I’m so excited to announce that I am now reviewing books and beyond thrilled to tell y’all about Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion! Let’s get into it!
When I first accepted this project, I was hesitant because, typically, when things are tailored for Muslims, it only explains the Middle Eastern Muslim experience. I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not the case! Evelyn Alsultany thoroughly explains the shortcoming of Hollywood’s representation of all Muslims!
Broken breaks it down to the racialization of Muslims to the origins of many Islamic stereotypes I was unaware of. I was in kindergarten when 9/11 happened, unaware of what was happening. My parents did an excellent job shielding me from much Islamaphobia, but the real world got to me. As I read the book, I realized I had suppressed many negative experiences. Still, Broken made me feel seen and understood.
As she broke down all of the different shows and movies, there was a common theme, as a Muslim American, you have to work extra hard to make people feel comfortable based on your existence. As she was listing the examples, it occurred to me that I had never fully seen myself in the media. I see a Black woman I relate to or a Muslim woman, but never a Black Muslimah similar to me!
“Cultural representation also impacts one’s self-esteem and the extent to which we feel a part of the collective.”
Alsultany eloquently explains how Muslims are always depicted in polarized extremes. We are either the bad guys and labeled terrorists or extremists. Or if we are considered acceptable Muslims, we have abandoned Islam, or only cultural Muslims, or are beyond patriotic. Every religion has a branch of extremism, but only Muslims are guilty by association. She illustrates the example of Shahs of Sunset vs. All American Muslims.
“All American Muslim are a threat to the US because they are observant Muslims…. Shahs of Sunset of Sunset are acceptable Americans because Islam is insignificant in their lives.”
Why is there no middle ground for Muslims on screen?
Now, this part may ruffle some feathers. Still, Muslims in America walk on eggshells, even now as I write this review, I find myself filtering my words not to offend non-Muslims, but especially concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because if you say anything pro-Palistine, you’re labeled antiseptic! Again another stereotype is that all Muslims are antisemitic when that is further from the truth. Instead of having a diverse range of Muslims on screen, they swap between negative and positive stereotypes.
“Debating whether one stereotype is better or worse than another is not particularly productive. A negative is diffused not with a “better” stereotype, but with a diverse field of images.”
I have always been aware of racial purging and gaslighting but only attached it to my Black identity. After reading this book, I now see the impact on both. I love how Alsultany highlights the history of Black American Muslims and how we are rarely shown on television. She highlights the shows Ramy and Orange is the New Black, featuring Black American Muslims, but that is not nearly enough.
My review mainly focuses on inclusion in Hollywood, but Alsultany explains how most industries fail at Muslim inclusion. I love how she uses multiple examples, so refuting the truth for folks with blinders is hard.
I strongly recommend that everyone read Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion! As a Muslim, you feel seen, and as someone gets it! As a non-Muslim, you can better understand being Muslim in America.