×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Islam Needs Hollywood. No, Really.

Commend Hollywood for having the good sense to use the soapbox provided by the Golden Globes this past Sunday to speak out in myriad ways about the importance of tolerance in our post-Charlie Hebdo world.

But there’s more this industry could do.

That’s because in the wake of the tragedy in Paris, the world is asking itself some tough questions about Islam. While the warped ideology that inspired the men who murdered 12 Charlie Hebdo staffers and four hostages in France last week has little if anything to do with the Muslim mainstream, that distinction isn’t so clear to some given these extremists’ professed reverence for the prophet Muhammad. As one recent headline read in the New York Times, “Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?“: It’s necessary for columnists like Nicholas Kristof to even argue against the premise.

But it’s not hard to see why those who would disagree with Kristof would reach that conclusion. Given the volume of terrorists who have committed hideous acts of violence in the name of Allah over the years, there will be those who will be convinced there is something intrinsically problematic about Islam if it is linked to so much hatred and bloodshed.

But that’s a leap in logic steeped in ignorance. And that ignorance is rooted partly in an unfamiliarity with Muslims.

Could Hollywood help remedy that? In the wake of a tragedy borne from a dastardly desire to silence freedom of speech, there’s a crying need for an artistic expression of a very different kind than Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire.

What is needed now is more depictions of average Muslims in popular culture. Not the kind ripped from the headlines that paints them as violent zealots but the kind that shows them to be the normal friends, neighbors, business associates, etc., that millions of them are all over this nation.

Would there even be a question of whether the evil radicals who took the lives of innocents were any kind of reflection on Muslims in general if more people, particularly non-Muslims in the U.S., had any sense of what average Muslims are actually like?

Lacking any normative alternative, it’s almost understandable that people lapse into lazy, dangerous stereotypes. Too many associate Islam with the actions of a radical fringe because of the absence of cultural signposts that modern Muslims exist, breathe, love and eat just like the rest of us.

Muslim movie or TV characters who aren’t extremists in political dramas have always been in painfully short supply, which truly screams an opportunity for Hollywood. How fresh and interesting would it be to see, say, a family sitcom not unlike ABC’s upcoming series “Fresh Off the Boat,” only with Muslims instead of Taiwanese individuals.

It’s easy to mock an oversimplification of this sentiment: Give Muslims a sitcom and prejudice will vanish, right? But in some small way…yes, that’s exactly the point.

Way back in 2007, there was a short-lived attempt to try this with the CW’s “Aliens in America”; Canada had a little more success with a similar concept around that time, CBC’s “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” More recently, TLC attempted a reality series, “All-American Muslim,” that garnered considerable controversy but was ultimately canceled in 2012.

Maybe it’s not wise to look to Hollywood for more such programming given the scant diversity among its creatives. It’s not even entirely just a matter of ethnicity anyway; religions of all kinds are given short shrift in terms of meaningful depictions, though the Christian majority has carved out an entertainment subculture so big it’s almost ridiculous not to call it mainstream.

There’s understandable fear in Hollywood right now about portraying anything that could remotely offend the wrong people. But beyond the short term, surely some studio can summon the courage to go there, and try the kind of material that is far from the inflammatory content of a Charlie Hebdo cartoon.

More Biz

  • Daily Show Viacom

    DirecTV, Viacom Avert Blackout After Marathon Negotiation

    DirecTV and Viacom have agreed on a carriage renewal pact covering a raft of Viacom’s cable channels after a marathon negotiation over the weekend. In a joint statement Monday morning, the companies said: “We are pleased to announce a renewed Viacom-AT&T contract that includes continued carriage of Viacom services across multiple AT&T platforms and products. [...]

  • Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018

    Discovery CEO David Zaslav Sees 2018 Compensation Soar to $129.4 Million

    Discovery Inc. president-CEO David Zaslav is once again making headlines for an enormous compensation package. Zaslav’s 2018 compensation soared to $129.44 million in 2018, fueled by stock options and grants awarded as the longtime Discovery chief signed a new employment contract last July that takes him through 2023 at the cable programming group. Zaslav received [...]

  • Jonathan Lamy RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy Stepping Down From RIAA

    Jonathan Lamy, the Recording Industry Association of America’s longtime executive VP of communications and marketing, is stepping down from his post after 17 years, he announced today. As he put it in an email to Variety, “I started back in 2002, which means it’s been 17+ years, four different RIAA CEOs, three format changes and [...]

  • Fox Layoffs

    Disney-21st Fox Layoffs: TV Divisions Brace for Deep Cuts

    A second day of layoffs has begun on the Fox lot in the wake of Disney completing its acquisition of 21st Century Fox on Wednesday. Longtime 20th Century Fox Television Distribution president Mark Kaner is among the senior executives who were formally notified with severance details on Friday morning. 21st Century Fox’s international TV sales [...]

  • anthony pellicano

    Hollywood Fixer Anthony Pellicano Released From Federal Prison

    Anthony Pellicano, the Hollywood private eye whose wiretapping case riveted the industry a decade ago, was released from a federal prison on Friday, a prison spokeswoman confirmed. Pellicano was sentenced in 2008 to 15 years, following his conviction on 78 charges of wiretapping, racketeering, conspiracy and wire fraud. He had been in custody since 2003, [...]

  • This image taken from the Twitter

    HBO’s Reaction to Trump’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Campaign

    Everyone wants a piece of the “Game of Thrones” lemon cake. From Bud Light to Red Bull the world of Westeros is open to a lot of brand partnerships, unless you’re using that iconic typeface to push a political agenda. In November of 2018 President Donald Trump unveiled a “Thrones” inspired poster with the words [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit Proves to Be a Judicial Hot Potato

    The Michael Jackson estate sued HBO last month for airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which accuses the late King of Pop of serial child sexual abuse. Since then, the case has had a difficult time finding a judge to handle it. Three federal judges have recused themselves in the last week, citing potential financial conflicts [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content