Contributor Feature: Rashad Mubarak
When was the last time that you saw an American Muslim that was Black and not angry on television? Take a moment and let that process. Although it was needed for President Obama to say that Muslim American youth “.. were pointing out that so often they felt invisible” during his 2016 visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, “backspace” and “control alt delete” would be more accurate in representing how Black people, and all of their accomplishments, have often been removed from media representations of Islam in America.
We’re usually only showcased as being in the Nation of Islam and/or an extremist for comedic purposes. Other than Spike Lee’s amazing film “Malcolm X”, I literally had to research to find narrative projects about American Muslims that showed any importance to the efforts of brown skin, which seems to be a continued plan to make Islam seem new and foreign as if it never first traveled to America during the middle passage. I’m not alone when I tell you that ‘All American Muslim” didn’t represent my family's experiences.
Watching African American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad simultaneously become the first US Olympic athlete to compete in a Hijab, and win a bronze medal, is such an inspiring reminder that when you’re both Black and Muslim in America, owning a t.v. can be a such powerful yet debilitating thing. Like Muhammad Ali, they love us for the arts and sports, but when terrorism happens in America, or politicians make controversial statements against Islam, if you’re Black and Muslim, either occupy yourself by playing Pokemon go, or go take a nap because there’s a 95% chance that the commentators won’t be black even though we make up the second largest ethnic group of Muslims in the United States due to a recent rise in immigration, but isn’t that how America works: to be overlooked when looking at the overlooked. Fun fact, according to the PEW Research center only 20% of the world's Muslim population is Arab or North African. The other 80% is probably a “backspace.”
Here’s a really short list of projects where African American Muslims were the main characters. This has to change:
Bilal's Stand, Director: Sultan Sharrief
MOOZ-lum, Director : Qasim Bashir
Malcolm X , Director: Spike Lee
Chrysalis , Director: Nia Malika Dixon
American Crime (Season 1), Director : John Ridley