-Islamic views wish to restrict Muslim immigration and Islamic religious practices. In their view, Islam is a homogenous, totalitarian ideology that is threatening western civilisation. When we talk about anti-Muslim racism, the attitudes concerned are so generalizing that all Muslims are lumped together, regardless of whether they are secular Muslims or fundamentalists. In other words, we are talking not only about criticism of a set of religious ideas, but about attitudes that dehumanize and generalize a whole group in the population.

Although such attitudes have a long history in Europe, the idea that Muslims are ‘the enemy’ has become more widespread over the last 30 years. In the aftermath of the Cold War, one could say that Europe needed a new archetypal enemy, and research shows that Muslim immigrants gradually took on that status. For example, it became gradually more common for people to talk about “Muslims”, rather than immigrants with Pakistani backgrounds.

Events that direct a critical focus onto Muslims

Research from various countries shows increases in anti-Muslim views towards Muslims in connection with various critical events. This does not suggest that anti-Muslim bias is growing in a continuously upwards trend. Rather, it suggests that this bias increases temporarily in connection with societal events that direct a critical focus on Muslims.

In the 1980s, for example, the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses provoked Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa against Rushdie, and many Muslims joined anti-Rushdie demonstrations and tore pages out of his book. In many cases, their demonstrations were met with highly generalizing and critical representations of Muslim in the media, where Islam as a religion was questioned.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRIO.ORG

I’m a Muslim woman covering the diversity of Brooklyn. Sometimes all people see is my hijab.

By: Zainab IqbalJune 30, 2021  

Below is an excerpt from The Collective, Poynter’s newsletter by journalists of color for journalists of color and our allies. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox the last Wednesday of every month.

When I was covering a protest one day in Brooklyn, an elderly woman came up to me. She was shorter than me, her hair was silver, and she walked with a limp. I can’t remember if she held a cane. I was standing on the side of a crowd that had gathered, with a notepad in one hand, a camera around my shoulder and my press pass around my neck.

Old women at protests are usually sweet and warm. They ask me where I work, what I am covering, where I am from. Sometimes they tell me they like my hijab. And then they ramble on about how they went on their daily walk, saw the protest and just had to join. I always enjoy speaking with old women. So when she approached me, I smiled.

“Did Arabs murder any people today?” she asked. “Did your people burn any pregnant women?”

I was stunned. I couldn’t seem to comprehend what she asked. I stood there, and she stood there, too, staring at me, as if daring me to answer. I think I muttered a “no” until someone approached the woman and told her, “Let’s go walk over there.” She left, but I still stood there.

Later, I would wonder why I hadn’t answered her. I would wonder why I didn’t tell her, “Ma’am, you are racist.” I would wonder why I didn’t educate her. I would wonder why — as a person who encourages others to share with me their truth, as a person who is obsessed with words for a living — no words came out of my own mouth at a time when they should have most.

For the past three and a half years, I have covered everything Brooklyn. From crime, to the opening of a small business, to the pandemic, to lost dogs who later found each other, to politics, to death. Brooklyn is huge and it’s diverse. I live in a neighborhood surrounded by Muslims on one side, Orthodox Jews on the other. Right across from my building is a Roman Catholic church. Brooklyn is the only place I have ever truly known, which is why by default it’s a place that I write about. I try to write stories I never grew up reading, about communities not usually covered by the media. If we don’t share the stories of people in the communities that we belong to, how can we trust anybody else to?

People often write to me online. Sometimes they send an email. They DM me. They comment under my article on Facebook. “Anti-Semite.” “Terrorist.” This is nothing new, and thousands of Muslims experience the same thing. Other Muslim women journalists experience this, too.

FULL ARTICLE FROM POYNTER.ORG

Suit seeks to limit anti-Muslim speech on Facebook but roots of Islamophobia run far deeper

A civil rights group is suing Facebook and its top executives in federal court over the company’s failure to crack down on hate speech against Muslims.

Muslim Advocates, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on discrimination against American Muslims, alleges in the suit that Facebook has violated a series of local and federal consumer protection laws. The suit points out that the company itself, in a July 2020 internal audit, found that “Facebook has created an atmosphere where ‘Muslims feel under siege’” on the platform.

I am a scholar who tracks anti-Muslim activity such as violence, harassment, public speeches, property crimes and policies that target Muslims. This suit is right that many Muslims in the United States feel under siege – and have for quite some time.

But I am cautious about assigning too much blame to Facebook for the staggering magnitude and breadth of anti-Muslim activity in the U.S. As the author of “Fear in Our Hearts: What Islamophobia Tells Us about America,” I argue that this could be a convenient distraction – with limited overall effect – from the deeper histories and realities of white supremacy that require sustained attention.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

Muslim World League Launches #RejectHate Campaign to End Islamophobia on Social Media

MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia, March 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The Muslim World League launched Wednesday the #RejectHate campaign to end Islamophobic content and hate speech on social media. The campaign, which invites supporters to sign a change.org petition, urges social media companies to adopt stronger anti-Islamophobic policies as part of their anti-hate regulations. In October of last year, both Facebook and Twitter announced that they would remove posts that deny the Holocaust, but have yet to adopt anti-hate policies that address other religious groups.

In recent months, Facebook and Twitter have introduced several rules purportedly designed to combat hate and bigotry on their platforms. Despite these new regulations, both companies continue to allow purveyors of Islamophobic content to spread hateful and false characterizations of the Islamic faith and the more than 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.

Currently on Facebook, 1 in every 1,000 posts shared violates the company’s rules on hate speech. More than three-quarters of content which violates their anti-hate rules is allowed to remain even after it is reported and investigated, giving a free pass for content targeting any group to be proliferated through Facebook. Twitter boasts similar statistics. The MWL is calling for a zero-tolerance policy towards hate speech targeting Muslims or adherents to any religion and more robust procedures to see hateful content quickly removed.

“There are prevailing voices that only represent the hateful outlook of extremism and isolation that are being amplified on social media,” MWL Secretary General His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said. “Social media has the power to bring people together across physical boundaries, but in recent years we have seen it become a breeding ground for hatred and intolerance.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRN NEWSWIRE

‘Some Europeans hold centuries-old grudge against Muslims’

Deep-rooted hatred against Islam persists, says Joram van Klaveren, the former far-right European politician, who was once a close ally of Geert Wilders.

When Brenton Tarrant live-streamed the massacre of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand, viewers noticed his guns were covered with inscriptions – racial slurs such as ‘Migration Compact’ and ‘Kebab Remover’. One read ‘Vienna 1683’. 

That last one is a reference to the year when the Ottoman Empire fought a bloody war with the Holy League, a Christian European alliance that included Russia. 

Tarrant, 30, who has been imprisoned for life, without any possibility for parole, for the killing of 51 Muslim worshippers in the city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019, was well-versed in white supremacist propaganda.  

He cherry-picked historical events to justify targeting Muslims, who according to him, are migrating in large numbers and have more babies, something that threatens to turn white Europeans into a minority. 

Muslims make up 5 percent of Europe’s population, according to Pew Research. 

“What Tarrant and the others from the far-right do is that they bring these stories out of history, twist them around and use them to scare everybody,” says Joram van Klaveren, a former lawmaker of the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom (PVV) of Netherlands. 

“They don’t say that we in Europe should be thankful to Muslims for algebra, maths and hospitals – the things we borrowed from the Islamic civilisation.” 

Klaveren was a close associate of Geert Wilders, the Freedom party leader, and for years worked as his spokesperson on Islam. He once submitted a bill in the Netherlands parliament that called for a ban on Islam because it permits violence against women. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM TRT WORLD MAGAZINE