This week, the notorious filmmaker behind the epically horrible amateur film, "Innocence of Muslims" will be released from prison after causing an immense uproar last year. What perhaps was the most noteworthy about the incident was not the film itself, but the viral, angry reaction to the film that was magnified in the news media, quickly giving way to the "Muslim Rage" phenomenon.
Of course, those protesters, and those who caused violence made up a small fraction of a much larger, diverse Muslim community who react to material that is seen as offensive or distasteful. The microscopic coverage of these protests easily put forth the impressions that Muslims by nature, always react angrily in mobs. However, we see a starkly different story through the many Muslim and Arab writers and artists that convey their own sense of identity through their work.
In the course of this year, there have many writers and artists that have countered the image of the angry Muslim/Arab image with portrayals of their how they see faith, and their identity. Take, for example, a direct, spoken word reaction to the film itself and the angered reaction that was highlighted in the media. This Australian Muslim poet and spoken word artist reacts by stating how he views the Prophet Muhammad, and why he uses the spoken word to communicate his opinion of the film and its angry reaction.
One play that directly addresses how differently various members within a single Pakistani-American and Muslim family see themselves in the context of their time is The Domestic Crusaders, written by playwright and Al Jazeera host Wajahat Ali. The play, which originally debuted in New York in 2009 is about to begin it's second run in London this week.
We also see this in one of the most notable contemporary novelists, Khaled Hosseini. In his novels, he gives us a realistic, grounded portrait of the Muslims within the Afghani community. We see the violent extremists that are often put on loop in the mainstream media, and at the same time, we see sensitive and incredibly compassionate characters who identify as Muslims to varying degrees.
Most recently, in this blooming of performance art is perhaps the documentary, The Muslims Are Coming!, which features three American Muslim comedians and their comedy tour across middle America. The film, which is now on sale on iTunes, follow these comedians as they put on routines that show how they identity as Muslims by combating stereotypes that were perpetuated in the coverage of the "Innocence of Muslims" protests through their comedy. Check out their trailer here:
There are many more artists and writers that reflect not only a more grounded portrayal of Muslims and Arabs but also deeply human one. Take for example, Najla Said, actress and daughter of the late scholar Edward Said, who recently released her book, Looking for Palestine. Though not a Muslim, she puts forth her own account of growing up as an Arab-American and how she comes to terms with not only being of Arab descent, but also of Palestinian descent. Politics is not the focus, but rather, the search for personal identity is at the forefront. We also see such complexities in the poetry, and nonfiction narratives on the blog, "Love, Inshallah," which publishes pieces about how American Muslims from across the spectrum of practice experience love in its various forms.
These films and works of art most of all, show an incredible diversity in experience, points of view and reaction to negative perceptions of Muslims, Islam itself, and Arabs, all through a tangible and personal lens. A representation of how diverse the wider Muslim community is cannot be summed up solely in the coverage of an angry mob in front of the American embassy in Egypt, or even only through the story of a single American Muslim growing up with balancing multiple identities. It can only be accurately shown through the multitudes of thought, perception, and experience that is as diverse as the human experience itself.
Are there artists you know about who are doing the same? Share in the comments below!