#20YearsSince9/11: Twitter reflects on worst pop culture portrayals of Muslims

A US-based media outlet asked the question on Twitter to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks

Entertainment Desk September 12, 2021

The events of September 11 2001 transformed how Muslims were perceived by and portrayed on mainstream media. While stereotyping has always been an issue in pop culture, 9/11 led to some rather inaccurate representation of Muslims in the media, particularly in the west. On the 20th anniversary of the attack, a media outlet in the US tweeted asking users what they believe the worst pop culture portrayals of Muslims have been in the two decades since 9/11. From labelling pretty much every language spoken in the Middle East and South Asia as Arabic, to the often regurgitated caricature of the Muslim terrorist, Twitter users had several on-screen examples of inaccurate Muslim representation in their arsenal.

One user shared a short video clip from the Netflix Why Are You Like This? in which the Muslim character says Bismillah and breaks her fast with a shot of alcohol.

Another mentioned Morgan Freeman’s character in Robin Hood, who implies that Muslims pray to the sun when he says, “Is there no sun in this cursed country?” The Twitter user wrote, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). Morgan Freeman played ‘Azeem’. They put zero effort in learning how a simple Muslim prays and the results were hilariously offensive.”

Speaking of praying, another user shared a clip from this unknown anime where Muslims instantly drop to the ground at the first sound of the azaan. Also, the Muslims are devoid of any and all colour. They are quite literally grey, as opposed to the non-Muslims.

A user shared a screenshot from a video game in which the Arabic text wasn’t even properly formatted, with each letter in the script being written separately. The tweet read, “Literally any movie, TV series or video game where they are so lazy that no one bothers to buy a word editor or proper font support for Adobe which allows them to write Arabic script properly instead of separate letters thrown together.”

Another spoke about the erasure of language diversity amongst Muslims on screen, writing, "Anytime a media shows Muslims talking in a language that isn't Arabic, but is labelled Arabic in the subtitled."

Highlighting the white saviour trope, a user tweeted, “The Muslim falling in love with the white Christian boy to save her from her parents’ oppression”

“Yeah, they all suck. Muslim characters are either the token liberated Muslim character or a terrorist. If they do have a good Muslim character, they’re usually portrayed by someone who is not of the same faith,” wrote an exasperated user.

Another user shared the sentiment, tweeting about the stereotypical Muslims in media. “There’s the three B’s syndrome: billionaires, bombers, and belly dancers. Then there’s the negative portrayal of Muslim women, and I don’t know where to begin. Basically, Muslims are underrepresented, and when they are represented, it’s negative, naïve, and derogatory,” they wrote.

However, there was some positivity sprinkled into the mix. One user pointed out the character of Dr Rahul Nadeem from Marvel’s Daredevil. “One of my faves is Detective Rahul Nadeem from Daredevil, a really nice principled family guy conflicted by fisk’s corruption,” they tweeted.

In the same vein, another user tweeted about Christopher Lee as Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Despite the fact that the character was played by a white man, for this user, the portrayal did justice to the character. They tweeted, “Literally every single one. I don't think there's ever been a positive or meaningful portrayal of a Muslim except Muhammad Ali Jinnah played by Christopher Lee in Jinnah. That being said he did him justice so I'll allow it just this once.”



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