Muslims challenge stereotypes, turn to pop culture to 'take back power' | Spare News

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Muslims challenge stereotypes, turn to pop culture to 'take back power' | Spare News

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This article has been updated to include the disclosure.

Muslim journalist and author Adnan Khan does not consider himself an activist.

But when the opportunity presented itself to be part of a Muslim team of all-creatives and professionals who challenged the Muslim stereotype in pop culture, the “common language” of society, he had no choice but to seize it. did.

“I had to buy into it because there are a lot of really interesting people in this cohort… doing really positive work and it’s going to really benefit everyone,” she told the foundation.

“I want to connect with other Muslim artists and writers. That’s my main goal: to see how we own[our stories].”

Similarly, for Yasmine Kanji, a filmmaker with Muslim influences, beyond the cartoonish depictions of Aladdin and the terrorist tropes of other films like Rambo, he is “the breath of the Muslim experience.” It was a chance to show

“We are all programmed to see Muslims in a certain way by the information we get from the media,” she says. Or the “monolithic” view that Bedouin terrorists living in the desert are creating, much more entrenched since 9/11.

“But now that we are at a time when Muslims are finally getting their place in the media, we need to listen to those who are finally starting to tell their stories.”

building infrastructure

Since August, 17 creatives/professionals and 3 facilitators have explored the question, “What does Muslim identity look like?” while finding collaborative ways to break down these stereotypes. To that end, we hold virtual meetings every other week.

But that’s a lofty question, says program manager Angie Barata. Because there was no space where “Muslims came together to discuss these things in this kind of format.” Linguistic background, even professional path.

“So we deconstructed the idea of ​​’narrative’ to its core, which is the narrative system,” said Bharata.

“What are the values ​​that connect people? What is it that connects us so that we can start building the bigger story?”

The first step was to identify their commonalities in order to “recognise, disentangle, identify and overcome” what Bharata calls “internalized Islamophobia.”

They do this not only through conversations with each other, but also with invited and accomplished guests from various arts and cultural sectors, exploring the possibilities of ‘what can be done’ when the mold is broken. .

But it’s more than just an abstract conversation, says Sadia Zaman, CEO of the foundation. Building the physical infrastructure that enables these conversations in the first place, she says, is essential for systemic change to occur.

“One of the fundamental parts of fighting any organizational problem is the actual infrastructure. ‘ she adds. A member of the cohort said, “This may be the first time I’ve been in a room with other Muslim creatives in Canada.”

It has been seen

In February, the Black Screen Office released a report that it was being watched. This reflects how the underrepresented community perceives itself as being affected by (false) representation on screen, and what it means to have “authentic and representative content.” This is the first time I have investigated the meaning of See the report here:

As with the Foundation’s lab, the report said, “For many participants … this was the first time we asked them how they felt about what they were seeing on screens in Canada and elsewhere.”

“It was the first time they had met people like themselves and had conversations with other people who shared their concerns and lived experiences. I thought we had more in common than differences.”

After 400 interviews with a diverse group of marginalized communities, some of the main themes identified were the lack of storyline and character complexity. The importance of authentic casting and what you can do to achieve it. The impact of lack or omission of representation on Canadian audiences.

The report provides specific “directives” for broadcasters, digital platforms, streaming services, funders and distributors to “offer a common response to creators and producers.”

“This ensures consensus and early, thoughtful adoption of directives, rather than trying to incorporate directives before a project hits the market.” Dismantle the current structure and build this new world. ”

changing story

This lab is the first step into that new world, where cohort members will have a better understanding of how to challenge current narratives in their work, have an established network, and reach a wider audience each time. It is hoped that it will be possible.

“Now we have to top the agency with these stories. We have to create them and push them,” says Khan.

“Hopefully we’re all back in independent practice feeling stronger. I feel like there’s a community that listens to us and allows us to bounce ideas around.”

More bluntly, Zaman says the lab is the first step toward regaining power. It is about challenging the dynamics of power that perpetuate these stereotypes in the first place.

“At the end of the day, representation when we say diversity is meaningless without power,” she stresses.

“Diversity is never enough unless you have the social capital to actually manage resources, approve projects, and have the highest level of conversation.”

Yet, as Khan points out, “There are no production companies, publishers or boards with people of color in some positions of power.”

Last November, the Journalist Association of Canada released a groundbreaking report showing that “almost half of Canada’s newsrooms employ exclusively white journalists.”

Until that starts to change across the industry, Khan says, the narrative will remain largely at the whim of white “gatekeepers… who seem to lead the charge to diversify the narrative.”

“But they’re looking for stories they understand[and]have seen before. So we’re being told these clichés about tolerance, multiculturalism, what we are .”

BIPOC moment

It won’t change overnight, but the idea, Bharata says, is to strike while the iron is hot and network with anyone who will listen.

“Anyone I find as an ally, I will befriend them and tell them all about Islam,” she says seriously with a laugh.

“I think we have a moment here. It’s not just a Muslim moment, it’s a BIPOC moment. While people want to change things, we probably have an opportunity to change things.” I think.”

Full Disclosure: Sadia Zaman, CEO of Inspirit, is a member of NCM’s Advisory Board.