Islam is the third largest religion in the United States of America after Christianity and Judaism, and there are about 3.45 million Muslims in America, according to a study conducted in 2017, and they constitute about 1.1% of the total population of the United States.
American Muslims are among the most ethnically diverse religious groups with no single race for the majority, as they are divided into 25% black, 24% white, 18% Asian, 18% Arab, 7% mixed race, and 5% Hispanic. According to what the "world population review" platform mentioned in a recent report.
According to the Pew Research Center, Islam will become America's second largest religion by 2040, making it important for Muslim Americans to see themselves properly represented in films, television, and on stage, which has not yet happened;
There is a negative stereotype about Muslims in general on American screens, and in particular about Muslim women.
Princess Jasmine in the movie "Aladdin" is the first Muslim character that comes to the minds of many Americans (communication sites)
How do Muslim women appear on these screens?
Not many Muslim women appear on American TV shows and series, and for many people in the United States, the first Muslim character that comes to mind is most likely Princess Jasmine from Disney's Aladdin. Small problem, compared to the stereotype that these Muslim women appear on these screens.
In this context, Arab American writer and actress Serena Rasoul - founder of the Muslim Casting Foundation - says, "I see Yasmine as the American version of the Muslim woman who needs to be saved, who is always the victim or the fugitive, and we see these images Stereotypes are used over and over again when it comes to Muslim women, and they persist in American media today."
Serena Rasoul added, "This is a negative view and messages that we give to young girls, not only to Muslim girls, but to black girls in general."
Rasoul wanted to do something about it, so she worked with the Pillars Fund and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to develop a special test called Muslim Women on Screen. (Muslim Women On-Screen Test), which evaluates the representation of Muslim women in American television and film.
In this context, Serena spoke about the goals of this test, and how she hopes it will change the way Muslim women are represented in the United States, in an interview with NBR, a non-profit media organization that aims to provide an honest picture. about American society.
Serena Rasoul says, “When we developed this test, we wanted to dig deeper to find out the reasons for the common stereotype of the Muslim woman as a victim or an oppressed person, where this image is many in different patterns, but they all come in the same context. There was a previous study conducted by the Annenberg Foundation. I found that 76% of the Muslim characters who appear in American films were men, while women are almost absent, and if they appear, they are either persecuted wives, neglected girlfriends, or sad mothers. The Muslimah always appears in the same stereotypical context.
The American writer explains, "I think that Muslim women, like other women, are underrepresented on American screens, whose roles usually represent a gateway for Western audiences to enter the Islamic civilization itself, and this gate is deliberately drawn in a distorted way that does not represent the truth, and it is also An orientalist image tends to flatten the personality, depth and richness of Muslim women with the aim of distorting Islamic civilization itself, or at least conveying a false image of it.
This does not mean that there are no persecuted Muslim women, as these exist in all eastern or western societies, but when this constitutes the general majority of the already underrepresentation of Muslim women in American cinema and television, this dehumanizes the whole group.
Serena Rasoul: We want to present pictures and other facts of the Muslim women who are being hidden (American press)
What does the test seek to measure?
Serena Rasoul replies, “What we wanted to do was set a standard to say that these are some stereotypes that are overused and harmful, while providing other images and facts of Muslim women who are being omitted, so the test, with 5 simple questions, allows directors and producers who want to make a movie. To know and understand these offensive images in order to avoid them and choose the real images of Muslim women away from prejudice.
For example, the test provides an objective view that shows the great diversity that Muslim women have in the United States, away from Western stereotypes. The test also explores the different ways in which Muslim women serve and enrich society, as well as focus on the diversity of Muslim women in American society. They come from many different nationalities and ethnicities.
The test explains, "How can the Muslim woman be portrayed as expressing joy and happiness in life, in contrast to the common tragic and sad view of her as a woman who suffers from oppression and oppression, which was depicted by American cinema previously, and therefore one of the questions asked by the test is (Has a Muslim woman ever appeared expressing joy?" ?) This question resonated with a large group of Muslim women who focused on this test and contributed to its creation before it was issued, because we had not really given ourselves the space to ask this question before.
There is another excellent example - as Serena Rasoul says - which is what we call "the animated Muslim", by depicting the Muslim woman outside the framework of the home that has stuck to her on American screens, and the question here is whether the Muslim woman appears in other contexts outside the home.. Do you play sports, for example? Like diving or biking?
Showing it in such humanitarian contexts is very important to provide a three-dimensional view of Muslim women.
About her future ambitions, Rasool says, “The Muslim community is doing its part to support and raise awareness of new filmmakers and writers through organizations such as the Islamic Scholarship Fund, the Hollywood Muslim Public Affairs Council, and most recently, the Pillars Fund and MFilm Lab. But what we would really like to see is increased funding, Expanding opportunities for Muslim women to tell their own stories - stories outside the usual stereotypical context - we aspire to see stories of joy and success in work for Muslim women and various aspects of life, and these stories exist and are many, but they have been absent in American cinema and television.
The comedy series "Never Have I Ever" shows Muslim characters with different stories (communication sites)
Serena Rasoul said, "There are some positive examples of Muslim representation on the screen today, for example, the series We Are Lady Parts is a wonderful example, and it shows the diversity and richness of Muslim women as it exists today, ethnically, racially and ideologically, and it is a series that does not focus Not only on being Muslim, but also on their ways of life, work and ambitions, for example some of them try to start a rock band and so on.”
There are other series and programs as well, such as the comedy series "Never Have I Ever" and other series that show Muslim characters with different stories.
"This is the kind of representation we hope to see," Rasoul explained. "We live in normal, everyday circumstances that do not necessarily revolve around our religious identity."
Will the stereotyped image of the "oppressed" Muslim woman on American screens change in the future?Keywords: