Scholarships for young Muslim artists to be decided by a committee including actors Mahershala Ali and Ramy Youssef.
British actor Riz Ahmed has launched an effort to improve the way Muslims are portrayed in films after a study found they are hardly seen and portrayed in a negative light when they appear.
Ahmed, the Sound of Metal star and the first Muslim to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, said Thursday that the Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion will include funding and mentoring for Muslim storytellers early in their careers.
“The portrayal of Muslims on screen fuels the policies that are adopted, the people who are killed, the countries that are invaded,” Ahmed said in a statement.
“The data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the extent of the problem in popular cinema, and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives, ”he added.
Entitled Missing and Malaligned, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study found that less than 10% of the top-grossing films released between 2017 and 2019 in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand screened at minus a speaking Muslim character.
When they did, they were presented as strangers, or threatening, or submissive, according to the study. About a third of Muslim figures were perpetrators of violence and more than half were targets of violence.
“Muslims live all over the world, but onlookers see only a narrow portrait of this community, rather than seeing Muslims for who they are: business owners, friends and neighbors whose presence makes part of modern life, ”said Al-Baab Khan, one of the report’s authors.
Ahmed, 38, born in London to Pakistani parents, said offering funding would be a game-changer by attracting more Muslim actors, writers and producers to the film and television industry.
“If I hadn’t received a scholarship and also a private donation, I wouldn’t have been able to attend drama school,” he said.
The $ 25,000 scholarships for young Muslim artists will be decided by an advisory committee that includes actors Mahershala Ali and Ramy Youssef, and comedian Hasan Minhaj.