Riz Ahmed urges end to 'toxic portrayals' of Muslims

Riz Ahmed launches initiative to combat 'toxic portrayals' of Muslims on screen
2 min read
11 June, 2021
The new initiative aimed at increasing Muslim representation will offer grantees an unrestricted award of $25,000 and mentoring from an advisory board of Muslim artists.
Riz Ahmed slammed several film portrayals of Muslims as 'frankly racist' [Getty]


British actor Riz Ahmed on Thursday announced the launch of an initiative to counter "Muslim misrepresentation" in film and television.

Ahmed announced The Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion, an initiative established in partnership with the  USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the Ford Foundation and the Pillars Fund, in a video posted to social media on Thursday.

"The problem of Muslim misrepresentation is one that can’t be ignored any more … and it’s a problem that a handful of prominent Muslims in the business cant fix,” the Oscar-nominated actor said. 

“The progress that’s being made by a few of us doesn’t paint an overall picture of progress if most of the portrayals of Muslims on screen are either nonexistent or entrenched in those stereotypical, toxic, two-dimensional portrayals,” he added.

The project will offer grantees an unrestricted award of $25,000 in a bid to increase Muslim representation on screen. Successful candidates will also have access to mentorship from an advisory board of Muslim artists, which includes Ahmed himself, Mahershala Ali, Lena Khan, Ramy Youssef, Sana Amanat, Rosa Attab, Nida Manzoor, Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim and Hasan Minhaj.

In his video on Thursday, Ahmed slammed negative portrayals of Muslims in popular US movies, including in The Hurt Locker, American Sniper and Argo, which he described as "frankly racist".

The Sound of Metal star also criticised depictions of Muslims in Amazon Series The Boys, as well as in Marvel's 2018 blockbuster Black Panther, which opened with scenes showing Muslims as kidnappers.

A new study by USC Annenberg on Muslim media representation found that in 2017-19, less than 10% of top grossing films contained a Muslim character. The study found that a less than 2% of Muslim characters featured had speaking roles.

It also found that 39% of Muslim characters in the films examined were shown as perpetrators of violence, while 53% played victims of violence.