We have our own ‘Muslim’ Marvel super hero!

Published: November 6, 2013

Kamala Khan is the second legacy Muslim character to show up in mainstream comics. Yes, it will be very controversial initially, but we need to start seeing the bigger picture.

As rumour has it, Marvel Comics, while endeavouring to diversify, will soon be introducing a series of comics whose lead character will be a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey City, named Kamala Khan. Code name: Ms Marvel.

ms marvel

Surprised? Probably a little bit. But was this expected after the success of the Burka Avenger chronicles? I think so.

As Kamala discovers her ‘shape-changing’ super powers, she has to face adversaries like her conservative family among others. Her family is portrayed as a typical (or so they claim) Muslim family with an extremely conservative brother, a mother who thinks Kamala will get pregnant the second she touches a boy and a father who has long hopes of her becoming a doctor.

family

The writer for this comic series, G Willow Wilson, said in an interview:

“Captain Marvel represents an ideal that Kamala pines for. She’s strong, beautiful and doesn’t have any of the baggage of being Pakistani and ‘different’.”

So how will Kamala be received? On one side, we have those who will condemn this concept left, right and center, while on the other we have people who will commend the basis of the concept.

Here is how I think Ms Marvel is likely to be dissected by her readers:

Her attire

We are all well aware of the reaction that Burka Avenger brought about when the series was first introduced. Jiya, the main lead, fights crime donned in a burka. Although this concept went viral and was applauded by many, there were many who criticised her attire altogether claiming it was reinforcing stereotypes and would set a bad example for children watching the show.

Kamala’s attire, on the other hand, includes a costume that covers her arms, leggings that cover her legs completely although her head and face are not covered at all. Interestingly enough, the one part that amused me the most was the scarf like garment tied around her neck.

What is that supposed to be? A dupatta?

marvel hand

If a section of the audience had an issue with Burka Avengers’ costume, boy, are they going to have a field day with Kamala’s!

Burka Avenger is portrayed as what is thought to be the idea of how women dress in Pakistan. Kamala Khan’s attire, however, is more like the modern take of how we are portrayed while fighting evil. What may come as a surprise to some people in the West is that a certain portion of the Pakistani population, albeit a minority, does in fact dress in this manner.

Before, however, you think of attacking our newest superhero, I urge you to think, is it really so bad?

Is it unacceptable for the west to think that the women in Pakistan are liberal enough to dress like that?

At least they were considerate enough to throw in a dupatta. Unfortunately, it seems they really do think we lack dress sense, but it is a great start.

Indian audience: A Pakistani super-hero, seriously?

On the other side, we have the question that not many Pakistanis but a lot of Indians will be asking. Why not have an Indian super hero?

Did I mention the fact that not only is she a superhero in the comic series, she is also the lead character?! I wouldn’t be surprised if Pakistan and India based the beginning of their fourth war on the nationality of this comic character.

The ‘Muslim’ effect

Kamala being Muslim will open a Pandora box of conspiracy theories and will become a fiery topic of debate that will go on until the end of time. ‘Maybe she is an ex-CIA agent who volunteered for a special military program’ or perhaps she has some links with Malala. Or maybe, we bribed the author. You can count on this to become the topic of many blogs to come.

The American angle

Is this America’s way of saying ‘let us work together and fight crime?’ or ‘hey, we put you in a Marvel’s comics. Can we have the NATO supply routes opened again?’

What every Pakistani will want to know is, ‘why now?’

Where did this sudden love or interest in Pakistan come from?

Either they are relating the character to Malala and how she represents Muslim women in Pakistan, and therefore create a Muslim teenage girl that will stand up for the ones who cannot stand up for themselves. Or, they’re just trying to further complicate matters by emphasising on the fact that she’s a Muslim girl.

After all, none of Marvel’s former characters’ religion has ever been mentioned, let alone highlighted, before. Why bring religion in to a comic character? Something that is so personal and considered taboo to be brought up at the dinner table is now going to be the topic of discussion between every child who reads the comic book.

None of the previous characters ever had their faith central to their character, so why give this to Kamala? In case after case, movie after movie, faith is brought up causing upheaval and resentment in certain religious segments. I hope that is not the case with Kamala.

As Sana Amanat, a Muslim-American and one of the editors of the series said,

 “I do expect some negativity, not only from people who are anti-Muslim, but people who are Muslim and might want the character portrayed in a particular light.”

I personally think it’s quite amazing. This isn’t just some random comic series we are talking about. This is Marvel; the most popular comic book company of all time. For them to include a fragment of us, Pakistanis, in their illustrations is humbling.

Kamala Khan is the second legacy Muslim character to show up in mainstream comics. Yes, it will be very controversial initially, but we need to start seeing the bigger picture.

