News / USA

Muslim Artists Perform to Break Stereotypes

Muslim Artists Perform to Break Stereotypesi
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

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs