Riz Ahmed attempts to reform way Muslims are presented in movies

Riz Ahmed

After a survey revealed that Muslims are seldom featured in movies and are represented in a poor light when they are, British actor Riz Ahmed started an attempt on Thursday to reform the way Muslims are presented in them.

The Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion, according to Riz Ahmed, the star of Sound of Metal and the first Muslim to get an Oscar nomination for best actor, would include financing and coaching for Muslim storytellers in the early phases of their careers.

“The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded,” Riz Ahmed said in a statement. “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,” Riz added.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s research, titled “Missing and Maligned,” revealed that fewer than 10% of top-grossing films released in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand from 2017 to 2019 had at least one speaking Muslim character.

The research found that when they did, they were depicted as outsiders, dangerous, or subordinate. Approximately one-third of Muslim characters were violent offenders, while more than half were violent targets.

“Muslims live all over the world, but film audiences only see a narrow portrait of this community, rather than viewing Muslims as they are: business owners, friends and neighbors whose presence is part of modern life,” said Al-Baab Khan, one of the report’s authors.

Ahmed, who was born in London to Pakistani parents, believes that providing money will be transformative in terms of attracting more Muslim performers, writers, and producers to the film and television industry.

“Had I not received a scholarship and also a private donation, I wouldn’t have been able to attend drama school,” he said.

An advisory council comprised of actors Mahershala Ali and Ramy Youssef, as well as comedian Hasan Minhaj, will decide on the $25,000 scholarships for young Muslim artists.

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