Using Comics to Counter Islamophobia

Depending on your socio-political views, you may choose to agree or disagree with me when I say: Islamophobia is in the air. Be it the USA, UK or even Myanmar, there are a good number of people out there who view Muslims as a community that is troublesome and refuses to integrate. In the midst of all this, it was a pleasant thing to read when Marvel announced that the leading character in their new comic book series will be a Muslim girl.

Just like all other super-heroes, this one too has a story — Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms Marvel) is an American teenager of Pakistani lineage who hails from New Jersey. Her superpower? Shape-shifting.

As per the comic series, Kamala comes from a conservative and orthodox family (possibly hinting at a crisis between her Muslim and American identities). She has a father who wants his daughter to become a doctor, a paranoid mother and a conservative brother.

While this ‘identity crisis’ talk does not seem refreshing, it surely is not stereotypical either. The name ‘Kamala’ rhymes with ‘Malala’ — again, it can either be a hint that all Muslim females need to be saved, or just a coincidence. It is a question that needs to be asked: will Kamala be portrayed as an independent Muslim female, or is she going to be viewed as just another Muslim girl who is dominated by the patriarchy?

Another thing worth noting is Kamala’s identity crisis. Muslims in the West are often told that their western identity cannot be reconciled with their religious identity. Will Kamala’s identity crisis offer meaningful insight?


Can Ms Marvel Counter Islamophobia?

Kamala is not the first superhero with a clearly defined religious identity. However, therein lies the difference: unlike the other superheroes, Kamala Khan is not a superhero who just happens to be Muslim. In fact, the most interesting part about this new comic book character is not her heroism but her identity — Kamala Khan is more interesting than Ms Marvel.

The fact that Marvel’s new character has a Muslim background is indeed a welcome note. Yet, it is not something to celebrate or be ecstatic about. At best, Marvel is just trying to identify a new niche market in the form of a growing Muslim community. Even if equality or social justice might be the hidden message behind the creation of Ms Marvel, a comic book cannot tackle a concept such as  Islamophobia that has existed for centuries. Islamophobia will not vanish just because we have a Muslim superhero — not even if Superman were to convert to Islam.

A superhero from the minority community can be a good thing if he/she does not enforce racial or ethnic stereotypes. In case of Kamala, this remains to be seen. Yet, at the end of the day, a superhero’s identity is not a metric for heroics and virtues. Marvel deserves applause simply for re-affirming the belief that heroes can come from any community.

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of “Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and has recently started his own progressive blog named Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+.

More articles by:

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+ or email him at sufyanism@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring