Hollywood Loves to Hate Muslims!

It’s true. Hollywood loves to hate us, and we’ve been the bona fide bad guys at the movies for almost two decades. There must be something about those rugged manly beards and dark under tones that everyone finds so intimidating! Come on, you have to admit, when the camera pans across the bearded guy on screen, you’re shaking your head in disapproval, you know he’s up to no good! How many of you are guilty of watching a movie and assuming that the Muslim must be the villain? It’s naturally understood, because the Muslim image at the movies has been solidified to spell trouble. I’m sure it isn’t fun to be the certified bad guy, but do you think it’s time that the tides are changing? Maybe it’s just me, or has anyone else noticed that Hollywood is getting a little more mature when it comes to Muslims? We’ve spent years being the villains, are they finally going to let us pass the baton?

There’s a changing trend for the Muslim image in the entertainment industry, but those changes are still laced with stereotypical images. SPOILER ALERT! In Liam Neeson’s latest box office instalment, Nonstop, the bearded Muslim guy actually turned out to be the one who helped the most, and offered intelligent advice when it was needed. In the current season of Showtime’s Homeland, the CIA is being aided by a professional Muslim woman donning a hijab. Unfortunately though, in Nonstop, the Muslim guy was also portrayed as the shadiest at the airport terminal, and the first to be accused when the plane was high jacked. In Homeland, all the terrorists are portrayed as Muslim, except this poor little Iranian girl trying to make her presence felt at the CIA.

It’s not our fault for being so cynical; after all, we’ve been targeted the most in movies and on television. In fact, I would say that Islamophobia across North America (even the world!) has been fuelled because Hollywood stereotypes us so dramatically. With long beards and rough thobes, random Arabic phrases yelled out, and women in oversized clothes being pushed around. Whether it was movies such as Babel or Syriana, or even Disney’s Aladdin, nothing has ever been spared to make Muslims look a lot more ‘Muslim’ – someone should tell Hollywood that we shop at Old Navy too!

Movies and television need to reinvent the villain and stop pushing the exaggerated Muslim image on to the audience. This hateful trend towards Islam needs to end and evolve to portray Muslims for who we really are, and what we truly represent in the modern North American society. The audience has outgrown the great ‘Muslim bad guy’ phenomenon, and they are no longer convinced that the root of all conflicts can arise in the Middle East. It’s either that, or the Muslim population has exponentially taken over the movie goers, and we’re done being easy targets. In either case, it’s probably for the best that Hollywood finds another mark. New age directors and screenplay writers are starting to realize that even the bad guys need to have a back story, not just a beard!

Props to all those in the entertainment industry who are willing to showcase Muslims in a realistic light to reflect our actual role in today’s world! But personally, I’m still not impressed with the half hearted job that the movies and television are doing. The old Muslim image is getting a little outdated, and quite honestly, I am ready to watch something refreshingly different.  It’s time that Hollywood steps out of its own shadows and tries to reinvent the roles of Muslims in the movies!


Photo Credit:  Mercedes Rubio



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ISNA Canada is an Islamic organization committed to the mission and movement of Islam: nurturing a way of life in the light of the guidance from the Qur’an and Sunnah for establishing a vibrant presence of Muslims in Canada. ISNA exists as a platform for all Muslims who share its mission and are dedicated to serving the needs of Muslims and Muslim communities.