This will hopefully be a modern take, a different and less ‘terrorist-like’ look on how we are portrayed otherwise. I do wish they had left it ‘Pakistani’ super-hero instead of emphasising on the Muslim bit. Hopefully, fans and comic book junkies will enjoy the series for what it is supposed to be, entertainment.

The mentioned Marvel comic series will be released in February 2014!

PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

Zoya Zaidi

Zoya Zaidi

An undergraduate from Middlesex University who is currently working for a local daily. She tweets as @zozaidi (twitter.com/zozaidi).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nobody

    That’s not a duputta, it’s an infiniti scarf. Common choice of accessory among women here. Could just be a fashion statement, or maybe a tiny courtesy from the producers so not to stir conservatives’ emotions. My guess is that’s just a fashion accessory.
    While the effort is noble and I for one like it, I can already hear the complaints. Muslims are never content it seems. Curious to see where this goes…..time will tell. Recommend

  • Aas

    I appreciate the idea… But i was expecting a more unique superhero name for her and not an adaption of some previous hero’s name! Well, lets see how it goes, best of luck to Marvel!Recommend

  • Angel of Darkness

    Absolutely great. Can’t wait to get a copy of the comic.Recommend

  • Shamy

    surprising i havent seen a comment saying “Yeh Amreecan Saazish hai…” yet.Recommend

  • Ariba

    More ideas to promote western culture in Pakistan.

    They are killing us softly.

    trutube.tv/video/4851/Killing-Us-Softly-4-2010-Jeane-KilbourneRecommend

  • knightridrr

    I hope they make a movie on this character soon ;)Recommend

  • Dr Dang

    There are plenty of Indian superhero characters by americans ;

    Maya from Justice League International,Devi from Virgin Comics, Rama from DC Comics, Thunderbird (Neal Shaara) from the X-Men & the latest- Chakra Indian Superhero created by Stan Lee for Liquid ComicsRecommend

  • Parvez

    It’s business……..if it sells good……..if not it’ll be dumped.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Why don’t you go build your own country and stop infecting Pakistan with your negative energy?Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Yeh Amerecan Saazish haiRecommend

  • Kamal

    plz stop using word muslim this is no more useful as far as pakistan is concern.Recommend

  • S

    yes, they are indeed trying to kill us softly. But they plan and Allah plans :)

    Just do not lose hope. Muslims have had hypocrites before who support such things and we have them now too, they could not stop us before and InshAllah they will not be able to stop us now. We have had been in worst times then this and by Grace of Allah we have bounced back and InshAllah we will bounce back stronger. Just keep emanRecommend

  • Ali

    Kamala ka HamlaRecommend

  • Pappu

    The dress outfit for this Muslim girl character is against Shariah and codes prescribed in Quran. Please read http://www.missionislam.com/family/hijab.htmRecommend

  • Pappu

    This is un-islamic. Please read dressing codes and behaviors of a muslim girl as per Quran and Islamic teachings. http://www.missionislam.com/family/hijab.htmRecommend

  • rasgullah

    This is the best of the times for you guys. Once the oil gets over, its gonna get worse.Recommend

  • wajid

    you don’t have a beard, you don’t seem to be following so called Islamic dress either then how can you criticize other people on dress codes ?Recommend

  • Pappu

    So you believe that ONLY a muslim with beard, a turban on his head and wearing kandoora has the right to talk about Islam?Recommend

  • BlackJack

    As I said yesterday, this is not the first muslim superhero. Marvel already has a female superhero in the X-Men called Dust (real name is Sooraiya Qadir), and for all those momins agonizing over the new Ms. Marvel’s modern attire, Sooraiya shares your conservative outlook and is usually seen in niqab (and abaya to boot), so huzzah! As regards Indian superheroes, there are several as indicated by Dr. Dang (although Thunderbird is Native American and not our kind of Indian), but apart from them, we also have a vibrant animation and comics industry based on Hindu mythology characters.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    The name Kamala has, for many in the literary circles of the western world especially in Germany, a romantic and spiritual association. The literature nobel prize winner Hermann Hesse presented the beautiful Kamala in his world renowned novel “Siddhartha” 1922………..as a teacher of erotical love!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I completely disagree. Read the Quran. Don’t read someone else’s interpretation. What does it say in terms of specifics?

