These days, Muslims don't have to look so far to find references to them in the media. From American Gods to Prison Break, there are hidden allusions in all types of shows; the problem is, they're not always so positive. In light of all the negativity, we thought we'd send some positivity your way and give you list of 5 positive Islamic references from the entertainment world. Keep a look out for the bonus at the end...
1. Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
What can one say about Kamala Khan? When she was announced in 2013, Muslim fans of the Marvel comic series, 'Ms Marvel' were ecstatic about the new hero. Born in New Jersey to parents of Pakistani origin, Kamala was born with the 'Inhuman gene' which gives her the ability to polymorph. Apart from the standard superhero storyline, her tale engages with the everyday challenges of a teenage Muslim girl, and how her faith is an important part of her identity as a superhero. Kamala Khan is an important attempt to normalise the American/Muslim experience and give an idea of what goes on in their everyday life.
2. Rurouni Kenshin
Anyone who's a fan of Anime must have seen or at least heard about the classic Rurouni Kenshin manga/anime series. Set in the Meiji period of Japanese history, the series explores the new life that Kenshin, a wandering samurai, engages on. What you may not know is that in one episode, the life of the prince of Jagarta (Jakarta) is at stake, Kenshin being Kenshin, takes it upon himself to protect him. Engaging with the boy's strange customs opens the protagonist and his friends to a whole new perspective. During this time period, Jakarta was ruled by a Muslim sultanate from Java. Java has a 90% Muslim population, after gaining precedence during the 17th century. The prince's strange customs, which are alluded to in the series, may be an iteration of the traditional Muslim greeting, the Salaam. A very quiet reference to Islam, but nontheless an interesting glimpse of how the Japanese saw Muslims through history.
3. Dust (Sooraya Qadir)
Another comic book superhero from the Marvel franchise, Dust is a part of the X-Men and regularly accompanies them on their missions. Her powers include the ability to turn to sand in an instant. Oh, she also wears the Niqab. Dust made her first appearance after being saved from a kidnapping by Wolverine. Originally from Afghanistan, Dust uses her powers to do good, often appearing and reappearing by speaking the word 'Turab' (which means earth, or soil, but used in place of dust). What makes her stand out as a member of the X-men is her commitment to her Niqab. Often questioned regarding it, her responses are a refreshing clarification of why the Niqab is her choice.
4. Cowboy Bebop
This short series explores a future where space travel and commercialisation are the norm, and bounty hunting is the business to be in. This anime only produced 26 episodes, however it's the movie that brings the small Muslim/Arab neighbourhood of Moroccan street into the spotlight. Without revealing the details of the plot too much, 'Rashid' who plays a vital part in essentially saving the city, helps the main protagonist find the cure to a virus that is spreading. Rashid is a major part of his community, engaging with the elders and the children as he and Spike (the main protagonist) stroll through the neighbourhood. The interesting thing about the scenes depicting the Moroccan street, is the (mostly) correct usage of the Arabic language, and Arabic signage. Granted some of the lettering is just random symbols (cant have it all eh?), however most of the signage is accurate hand written arabic, which is a nice touch to a movie that seeks to bring about certain level of realism to this future-world.
5. Star Wars
Well, you can't talk about Muslims in the media without talking about Star Wars, so I may have substituted our fifth spot for the epic space opera. References to Muslims are all over this famous franchise that spans the big screen, small screen, and print media. Probably the most epic thing about Star Wars is that the Jedi are actually based on Muslims! While doing research for what he wanted the Jedi to be, George Lucas encountered the Muslims of Tunisia. Their spiritual vigour mixed with their unwavering principles convinced Lucas, and the Jedi were born. Their mannerisms and dress are reminiscent of the 'Alawi Sufi order, with phrases such as 'May the force be with you' being influenced by, 'May Allah be with you'. Keep an eye out and you may even spot a 'Hijabi' or two within the series.
Those were just 5 examples that I thought were neat highlights, there are plenty more out there. It's important in this day and age to have accurate representation in media that doesn't fall into the typecast stereotype of the extremist or the 'pseudo-muslim'. If you have any other examples that come to mind, let us know via our Twitter or Facebook to add to the list.
As a bonus, I'll leave you with this Ibn Rushd quote that is interestingly similar to a quote from Master Yoda...
Author: Eissa Dar