News / USA

Muslim Artists Perform to Break Stereotypes

Muslim Artists Perform to Break Stereotypesi
X
Elizabeth Lee
November 13, 2013 3:30 AM
Going back decades, Arab actors have been successful in Hollywood. But Muslims, openly proclaiming their religion, are a small minority in the U.S. entertainment industry. VOA's Elizabeth Lee has more.
Muslim Artists Perform to Break Stereotypes
Elizabeth Lee
For decades, Arab actors have been successful in Hollywood. Among the most successful are Omar Sharif, Tony Shalhoub, and F. Murray Abraham; the latter won an Academy Award for his role in Mozart. However Muslims, openly proclaiming their religion, are a minority in the U.S. population and an even smaller minority in the U.S. entertainment industry. Those who are breaking in are trying to use their talent to discredit negative stereotypes. Several showcased their work at a recent gathering of predominantly American Muslims in Los Angeles.
 
Dean Obeidallah is not just an American comedian.
 
“My ethnicity and my faith make me a little different than many other comedians,” said Obeidallah.
 
He is a Muslim with Palestinian roots, and says his identity has not created barriers for him. However, he also says that stereotypes of what he represents do exist in the U.S.
 
Obeidallah uses comedy to talk about misconceptions and about what it means to be Muslim. He has co-directed a comedy documentary on this theme called, The Muslims Are Coming! Obeidallah said he has received positive reviews from both Muslims and non-Muslims, but sometimes non-Muslims don’t know how to respond to his jokes.
 
 “It can make audiences a little bit uncomfortable because they’re not sure what’s politically correct to laugh at and what’s politically incorrect to laugh at,” explained Obeidallah.
 
American Muslim poet Amir Sulaiman points out that some Muslims feel uncomfortable listening to him perform.
 
“Some people they feel nervous. Some things I say are not politically correct. They’re not fashioned and perfected in a political kind of way. Some people will say we don’t want you to say this; we don’t want you to say that as a Muslim person. When you are an artist or a public figure, many times you automatically become a spokesperson for millions of people. All these people have different points of view and different way that they want to be portrayed, but every artist can’t be responsible for everyone,” said Sulaiman.
 
Sulaiman also said that being a minority artist presents unique challenges.
 
“So I’m sure there are some walls, hurdles because I’m Muslim, black or because the types of things I talk about. But the most important thing is for me to be sincere and heartfelt and from that, it always works,” said Sulaiman.
 
Singing from her heart has worked well for Yuna, the first artist from Malaysia to break into the U.S. market. Abeer Khan is a fan, but she says not every Muslim will be able to accept a Muslim woman as a performer.
 
 “I think it’s something so new it’s going to take time for people to fully understand it, maybe come to grasp with there are very talented Muslim women out there. She’s a trailblazer and that’s what we need,” said Khan.
 
Whether it’s through music, poetry or comedy, Dean Obeidallah feels it is important for Muslim artists and entertainers to appear in the U.S. media. 
 
“I think after 9/11 we became aware as a community that we need to get involved in the media. We need to tell our story. I don’t want other people answering questions.  In the United States, only one to two percent of the country is Muslim.  We can’t reach the other 98% unless we go in mainstream media,” explained Obeidallah.
 
He also pointed out that with more visibility, Muslim artists and entertainers can showcase their identity and talents to the public to change anti-Islamic beliefs and stereotypes.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs