Because representation matters.
It's been a rough year for Muslims in America. Terrorist organizations like ISIS (Daesh) have worked to increase Islamophobia in an attempt to pressure people to join them. While it seems that the second part of their plan has not been successful, the 'Muslim terrorist' has been a major part of our media this past year. So to try to balance the story, here are six characters whose faith informs their courage, humility, and generosity.
Kamala Khan- Marvel Comics
Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson) is one of my all-time favorite heroes. She's a teenager who gains superpowers and has to figure out how to use them to protect people. She's awkward and goofy, but what struck me is the love she has for her friends and family. It's her parents' faith that inspires her caped crusades.
Simon Baz- DC Comics
There have been a lot of Green Lanterns over the years, and he was one of my favorites. While bullying and hatred set him on the wrong path, when he was needed to be a hero Simon answered the call.
Arastoo Vaziri- Bones
He was introduced as an intern working with the team to help find the culprits of major crimes, though later on the series revealed that he used to be a military translator. He's incredibly hard-working and kind, and his observations are frequently integral to the resolution of cases.
Bilal Asselah- DC Comics
Nightrunner, one of the members of Batman Inc. is a French Muslim who chose to mimic the caped crusader after the death of his best friend. Though the tragedy was overwhelming, it motivated Bilal to try and bring peace to his community, much like Batman himself. He doesn't kill, and he tries to sympathize even with those that would hurt him because of his racial or religious identity.
Abed Nadir- Community
He's quirky and weird and relies on pop culture references to relate to people. This show was outrageous, and Abed often felt like he was anchoring the entire thing. Because while most of us knew that each episode was a reference to some kind of television trope, Abed was the only one in-universe that had it figured out. He was like the Deadpool of Community if you will.
This incredible story by Craig Thompson was as much about faith as it was about the journey. Dodola was at times bitter and cruel, but she found the courage to face the awfulness of the world with compassion and hope because of her faith.
Truthfully, it was really difficult to generate this list.
There are other Muslim characters on tv or film, but many of them have been very negative representations of Muslim people and culture. Granted, it is far from the most popular religious affiliation in the United States (less than 1% of the population identifies as such). But that doesn't make their voices unimportant or excuse the rarity of Muslim characters in the media. When our discussions about a large group of people are often characterized by misrepresentations and misunderstandings, it seems like we still have a lot of learning and listening to do.