British actor Riz Ahmed on Thursday launched an effort to improve the way Muslims are represented in films while highlighting how they are either depicted as perpetrators of violence, targets of violence or not depicted at all.
The Sound of Metal star and the first Muslim to get a best actor Oscar nomination, said the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion would comprise funding and mentoring for Muslim story tellers in the early stages of their careers.
After Riz’s video announcing the initiative went viral, celebs from around the world lauded his effort on their social media handles. Singer Dua Lipa praised him for taking a stand, “So proud of you Riz for exposing how Muslims are missing and stereotyped in top movies. It’s time for the film industry to change.” While Olivia Wilde reiterated what Riz had to say on her Twitter, “Exceptions don’t change the rules.”
Local actor Feroze Khan, on the other hand, upon sharing what Riz had to say, wrote on his Instagram: “lol, get ready to be called tableeghi and what not. But don’t stop bro, proud!” It is pertinent to mention here that the term tableeghi, which roughly translates to missionary, is referred to a person on a religious mission and is not condescending in nature. However, it can have negative connotations when used in an Islamophobic context.
In his announcement Riz had said, “The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, and the countries that get invaded.” The Reluctant Fundamentalist actor 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.”
Titled Missing and Maligned, the study 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.
When they did, they were shown as outsiders, or threatening, or subservient, the study showed. About one-third of Muslim characters were perpetrators of violence and more than half were targets of violence.
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