Muslims, especially those of Pakistani origin, are vilified in western films, Jemima Khan has said. The screenwriter, who was married to Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, criticized filmmakers for unfairly portraying people from the country. She spoke about the difficulties in correcting the damaging course as she promoted her upcoming film ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’.
Speaking to Sky News, Ms Khan said she has seen first-hand the poor attitudes towards Pakistani Muslims in the western world.
She said her two sons – Soleman and Qasem Khan – are often stopped and questioned when travelling.
Ms Khan said the family has to “leave extra time in between any flight connections” because “they have Pakistani names that are not anglicised”.
The poor attitude is also visible in films, she said, where Muslims are often “fanatics” and “terrorists”.
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She said: “It’s hard…to make a film where Muslims are the good guys.
“It’s always the Pakistani who’s the terrorist, or the suicide bomber, or the fanatic.”
The filmmaker was speaking ahead of the release of ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’, a cross-cultural romantic comedy that tells the story of a woman who documents her childhood friend’s arranged marriage to a bride from Pakistan.
Her comments are rooted in fact, with Muslims facing obstacles in western cinema that have left them under-represented and demonized when they appear on-screen.
A study commissioned by British actor Riz Ahmed and US-based advocacy group Pillars Fund in 2021 found Muslims are rarely cast in films from the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
The study, which analyzed 200 popular films from the countries released between 2017 and 2019, found that Muslims only accounted for 1.6 percent of 8,965 speaking characters.
They had speaking roles in fewer than 10 percent of the films surveyed, and the vast majority were men.
Muslims cast were 76.4 percent male, and they primarily played negative characters.
The Pillars report found that Muslim characters are most frequently associated with violence.
Approximately one-third of them are perpetrators, while half are targets of violence, and this portrayal ultimately damages Muslim communities in the real world, Mr Ahmed said.
He told the Hollywood Reporter: “The representation of Muslims on screen feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded.
“The data doesn’t lie. This study shows us the scale of the problem in popular film and its cost is measured in lost potential and lost lives.”