By Shirin Barghi, BRIC TV
Fun fact: You are more likely to die as the result of faulty furniture than by an Islamist terrorist, according to the FBI.
Many people here in the U.S. may find that hard to believe because the image they have of Muslims is one of violence and bloodshed — a stereotype that has largely been instilled by the media in recent decades and has gotten increasingly worse in the wake of 9/11.
Since as long as I can remember, American TV shows have had a longstanding obsession with Islamic terror. When I first started watching the hit show 24 as a teenager back in Iran, I remember wondering why all the Muslims are portrayed as uni-dimensional characters who are either gun-wielding religious fanatics or passive victims waiting to be saved by Kiefer Sutherland.
Many members of our community have wondered the same. In one of his most famous stand ups, Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani pointed out that “every time they show us, they show the crazy guy, right?” he said.
“On TV, always the crazy guy burning the American flag going, ‘Death to America! … Just once, I wish they would show us doing something good, like baking a cookie… ‘Hello, I am Muhammad, and I am just baking a cookie. I swear, no bombs, no nothing.’”
The negative portrayal of Muslims in the media, whether in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 or now in the age of a Trump presidency, has triggered bigotry and misinformation about Islamic values and beliefs, which has in turn contributed significantly to recent hate crimes against Muslims.
Fortunately, things are changing and a new wave of Muslim media-makers are taking control of their narrative and sharing their stories and experiences. This has led to a burgeoning media scene, which uses the power of storytelling to bridge the gap that fragments us into different cultures, different nationalities, different races, different religions.
As a Muslim journalist, I think one of the great things about working for BRIC TV is that the stories we tell aim to provide a platform for underrepresented and/or misrepresented communities and individuals. For example, we recently profiled artist Mohammed Fayaz, who talks about how both his faith and his queerness inform his work:
There are tons of great Muslim media-makers who are breaking stereotypes and telling powerful, interesting and funny stories.
Here are some of my favorites:
Aasif Mandvi -> The Daily Show alum has focused much of his work in subverting stereotypes of Muslims. His web series Halal in the Family is a sitcom parody about an all-American Muslim family. It’s also a tool to support existing campaigns to combat anti-Muslim bias.
Brown girls -> The upcoming web series by Fatimah Asghar follows Leila, a South Asian-American writer just now owning her queerness and her best friend Patricia, a sex-positive Black-American musician who is struggling to commit to anything: job, art and relationships.
Zahra Noorbakhsh -> Zahra Noorbakhsh is an Iranian-American comedian, writer, actor and co-host of the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast, which delves into the female Muslim experience.
Shugs and Fats -> a cultural commentary and slapstick comedy navigating the absurdities of social conformity through the curious, loud-mouthed perspective of two veiled women
Dean Obeidallah -> Palestinian-Italian comedian and host of SiriusXM radio's The Dean Obeidallah Show, the only daily national radio show hosted by a Muslim American. He was also a co-creator of the feature film The Muslims are Coming, which tracked a group of Muslim comedians trying to bridge the divide in red states.
Hasan Minhaj -> Senior correspondent of the Daily Show
Ali Abbas (The Ridge) -> Writer, actor, and creator of the Ridge, a darkly comic scifi web series revolving around young group of Muslim American friends in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Kerning Cultures -> a podcast featuring stories of culture, history, philosophy, science, and entrepreneurship from the Middle East for a more complete narrative of the region.
Secret Life of Muslims -> Joshua Seftel’s series explores the stories of Muslims renown muslims in arts, culture science and academia to talk about their experience.
I hope you've enjoyed this roundup of some of my favorite media-makers who are Muslim, and that you'll share your favorites in the comments.
Shirin Barghi is a journalist and engagement editor at BRIC TV.