This month saw the debut of Ms Marvel, a superhero series about a Pakistani-American girl who discovers fantastic powers. Understandably, many Muslims find it difficult to contain their enthusiasm.
But while “Ms Marvel” proving you can make solid TV about Muslims, often sensitive and nuanced and thoughtful, the sad truth is it couldn’t be more where this is coming from.
That’s not to say I’m not too pleased that an entertainment giant like Disney has poured serious resources into a series revolving around a proud Muslim character. That the show received so much acclaim proves that it’s not only doable, it’s too late.
I am happy for the countless Muslim girls – and young people from all walks of life – who now have this world to seek refuge and find strength in.
Not to mention the character of Kamala is played by Muslim actors and the show is assisted by other Muslim artists, writers and creators. who brought this concept? to reality.
But Disney and Marvel appropriately feature multiple characters. So even for all their passionate embrace of our diversity, how much time, space, and resources can we expect America’s secular society to continue to devote itself to channeling the depths of Muslim diversity and history?
For understandable reasons, that’s not a route a company like Disney could hope to—or even should—take. Disney must achieve everything the audience.
And then, of course, we don’t live in an ideal world.
‘Ms Marvel’ has already generated suspicious online reviews and ratings, strongly suggesting Islamophobia. Not to mention the clumsy political calculations a company like Disney has to make — some of its own internal positions have invited painful sanctions by external political forces. In a time of Islamophobia and so much American polarization, how much leeway does Disney have?
That’s why, while the latest Marvel series is a welcome development, to truly humanize Muslims through popular culture, we need more. We need Muslims to tell their own stories; to share the diversity, richness and complexity of their communities — but with their own voices, so that those who only encounter Muslims through obscene reporting have a new point of reference.
This is even more important when you consider how a lack of humanization has helped fuel tensions in places as diverse as India and France.
Don’t get me wrong: “Ms Marvel” is a big step in the right direction. But how many more Muslim characters can we bring to life on our screens? How can they begin to resonate on a human level with the next generation of young global entertainment consumers? And creating new role models for young Muslims – especially Muslim girls – in the process?
A big part of the solution is to empower young Muslims to become content creators themselves, to create their own stories. This is a mission I am dedicated to fulfilling.
By losing the role models I needed as a young Muslim, it forced me to ensure that the next generation did not have to endure this challenge. That’s why I helped launch a new streaming service called Qalbox – a Muslim Pro project, the world’s largest Muslim lifestyle app with 120 million downloads.
Investing in empowering future generations of Muslim writers, producers, directors and actors by using digital tools to pass on skills and knowledge that some people take for granted – but sadly inaccessible to many marginalized communities – will signal a cultural shift. we need for a long time.
And in the process, we hope to tell the most authentic stories and depictions of Muslims in popular culture.
This is not only because there is a clear link between Muslim perceptions and hate crimes. But because – as “Ms Marvel” explains, so many amazing Muslim stories are waiting to be told.
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