In 1993 Aladdin was just another Disney story of a prince and a princess. Sure it was set in the Theocractic Iran, the main characters were part of a Muslim aristocracy, and justice was measured out with the sword. But that didn’t seem to matter back then. Aladdin was just another profoundly human tale of rags to riches, love conquering all, singing, dancing, and celebrity voice-overs. And maybe it relied on some over-the-top stereotypes, but what Disney movie doesn’t?
Post 9-11 Disney would likely think twice before releasing a blockbuster with all Muslim characters. In fact, it is nearly impossible to see Movies, TV, or News with well rounded Muslims. Why isn’t Al-Jezeera, one of the most respected news outlets in the world, part of the American 24 hour news cycle? Even the most tokenizing shows on TV (Glee, Modern Family, and the Simpsons) rarely if ever feature a lovable Muslim.
This problem was on full display last week as Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, held a public hearing examining: “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response”.
My friend Deeqo Mohamud told me, “American Media suffers from Islamophobia, and as a Somali American I, like so many Muslim American who live this Country, are constantly reminded that we don’t belong in because of our religion.” American media has such a powerful impact on how we view race and religion. We need to hear stories about profoundly human and lovably diverse Muslims, or else voices like Representative King’s will will the day.
Here are a couple of my favorite Muslims in Media:
1) Brother Ali
Thanks to Deeqo Mohamud for helping contribute to this article.