Amina Elmi

The Portrayal of Muslims In the Media, A Personal Response from Amina Elmi

 

Diversity in the media is already a huge issue that is still largely unsolved. As a Muslim, I have found that Muslims are often neglected from talks about diversity. This article aims to start a discussion on why this is and what needs to be done. Even the smallest gradual change will make a difference and will celebrate Britain as a multi-cultural nation.

In the media, we see Muslims play the role of terrorist number 3, speaking in a foreign tongue to intimidate the viewer. Many television shows and films are guilty of this. It’s tiring, stereotypical and only helps to further Islamophobia rhetoric. If that is the only version of Muslims people see, then it is no wonder that people harbour such negative views to a religion they know little about expect from what the media has shown them. Bigotry flourishes in this environment which is why change is required now more than ever.

As well as spreading prejudiced views, it is also giving the younger generation of Muslims the idea that they do not belong. With little to no representation it leaves young Muslims to perceive that the there is no play for them in the media industry. By excluding them, a whole narrative is missing, a unique perspective that won’t be shared. Yes, anyone can write a Muslim character or play one, but they will not be able to understand the unique British Muslim experience. It’s a whole generation of young people only seeing negative portrayals of themselves and accepting that’s how society sees them.

The solution? Muslims in influential roles such as directors and producers. Perhaps most crucially writers. Muslim writers have the ability to write from their own experiences that would resonate to not just Muslim viewers but to everyone. We have far more common than what divides us. If negative perceptions are tackled, then less people will be influenced by bigotry and unjustified hate. With the creation of more Muslim roles we could have more Muslim actors and actresses breaking into the industry.

However, we have seen an emergence of Muslim characters in the past few years. Riz Ahmed, whose career has exploded in the past year has grown from strength to strength. Raised in a Muslim family, he has starred in the Star Wars and The Night Of, the latter earning him a Golden Globe nomination. He is even an advocate of more representation. I highly recommended his speech to Parliament on the lack of diversity in Britain.

Watch Riz Ahmed warn Parliament about the danger of failing to improve TV diversity

Another example of positive Muslim representation, perhaps the most significant is Kamala Khan. A Marvel female Muslim superhero. It is difficult to get across how outstanding and crucial Ms Marvel (a.k.a Kamala Khan) is. She is the superhero the world needs right now.

I am envious of the young girls who get to grow up with a hero that they can see themselves reflected in. Yet I am more overjoyed that she exists and is inspiring girls all over the world.

However, this is a starting point. We need more positive Muslim representation in the media to overpower the toxic portrayals that are being shown today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ms._Marvel_(Kamala_Khan)

http://www.vox.com/culture/2017/2/2/14457384/kamala-khan-captain-america-protest-icon

  • Amina Elmi, @queenchester, Young Critic
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    Diversity in the Media by Amina Elmi

    14010047_10209116700507288_1086472829_nWe live in a multi-cultural society with rich cultural heritage that is not being reflected on-screen. This needs to change. There is no excuse good or enough reason to justify the lack of representation in the media in this day and age.

    Representation matters to people like me. People who want positive role models that we could relate to. That’s why when I was younger, I was hooked into any show where I saw a black female character. No matter the quality of the show or how it was written. This was because it was such a rarity to see this. Unfortunately for me, writers would try to pander to their audience by feeding them stereotypes of sassy angry black women. The negative stereotypes are not just a problem for black viewers. Minorities are consistently forced into stereotypical roles that society perceives them to be. These characters would be less important, predictable and ultimately unnecessary. One reason for this is the lack of diversity behind the scenes. How can straight white writers relate to the experiences of minorities?

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    Even when minorities are cast they are faced with prejudiced voices speaking up to raise their objections. Some may remember when John Boyega was cast as a Stormtrooper in Star Wars. The global outcry of racists exclaimed “White Genocide” and that the film studio was conforming to the “PC Agenda” Boyega was bombarded to with hatred fuelled racist tweets. Does their imagination not stretch enough for other ethnicities or is it limited at intergalactic wars?

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    Cast member Kristen Wiig at the LA Premiere of Ghostbusters.

    Another example of fury when Diversity is applied was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot. “They’re ruining my childhood” cried familiar prejudiced voices. Their childhood is over and has been for quite a while now. What they are neglecting to notice is that this movie has provided a younger generation with strong female role models. It seems that whenever diversity is enforced there is backlash. How can change be implemented if we are met by defiance at every turn?

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    Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange

    Ridiculously, ethnic minorities are even unable to get cast in non-white roles. This is called Whitewashing and it occurs when a white actor is cast in the role of a non-white character. It is not uncommon for this to happen. A recent example of this is the upcoming Marvel Movie Doctor Strange. Tilda Swinton plays an Asian character in this film. Essentially the film will be a “white woman teaching a white man Asian culture.” There is no debate on the capabilities of Swinton. She is a talented actress but she is simply unsuitable for this role. If people of colour are losing non-white roles to white actors, then what hope do they really have?

    An argument against diversity is that it is too much of risk to cast minorities. Studios fear losing viewers and money. However diverse televisions shows and films are advantageous to studios and have a track record of being successful. Television shows that have a diverse cast have higher ratings. Examples of this include ‘Scandal’, ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. Films coincide with this. Those with diverse casts make notably more money. For example, the extremely popular ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise. The summer blockbuster ‘Suicide Squad’ saw found that 39% of its ticket buyers were Black and Hispanic. The movie boasted a diverse and multi-cultural cast.

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    The cast of Suicide Squad

    We know that diversity does work and that it is not a risk. So why does Hollywood remain white?

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      Review Agent Carter, Ep1 Season1 by Amina Elmi

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      The Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated the box office over these past few years and it is only getting stronger. It seems only fitting that it spreads to the small screen as well. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is about to start its 3rd series in September and many fans are looking forward to it. Agents of SHIELD has created the path for Marvel’s latest series Agent Carter.

