Actor, rapper and activist Riz Ahmed says that while art can provoke feelings, it's important to think about the limitations of its impact in the face of legal and systemic oppression.
Variety reports that Ahmed took the stage at the CAA Amplify conference in Ojai on Tuesday and took that time to talk about how we can reduce Islamophobic sentiments in the media.
“The efforts of individual artists or storytellers may be bold, they may be progressive, they may act as beacons of hope for other people, but in the face of institutional prejudice and institutionalized obstacles, systemic obstacles, our efforts can sometime still fall flat,” he told the audience.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist actor opened up about how he's learnt some hard lessons along the way, from 15 years of getting secondarily searched at airports around the globe, even as his work has earned him recognition.
At times, the airport guards swabbing him for explosives would ask for selfies, he said.
“Hasan Minhaj could win a Peabody, I could win an Emmy, Ibtihaj Muhammad could win the Olympics, but some of these obstacles are systemic, and we can’t really face them alone,” he said. “We need your help. I’m basically here to ask for your help. Because it’s really scary to be a Muslim right now. Super scary.”
He added, “With all my privilege and profile, I often wonder if this is going to be the year they round us up, if this is the year they’re going to put Trump’s Muslim registry into action, if this is going to be the year they ship us all off,” he continued, also referring to incidents of Islamophobia such as Brexit-fueled nationalism and the treatment of Uighar Muslims being detained in China.
He then called for Hollywood bigwigs to research how Muslims are represented on television and the big screne through a data-driven, systemic way so that Muslims can stop being stereotyped as "terrorists or bogeymen".
“I think lives are quite literally at stake here. The representation of Muslims on screen — that feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded.”