According to a study conducted by the University of Southern California (USC) indicated that only 1.1% of characters on popular TV shows are Muslim whereas they take up a quarter of the world’s population.
The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative study looked at 200 top-rated TV series aired between 2018 and 2019 in the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand and examined nearly 9,000 speaking characters.
According to the study, 87% of the series examined did not include any Muslim characters and about 8% of the programmes had only one Muslim actor.
The report reads:
‘Muslims make up 25% of the world’s population yet were only 1.1% of characters in popular television series’ – said Al-Baab Khan, the study’s lead author. ‘Not only is this radical erasure an insult, it has the potential to create real-world injury for audiences, particularly Muslims who may be the victims of prejudice, discrimination, and even violence.’
The report stated that the study portrays the “disheartening reality of Muslims on screen.”
‘For Muslims this sends a message that they don’t belong or don’t matter,’ said Riz Ahmed of the production company Left Handed Films, in a statement. ‘For other people, we risk normalizing fear, bigotry and stigmatization against Muslims.’
‘TV shows are the stories we bring into our homes,’ Ahmed continued. ‘They play a big part in shaping how we understand the world, each other, and our place within it. This study reminds us that when it comes to Muslim portrayals, we’re still being fed a TV diet of stereotyping and erasure.’
According to the study, nearly one-third of the Muslim characters were depicted onscreen as violent offenders and almost 40% were targets of violent attacks. 37.2% of Muslim characters were shown as criminals and 15.7% worked in law enforcement.
Moreover, the study also showed that Muslim women were often depicted as “fearful and submissive to their male counterparts.”
‘Networks and streaming services need to embrace their responsibility to ensure Muslims of all backgrounds see themselves reflected in our favorite TV shows,’ said Ahmed. ”And they would be wise to embrace this gigantic opportunity to reach and connect with an underserved global audience – not just as part of a passing diversity fad but as a decisive shift towards inclusive story-telling.’
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