It’s an understatement to say that stereotypes are rampant in the media. Muslims are an underrepresented group, and when they are represented… let’s just say those representations are not so flattering. Fortunately, there are some—and I mean some—Muslim characters out there who are not-so-problematic and even a few who are inspirational. Below is a list of eight Muslim characters who won’t make you want to scream:
1.Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel comics
Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American teenage shapeshifter who debuted as Marvel’s first Muslim headliner back in 2013. The problems she deals with—parents who are a bit restrictive and a conservative brother—may run the risk of being stereotypical, but from personal experience, I can say I related. Kamala’s story is one that is specific, yet universal. She’s about to get her own Disney+ series, too.
2. Abed Nadir, Community
Abed (Danny Pudi) is more famous for the fact that he might be neuro-atypical than for the fact that he’s Muslim. The film buff doesn’t mention his faith a lot, and it’s possible that he’s not particularly observant. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not important to him. Plenty of people consider themselves culturally part of a faith and that’s a meaningful type of character to represent as well.
3. Naya Temple, Counterpart
Counterpart is a spy thriller set in two parallel worlds. Naya (Betty Gabriel) is an agent who must deal with her faith as it relates to these two worlds. One thing that makes Gabriel’s character particularly important as far as representation is that she is Black. The majority of Muslims in the US are Black Americans and yet, most Muslims we see on TV are Arab or vaguely Middle Eastern.
4. Sana Bakkoush, Skam
Skam (“Shame” in English) is a really popular Norwegian teen drama (it’s pretty easy to find English subtitled versions on the net). Sana lives a life I think a lot of teens can relate to—she lives her truth: no hooking up, no drinking, but she still goes to parties and has fun with her friends. She (Iman Meskini) is, unfortunately, the only hijabi on this list (for reference, about 35% of American Muslim women wear hijab). Also cool, Iman herself is a hijabi.
5. Zari Tarazi, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
Zari Adrianna has been part of the DC universe for quite some time. But the character, played by Tala Ashe, first appeared in the CW show’s third season. When first introduced, she’s a hactivist wanted for many crimes, including practicing her Muslim faith.
6. Sayid, Superstore
This half-hour comedy has never shied away from social issues, which is why it’s no surprise that season four introduced Sayid (Amir M. Korangy), who is a Syrian refugee. Other people’s ignorance, rather than Sayid’s status or religion, is the butt of the joke.
7. Malcolm X, Malcolm X
The 1992 biopic about civil rights activist Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) is a classic. There were initial concerns about how his religion would be portrayed. However, the film has been praised as nuanced portrayal of Malcolm X.
8. Hasan Minhaj, Patriot Act
Yeah, I know. He’s not a character, but Hasan is such great Muslim rep, I had to include him. His show, Patriot Act, isn’t about being Muslim and yet— as the daughter of an immigrant from a Muslim country, I relate so hard. Many of his jokes are so specific to our experiences.
Whew. A Muslim characters list was a difficult list to compile. Which means that we’ve got a long way to go before Muslims are just part of the rainbow of people in the media. To those creating and working on it, my hat’s off to you. And to those celebrating, Ramadan kareem!
This article was originally published on 5/8/20