      Agent Carter continues on with some of the most loved characters from the first Captain America film. The first episode begins where the movie ended. We see a heartbroken Peggy attempting to move with her life after the loss of Steve.

      The show is set after the Second World War where Peggy Carter continues to work as an agent. After Peggy’s work in the war, you would at least think she would be treated equally by her co-workers, unfortunately not. Every day she battles sexism as well as the bad guys.

      What I like most about Agent Carter is that it provides a role model for girls. Agent Carter is a strong, fearless woman who does not need anyone’s approval. Watching the show gives you a feeling that being a woman is not a disadvantage, it is an opportunity to show the world that you are just as capable.

      I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the President’s. I know my value; anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” – Agent Carter S1 Ep8

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      Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter brilliantly. She embodies what it is to be a strong woman. The fight scenes are choreographed really well and it is comforting to see a women kick-ass. Hayley is also really entertaining on social media. She is always engaging with fans, making funny videos and generally making people smile.

      Agent Carter has taken the world by storm. Its success has allowed another series with more episodes for fans to enjoy. Even looking through pictures of San Diego Comic Con, I don’t think that many people have ever cos-played the same character. I am a massive fan of Agent Carter and can’t wait for what she gets up to next.

      Agent Carter can be seen on Fox at 9pm on Sunday evenings in the UK.

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        Review Trouble, Non Pratt by Amina Elmi

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        Trouble was completely different from the books I normally read. I had gotten tired of books about dystopian worlds and dramatic love stories so I decided I needed a change.

        Trouble is written with a witty sense of humour that doesn’t fail to entertain. Despite it being about teenage pregnancy which is usually talked about with seriousness, you can’t help but giggle at how certain characters are portrayed.

        The characters are in this book are quite something. Tyrone and Fletch are two who are especially vulgar, but they represent what a teenage boy’s hormones are sometimes like. The way they both refer to sex and girls made me question their sanity at times. I couldn’t help laughing at times

        The character Aaron was the main reason I chose to read Trouble. After reading the blurb I just wanted to know what on earth would possess you to claim to be the father of someone’s baby you barely know. Aaron was a bit of mystery. He had a shady past that he didn’t talk about, which made me all the more curious. I do have to admit, I did fall in love with this character. I loved how he stood up for Hannah and her unborn child. I loved that he had this bond with an elderly man he visited. I think everyone needs an Aaron in their lives.

        Then there was mini mystery. Who is the father? I needed to know. I didn’t dare put the book down. I had an idea of who I thought it was and I felt like Sherlock Holmes when I had it right.

        I loved this book and I can’t wait to discover more books by Non Pratt.

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          Review In Time O’Strife, National Theatre of Scotland by Amina Elmi

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          Credit Andy Ross

          It was pure coincidence that I was  learning about the miners strike in school when I went to go watch the production of In Time O’Strife by National Theatre of Scotland at the Sherman Theatre. I already knew some facts about the strike, but the production gave me the ability to see it from a miners point of view.

          Through the rhythmic music and the choreography I could see the struggles and hardships the miners and their families had to face.  At times the music was joyous and made me want to get up and join in with the dancing, but other times I could feel the fear and desperation the miners must have felt. Every voice that sang enchanted me into the world of the play through song. The choreography by Imogen Knight was genius. It captured pain and frustration perfectly. The stomping of the feet during the movement sections particularly stood out for me.

          The set designed by Graham McLaren (who also adapted and directed this production) was in a vintage style  and fitted the era the production was set in expertly.  I noticed a small TV screen counting the amount of days the miners had been on strike. First it was 185, then 192 and lastly 199 days. This made me think about how hard the strike must have been not only for  the miners, but their families too.

          The strike caused what I assume is a close community to fall apart. The choice between starvation or to be shunned by everyone you know consumes them all. I saw that especially from the character Jock played by John Kazek.

          I know that I wouldn’t be able to be as strong as the miners during the strike, but you should all watch this performance to decide for yourselves. Especially if you enjoy music and history.

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            Review of Romeo and Juliet Sherman Cymru by Amina Elmi

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            Scott as Reid Mercutio

            Photo credit: Mark Douet

            When I thought of Romeo and Juliet, I used to think about pointless deaths and nauseating romance. That all changed when I went to see the Sherman Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet directed by Rachel O’Riordan on October 3rd.

            One of things I will not be forgetting about anytime soon are the costumes. The characters in the play  were dressed in modern clothing, that wasn’t much different to what my friends and I wear. The costumes and the music created a modern feel to the play that the audience and I could connect to.

            My favourite scene had to be during the Capulet party. Romeo played by Chris Gordon and Juliet played by Sophie Melville  were in a  passionate embrace, but what really caught my eye was how the characters in the background danced in time to the music. It was very subtle, but extremely effective.

            My favourite performance was the solid acting from Mercutio played by Scott Reid. I loved how he was bold and demonstrated the bromance between himself and Romeo  perfectly.  His most powerful scene was when he was killed by Tybalt played by Luke Eliott Bridgeman and yelled “A curse on both your houses” As an audience member I sympathised with his character who got caught up in a feud that ultimately led to his untimely death.

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            LukeElliot  Bridgeman as Tybalt

            Linden Walcott-Burton as Benvolio

            Photo credit: Mark Douet

            I’m not a fan of romance normally, but the chemistry between Romeo and Juliet  was as clear as day. Their forbidden love caused by their families mutual hatred  was heart wrenching. During their final scene when Juliet plunged the weapon into her side, a small part of me prayed that they would reunite in a fictional afterlife.

            I really enjoyed the production of Romeo and Juliet and recommended it to all my friends, I do the same to you.

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