Muslim actors, singers, directors and comedians are representing their experiences more authentically in the entertainment industry, from Broadway to Hollywood.
In the United States, Islam is the third largest religious demographic and, according to the Pew Research Center, is set to become the second largest by 2040, making it important that Muslim Americans see themselves reflected in movies, television and on stage.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council and Muslims On Screen and Television are two groups helping the entertainment world create accurate and balanced portrayals of Muslims and encouraging diversity and inclusion.
Shereen Ahmed is known for playing Eliza Doolittle on Broadway. In 2019, she became the first actress of Arab Muslim descent to play the famous My Fair Lady character in a major American production. Ahmed also starred as Maria in The Sound of Music and Christine in Phantom of the Opera in regional productions across the United States.
After a career in stand-up comedy, Ramy Youssef created the hit Ramy, for which he won a Golden Globe Award. The television show — about a first-generation American Muslim caught between his faith and his nonreligious millennial peers — portrays the challenges experienced by first-generation Muslims in the United States. “I don’t want to provide answers. I just want the show to be thought-provoking,” he told the New York Times last year.
The show also features fellow Muslim American actor Mahershala Ali, who, in 2017, became the first Muslim to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Moonlight.
Director Lena Khan is known for her work on this year’s breakout Disney+ film, Flora & Ulysses, about a young girl and her superhero squirrel. Born in Canada to Indian parents, Khan partially based her first film, The Tiger Hunter, on the life of her grandfather.
Riz Ahmed has starred in films such as Nightcrawler and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Oxford graduate was the first Muslim and South Asian man to win an Emmy for acting. This year, for Sound of Metal, Ahmed became the first Muslim nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category.
Canadian television star Hamza Haq is best known for his role in Transplant — also shown in the U.S. — playing a Syrian doctor and refugee from the Syrian civil war. Haq, himself an immigrant to Canada from Saudi Arabia by way of Pakistan, refuses to accept or audition for roles that negatively portray Muslims.
British singer Zayn Malik was raised in an Islamic multiracial household in Bradford, England. Malik garnered international fame as one of the lead singers in One Direction, breaking music chart records and garnering hundreds of millions of fans around the world.