Oscar-nominee and Emmy-winner Riz Ahmed, known for his performances in Sound of Metal and The Night Of, has launched a multi-layered initiative for Muslim representation in media, in partnership with the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the Ford Foundation and Pillars Fund, as per a report by Variety.
The initiative, "Missing and Maligned", is powered by USC Annenberg’s new study on Muslim representation in media, which found that less than 10% of high-grossing films from 2017-2019 had a Muslim character on screen, with less than 2% of those characters having speaking roles.
The Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion includes funding and mentoring Muslim storytellers in the early stages of their careers. The Riz Ahmed-backed study has founded the Pillars Artist Fellowship, offering selected grantees an unrestricted award of $25,000.
Riz took to social media to announce this initiative. "The problem with Muslim misrepresentation is one that can't be ignored anymore. And it's one that I or a handful of prominent Muslims in the business won't be able to fix without your help. I ask myself if I am an exception to the rule. What must the rule be about people like me? What must the unwritten rule be about Muslims and their place in our stories, our culture and their place in our society if any.... Exceptions don't change rules, and allow us to be complacent about leaving that rule in place", Riz says in a video posted by him.
The actor adds that progress made by a few Muslims isn't an indicator of the overall progress if the portrayal of the community on screen is still either non-existent or entrenched in stereotypical, toxic, two-dimensional portrayals.
Speaking to Variety Riz says,
""With all my privilege and profile, I often wonder if this is going to be the year they round us up, if this is the year they’re going to put Trump’s Muslim registry into action, if this is going to be the year they ship us all off. The representation of Muslims on screen — that feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded.”" -
"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," he adds.
Ahmed, 38, who was born in London to Pakistani parents, says that offering funding would be game changing in getting more Muslim actors, writer and producers into the movie and TV business.
"Had I not received a scholarship and also a private donation, I wouldn't have been able to attend drama school".
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