Screenwriter: TV Can Boost Image of Muslims
[Kamran Pasha, a former journalist, is a screenwriter in Los Angeles for Sleeper Cell.]
The recent images of Muslim youths torching cars and spreading general mayhem throughout France raise a troubling question: Can it happen here?
As an American Muslim, my instinct is to deny that such a cataclysm is possible in the USA. But these tragic events are forcing Muslims to confront the reality that we are facing a major crisis of identity.
Unlike our alienated European counterparts, American Muslims tend to be prosperous and well-integrated into our communities. Even so, we are trapped in the ghettoes of our own minds. By silencing ourselves, we have enabled inaccurate and hostile images of Muslims to crystallize in America. We must put forth a new image as trustworthy, smart and loving people who are neighbors and not enemies.
The African-American community understood how critical the portrayal of "ordinary people" on TV was to reshaping flawed perceptions of minority groups. When The Cosby Show aired in 1984, many Americans still held stereotypical views of blacks as unemployed and dangerous. That negative image was broken. Viewers could see inside the home of an African-American family that looked nothing like the stereotypical images that were often portrayed in the news.
The same attitude shift can happen today if Americans are invited to look into the lives of American Muslims in a positive, far more accurate way. After decades of Hollywood images depicting Muslims solely as terrorists, creating a balanced portrayal of Islam will take time.