Riz Ahmed Speaks Out Against Missing and Maligned Muslim Representation in Film
Hear the actor's impassioned plea for better portrayals of #MuslimsInFilm
Published Jun 11, 2021When British actor Riz Ahmed was nominated for best actor at the Oscars for his role in Sound of Metal earlier this year, it made him the first-ever Muslim nominee in the category. Now, he's announced the launch of an initiative with the Pillars Fund — the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion and the Pillars Artist Fellowship — to fund and mentor crucial Muslim voices to confront "toxic portrayals" in film.
Earlier this week, Ahmed announced that the $25,000 fellowships will be granted to young Muslim artists chosen by an advisory committee he describes as "the Muslim Avengers," including actors Ramy Youssef and Mahershala Ali, as well as comedian Hasan Minhaj.
Ahmed's announcement follows a newly published study called "Missing & Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies" by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The researchers found that fewer than 10 percent of 2017 to 2019's top-grossing films from the U.S., U.K. and Australia featured a Muslim character. Further, one-third were cast as perpetrators of violence and more than 50 percent were targets of violence.
"In the face of the data… isn't it just tragically a matter of math that you end up with Donald Trump winning the presidential election on the back of an Islamophobic campaign, passing the travel ban?" Ahmed said in a speech uploaded to his YouTube account.
He continued: "Isn't it just math that you're going to end up with a New Zealand school shooting? Isn't it tragically a case of just math that you end up with the massacre of three generations of one family this week in Canada — two parents, a grandmother and a 15-year-old daughter, leaving a nine-year-old child behind? This is the result of dehumanizing and demonizing portrayals of Muslims."
Ahmed argues that the representation of Muslims on screen "feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed [and] the countries that get invaded."
Learn more about Ahmed's initiative here and watch his full speech below.