A recent study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that Muslims are woefully underrepresented in film. The report, “Missing & Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies,” discovered that in 200 popular films released between 2017 and 2019 in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, Muslims accounted for only 1.6 percent of speaking roles. To break it down even further, “While Muslims make up 24 percent of the global population, they made up less than 2 percent of the films researched, meaning out of 8,965 speaking characters in 200 movies, 144 were Muslim. Of the 144 Muslim characters, about 34 were Muslim women,” according to USA Today.
“The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded,” Oscar-nominated actor Riz Ahmed said in a statement released with the study. “The data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the scale of the problem in popular film, and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives.” Ahmed has partnered with the Pillars Fund and the Ford Foundation to create the Pillars Artist Fellowship, which will give $25,000 fellowships to Muslim storytellers:
To address the many issues the study highlighted, the Pillars Fund, in partnership with Ahmed and Left Handed Films, will help select the first set of candidates for the Pillars Artist Fellowship later this year. The fellowship will focus on aspiring Muslim directors and writers in the U.S. and U.K. and provide mentorship and other support in addition to the $25,000 award. An advisory committee of Muslim artists for the fellowship includes Ahmed, Mahershala Ali, Sana Amanat, Karim Amer, Rosa Attab, Lena Khan, Nida Manzoor, Hasan Minhaj, Jehane Noujaim, and Ramy Youssef.
Ahmed also discussed the study’s findings in a video, where he said he’s “fed up.” He continued, “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.”
You can watch it above.