Establishing the Study of Muslims in Film and Television

Jack Shaheen (1935-2017), pioneer in the study of Muslims in film and television, recently passed away. Maydan, the online publication of Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University, recently gave me the opportunity to reflect on his legacy and the future of this emerging field of study. There is a lot to say about Shaheen’s books, The TV Arab (1984),  Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People ( 2001), and Guilty: Hollywood’s Verdict on Arabs After 9/11 (2008), as well as his groundbreaking documentary, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (2006). Read on for details.

I also lay out some of important contributions to the field, including Lina Khatib, Filming the Modern Middle East: Politics in the Cinemas of Hollywood and the Arab World (2006),  Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since1945 (2005), Brian Edwards, After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East (2016), Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin, Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation after 9/11 (2011), Tim Jon Semmerling, “Evil” Arabs in American Popular Film: Orientalist Fear (2006), Evelyn Alsultany, Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (2011), and Waleed Mahdi. Lots of more great work in the area from Ruby Ramji, Hussein Rashid , and Amir Hussain. The future looks good for this scholarship.

A short preview of the conclusion below. You can read the full essay on Maydan.

Therefore, scholars need to continue to expand the materials we explore, methods we employ to investigate the vast mediascape, and urgency with which we make our findings available. With the continued public interest in Islam and the limited range of materials that reach general audiences, we can only hope that Jack Shaheen’s exemplary precedent will be followed en masse.

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