President Obama Just Blasted Hollywood's Casting of Muslims

February 3rd 2016

Kyle Jaeger

At his first visit to a mosque during his presidency on Wednesday, President Barack Obama decried the use of Muslim stereotypes in Hollywood. He said that the film and television industry should work harder to offer a more inclusive and accurate representation of the American Muslim community.

President Obama Speaks at a mosque in Baltimore

In his speech, Obama emphasized the importance of understanding that Islamic extremists do not represent the Muslim population as a whole.

"Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security because it’s not that hard to do," Obama said. "There was a time when there were no Black people on television and you can tell good stories while still representing the reality of our communities."

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Attempts to cast Muslim Americans in roles unrelated to national security have been historically rare.


Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, who serves as the director of Media Relations for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, described the problem as the "three B syndrome." That is, Arab Americans tend to be cast as either bombers, belly dancers, or billionaires. A recent surge of anti-Muslim rhetoric in U.S. politics underscores the importance of moving past these stereotypes and showing Americans that the members of the Muslim community are not outliers but citizens, Qumsiyeh argues.

Suhud Obeidi,director of the Hollywood Bureau of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told ATTN: that she agreed with President Obama's assessment of stereotypical portrayals of American Muslims.

"It is getting old to see Muslim characters portrayed as either victims of hate crimes, terrorists or those who are just ‘token' Muslims," Obeidi said.

Despite the discouraging state of American Muslims' on-screen depictions, Obeidi said she was nevertheless hopeful that the situation was improving.

"While it is very slow, change is happening in the industry, for example, the Sundance Institute is investing in emerging Muslim artists and other minority communities in order to tell more accurate stories. I have a lot of hope that the tide is turning because audiences want to see more accurate portrayals of people of all backgrounds," Obeidi said.

Watch this ATTN: video to hear President Obama's full remarks. 


Pres. Obama just blasted Islamophobia and misrepresentation of Muslims in his first-ever speech at a mosque.

Posted by ATTN: on Wednesday, 3 February 2016

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