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Kamala Khan: Muslim Superhero?

By August 29, 2019Muslim Parenting

Marvel Studios recently announced that the character Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel, will have her own TV series on Disney Plus.

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When Marvel first unveiled Kamala Khan, she was met with widespread positive reactions online. Fatemeh Fakhraie, the founder of Muslimah Media Watch, a diversity advocacy group, told Al Jazeera America that “She is going to be a window into the American Muslim experience” and that she “normalizes this idea of the American experience as Muslim. Al Jazeera America 

This type of optimistic reaction occurs because Muslims think it’s good that a Muslim character is being positively represented in mainstream media.

Whilst Muslim women tend to feature more in the media than our male counterparts, this phenomenon is not limited to one demographic. Throughout modern history, many minority groups have sought prominent positions of leadership or fame to increase their influence and acquire acceptance. It is based on this idea that Muslims, especially visibly Muslim women, are encouraged to seek out and embrace platforms that will let them be seen by millions as “normal” people, to defuse hatred and fear. qarawiyyinproject.com

 

Who created Kamala Khan?

Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie.

 

Who is Kamala Khan?

Kamala is a Muslim-American teenager growing up in Jersey City.

 

What are Kamala Khan’s powers?

Kamala Khan gained shape-shifting powers when a strange Terrigen Mist descended upon the city, awakening her Inhuman genes.

 

How old is Kamala Khan?

Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old from Jersey City.

 

Is Kamal Pakistani?

Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American born in Jersey City, the daughter of Yusuf Khan and Muneeba Khan. Her parents are originally from Karachi.

 

Why has Marvel created a Muslim, female superhero, now?

 

In her Ted Talk, Amanat stated that “the big idea behind Ms.Marvel [was] very much about minority representation, the bigger idea was about finding your authentic self”. While creating the comic, she drew on her own experience as the child of Pakistani immigrants in the New Jersey suburbs in hopes that the next generation will not experience identity rejection as she did through a relatable superhero. Numerous young and ethnic letter writers were excited to see Kamala Khan who looked like them and came from a similar background. wikipedia.org

I don’t doubt Amanat’s intentions however Marvel is in the business of making money. They made $5 billion in 2019. They are constantly looking for new untapped audiences to exploit not ‘represent’. Talk of “minority representation” and “authentic self” is perfect PR for Marvel. They understand how lucrative it is for them globally to tap into all ethnic and cultural markets.

In 2018, they saw the success of making a movie with a black superhero. ‘Black Panther’ Becomes Top-Grossing Superhero Film of All Time in the U.S.’So now they want to see if they can cash in on the “Muslim Pound” by creating a relatable Asian/Pakistani Muslim superhero.

 

How authentically Muslim is Kamala Khan?

How does creating a secular, sexualised burkini clad, superhero, who behaves just like an average non-Muslim American teenager honestly represent Muslims?

 

Does Kamala have a love interest?

One day at dinner, Kamala’s family informed her that they were expecting guests — some of their oldest friends in the United States, who had a son close to Kamala’s age named Kamran. Though reluctant at first, Kamala quickly changed her tune when she learned she and Kamran had many common interests, not to mention how attractive he was. Kamran and Kamala went to Newark Avenue together, supervised by Aamir, where they continued to bond. This was cut short; however, when they came face to face with Kaboom, a radical Inhuman terrorist and member of an organization seeking to overthrow Queen Medusa and affirm their perceived superiority over humanity. marvel.fandom.com

She is not an Islamic extremist

In a heartbeat, Kamala could not help but be reminded of the Islamic extremists constantly on the news. Once again, some group felt entitled to destroy the lives of anyone who disagreed with them, and anyone the public can associate with that group suffers. The next day, Kamran offered to drive Kamala to school, despite protests from Aamir and Bruno, the latter of whom secretly harbored feelings for Kamala. marvel.fandom.com

 

Does Kamala Khan listen to her parents?

No. Her brother Amir is depicted as a lazy religious man, his parents wish he would concentrate on getting a job. He restricts Kamala’s freedom and is just another cliched stereotype of a Muslim man.

Dr. Leon Moosavi of the University of Liverpool feels that the character’s family would reinforce the stereotype of restrictive Muslim parents and that her shape-shifting ability resembled several anti-Muslim stereotypes, especially taqiyya:a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are at risk of significant persecution. wikipedia.org

 

So who are Ms. Marvel’s (Kamala Khan) fans?

Liberal Feminist Muslims such as MuslimGirl

Not only is Kamala a positive depiction of American Muslims but she’s funny and charming and tempted to eat bacon like a lot of girls I know. This is an incredible shift in power. I want to take my child to the theater so they can see Kamala Khan on-screen. I want the chance to point the on-screen heroine, look at my daughter or son and say:Look what we Muslim women did. We rose from the ashes of propaganda and generalization. We tore up stereotypes. We became superheroes. Muslim Girl

 

Barack Obama is a fan

In March 2016, Sana Amanat introduced United States President Barack Obama at a reception for Women’s History Month in the White House. In his opening remarks Obama replied, “Ms. Marvel may be your comic book creation, but I think for a lot of young boys and girls, Sana’s a real superhero.” wikipedia.org

On the one hand, Obama praised the creator of a Pakistani Muslim superhero and at the same time, he was ordering the murder of Muslims in Pakistan via drone strikes. 

 

Representation does not lead to empowerment

 

Despite being a regularly toted idea, upon scrutiny, it’s clear that the idea of Muslim representation in the mainstream media will lead to empowerment is not always true. Additionally, when it comes to Muslim women, there is a clear promotion of a certain segment of this demographic – primarily liberal, secular and feminist, whose profession usually revolves around their appearance or their stereotype-breaking abilities.

The result: Muslim women that aren’t secular, that aren’t stereotype breaking, that may be more conservative are relegated to the oppressed, submissive label once again.

Similarly, role models like “Kamala Khan” are praised for their “stereotype breaking” behaviour because she champions American values of liberty and independence from cultural or religious norms. Subtle compromise is endorsed and largely tokenises women, with or without their consent.

Hollywood will only represent liberal Muslims in a positive light.

 

 

With this in mind, let’s be honest and call a spade a spade. Kamala Khan is a role model that secular liberal feminists want young Muslim girls to emulate. Therefore, Hollywood will never represent devout Muslims in a positive light.

We need to educate our kids, so they do not draw their strength from secular Muslim faces in the media or the Internet. We need to harness and bolster our strength, such that confidence in our Muslim identity is not drawn from being the same as everyone else, but from Islam.

“Islam came as strange and will return to being strange, so blessed are the strangers.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Listen to the podcast: Why are Muslim teenagers having doubts about Islam?

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