Muslim voices are finally being heard by and from Hollywood, and it's in Tinseltown's best interest to listen.
Negative stereotypes of Muslim characters date to at least the black-and-white era, but by the 1990s and the end of the Cold War, one-dimensional Muslim terrorist characters were the generic "bad guy" in countless movies and television shows, including True Lies ('94) and Executive Decision ('96). Even the cartoon Aladdin ('92) portrayed villains with Middle Eastern accents while the hero and heroine had standard American voices.
Such repeated portrayals have colored public perceptions of Muslims and Middle Easterners. The events of 9/11 crystallized and, for some, affirmed the stereotype. But nearly a decade later, Hollywood seems to be changing its tune toward Muslims and Arabs…
Muslim advocacy groups are also helping to transform Hollywood. Two such organizations -- the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations -- first approached Gordon about the portrayals of Muslims on 24 and persuaded him to make adjustments. Muslims On Screen and Television (MOST), a non-profit resource center, provides research and information about Muslims to Hollywood insiders. (More)
[Souheila Al-Jadda is co-producer of the Who Speaks for Islam series on Link TV and a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.]