It’s 2020, and Muslim women can be found representing states at the federal level, serving as CEOs of major companies, and taking the art world by storm. One would think that such public prominence would improve how Muslim women are perceived and represented. Sadly, that has not been the case. It would seem that certain forms of media and entertainment still think that it’s okay to portray Muslim women on the big screen in a grossly inaccurate manner. Hey, as long as we see a Muslim woman on screen, what does it matter whether her faith is depicted with any accuracy, right?
Earlier this year, the Fox Broadcasting Company green-lighted a new show by the name of 9-1-1: Lone Star. If you haven’t heard of it already, the show follows a sophisticated New York firefighter who, along with his son, relocates to Austin. The show, like many, takes viewers on the ups and downs of working in a high stress job while coping with personal woes. Unlike shows in the same genre, 9-1-1: Lone Star has actress Natacha Karam playing the role of Marjan Marwani, a practicing Muslim women working as a firefighter. The inclusion of Marjan Marwani as a lead character could lead many to believe that TV media welcomes Muslim representation with open arms. Unfortunately, 9-1-1: Lone Star missed the mark entirely with their grossly inaccurate portrayal of a powerful practicing Muslim women.
The inclusion of Marjan Marwani as a lead character could lead many to believe that TV media welcomes Muslim representation with open arms. Unfortunately, 9-1-1: Lone Star missed the mark entirely with their grossly inaccurate portrayal of a powerful practicing Muslim women.
Let’s walk through some really cringe-worthy moments of misrepresentation in the show. When Marjan prays, her movements clearly prove the directors couldn’t be bothered to research how Muslims pray. We do not lay our forearms on the ground like dogs, and melt our bodies into the earth. The directors would know this if they took five minutes to learn how a practicing Muslim worships. Seriously, just ask a Muslim! There are only 1.8 billion of us.
Those same five minutes could have also helped alleviate the awkward moment when Marjan whips her head back and her hijab magically falls off to reveal long, flowing locks of hair, while her fellow firefighters cover her as she scrambles to veil herself. Was this moment a bit touching? Sure. Was it at all accurate? Hell no! Hijabs do not just fly off so easily. There are Muslim women athletes who run, swim, box, fence — you name it — while wearing a hijab. Not once has their veil magically slipped off. In fact, there is a whole industry devoted to producing pins and magnets that secure a hijab in place! Sadly, the directors favored creating “a moment” instead of devoting screen time to accurate representation. Also, please explain to me who doesn’t tie their hair back before putting a hijab on, and who goes through their day with a hijab on, and doesn’t have a hint of hijab-hair?
In all fairness though, 9-1-1: Lone Star tried. Adding a Muslim character whose occupation isn’t a stereotype is powerful! But why not do the character justice by researching her faith accurately?
Ensuring that Marjan’s character is an accurate representation of a practicing Muslim women would only make the show better, and would be less likely to alienate Muslim viewers further. That said, instead of hijabs falling off, why not have her co-firefighters visit her local mosque? Or visit her for dinner? Or fall in love with her and convert? The options for quality and realistic inclusion are endless!