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Muslim Writers Call for Positive Portrayal in Media

HOLLYWOOD – In collaboration with Hollywood Bureau at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) in Lower Manhattan, the Writers Guild of America East hosted a panel on March 25 that calls for a better media portrayal of Muslims, Hollywood Reporter reports.

“There’s some wonderful representation that’s happening in the industry, but the little that we’re seeing isn’t nearly enough,” director of MPAC’s Hollywood bureau, Sue Obeidi said.

Obeidi said that MPAC has consulted on Muslim portrayal in some series including Grey’s Anatomy, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, The Affair, and The Looming Tower.

MPAC hosted the 90-minute panel to shed light on current bright spots of Muslim representation in American media.

The event also emphasized the need for improvement and offered insight for the audience of aspiring writers and industry peers on the next steps necessary to accomplish those goals.

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“We’re excited about the momentum that’s happening in the industry, and we don’t want this to be a fleeting moment but a movement towards not only inclusion but respect and appreciation of the Muslim community,” he continued.

The event included a discussion with Muslim writers and creators like Negin Farsad of ‘The Muslims Are Coming!’, Farhan Arshad of ‘CBS Man With a Plan’, Amber Fares of ‘America Inside Out With Katie Couric’, and Maysoon Zayid, a disability advocate and founder of the annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.

Muslim Writers Call for Positive Portrayal in Media - About Islam

From left: Amber Fares, Farhan Arshad, Maysoon Zayid, Negin Farsad and Sue Obeidi

Thoughts & Solutions

Arshad noted that media has succeeded in shifting opinions in several concepts, adding that expanded positive portrayals of the Muslim community will similarly lead to changed sentiment.

“Any time I’ve had a preconceived notion about someone, it’s always gone away once I’ve gotten to know that person,” he said. “TV is the way you get to know people if you don’t know them in your own life.”

Another discussed solution was to build narratives involving Muslim characters without the story being exclusively about their Muslim experience, Farsad said.

“I think the other thing that we can do as writers and performers isn’t put a pressure on ourselves to write stories where the point of the story is that we’re Muslim and the point of the story is that we’re Middle Eastern. That’s the other thing that I would love to see, where we’re not fetishizing the fact that we’re Muslim,” she thinks.

Zayid expressed concern for what she’s seen as a pattern of “lack of knowledge, lack of curiosity in the writers’ room from non-Muslim creatives and how she’s often needed to stand up against that lack of curiosity.”

“We’ve to take seriously the fact that the Muslim community is physically and violently under siege in this country,” she said.

“One of the things that’s going to protect our safety is having positive, accessible images of Muslims on TV that instead of otherizing us, make us the person you wanna bang.”