    Boom.Recommend

  • Pappu

    So you will read Quran when a heavily bearded person with a black turban on his head and a sword in his hand will instruct you?? Strange logic you have!!Recommend

  • Pappu

    What an insane logic! You want to follow me or you want to follow Quran??Recommend

  • Nobody

    As a Muslim woman I fully understand what a modest dress code entails, thank you very much, but I don’t think it needs to be forced on anyone or put on a superhero to prove a point. Muslims girls/women come from all walks of life and all degrees of modesty. Get over what a woman’s wearing and worry about yourself instead of informing others. Cheers.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Yes the West is trying to kill us softly. The bombing, sectarian violence, extremism and hatred preached by some is only trying to push the Ummah into a progressive and peaceful era, right?
    This victim card is getting old and it’s high time Muslims take responsibility for their own actions. Trying to paint a picture of the “evil” West trying to “kill” us only promotes the idea that Muslims are weak in their faith, nothing else. When Muslim nations learn to stand on their own feet and create peaceful and tolerant societies, nobody will bother them or try to “kill” them.
    Furthermore, while I don’t know the thought process behind this particular superhero, my guess is they’re trying to relate it to the average Muslim Pakistani-American girl/woman, and a lot of dress/look like this superhero does in her “civilian” non-superhero outfit. Muslims come in all different shapes and sizes; why does the west seem to accept that more than Muslims do…?Recommend

  • I’maSellout

    Now turn it around a bit, Why don’t all these western loving liberals go build their “Own” country or better yet, get out into those western countries rather than living in Islamic republic of Pakistan and stop infecting it with western cultures? Pakistan is and was built for Islam…Recommend

  • AadiAryaPurushaz(Himavat)

    It should not be Kamala Khan or Komal Ali but should be Malalalalalalalaaa Yujuf.Recommend

  • AadiAryaPurushaz(Himavat)

    Thanks for pointing out their hypocrisy.Islam is trying to evolve to survive, but sadly, the laws of the Desert are cut in stone.They will have to deal with it. We should give the badou some space.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Soooo….you believe that Islamic/ Quranic dress code cannot be applied to ALL muslim women?? When you tell me “Get over what a woman’s wearing” aren’t you indirectly challenging the divine codes??Recommend

  • Pappu

    What do you mean by interpretation? Please read Surah Al Ahzab. Also you can go and ask arabs ( saudi arabia) upon home Quran was delivered.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Please read Sura Al Ahzab. The dressing and behavior codes are for all muslim girls/ women. Also i clarify that i am not the one forcing anything upon you.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Believe me Quran is very clear and easy to understand. You read yourself and you will not need any other interpretation.Recommend

  • wajid

    The logic is that, how can you comment on other people dress, when you are neither following the islamic dress code !Recommend

  • Pappu

    So you will follow islamic dress code only when i (pappu) will follow. Is this your logic? I cannot share some information in this forum without a beard?Recommend

  • wajid

    My dear Brother Pappu, the logic is ” Practice what you preach” otherwise people will call you confused.Recommend

  • Pappu

    My dear Brother Wajid, I am not preaching. I am just sharing information. RegardsRecommend

  • Guest

    D I I YOUR PURE AND CHASTE SISTERS AS PER DIVINE SHARIA LAW? YOUR SISTERS HAVE A GRAVE PROBLEM, BECOZ THEY HAVE AN INTOLERANT BROTHER LIKE YOU!Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    YOUR SISTERS AS PER YOUR DIVINE SHARIA LAW! BUT THEY HAVE GRAVE PROBLEMS WITH THEIR INTOLERANT MACHO BROTHER!Recommend

  • Pappu

    Wajid Dear, you are getting frustrated because probably you dont like what i am referring to.Recommend

  • Gingo

    Our Own Muslim Marvel Superhero?
    How can we claim ownership of something which we haven’t created?Recommend

  • Pappu

    Goggi..check out this one.
    Contrast of two worlds…And why are you blaming me?? Please read Quran.Recommend

  • Farhad

    Mr pappu, you seem to be a very confused human being. some times you speak against Islam, sometimes you try to be a fundamentlist. I think you are suffering from bipolar disorder.Recommend

  • jawad

    People in the comments have already point out the preaching without practicing is munafaqat. on the day of judgement, munafiq will be even more trouble than the disbelievers.Recommend

  • jawad

    People have already pointed out in the comments that preaching without practicing is munafiqat. On the day of judgement, Munafiq will be in more trouble than the disbeliever.Recommend

  • Angel of darkness

    The writer of this comic is a Muslim.Recommend

  • Pappu

    I am just sharing information.Recommend

  • Pappu

    I am not preaching, i am just sharing information.Recommend

  • Adz

    Exactly! I thought I was the only one who knew of this underused part of the Quran.Recommend

  • Pappu

    I am not preaching. I am just sharing information.Recommend

  • umair

    Brother, Many thanks for sharing.
    Copying and pasting from google is a very hard task indeed. Please accept the thanks on behalf of the entire Muslim Ummah. Great people like you are born in centuries.Recommend

  • Nobody

    No, I’m directly challenging YOUR self-appointed right to be the morality police and comment on a woman’s clothing. Follow the scriptures yourself; stop judging others, which might I add is ALSO part of our divine codes, but it seems you only read the part about what women should and shouldn’t wear. Focus on correcting yourself and if you don’t like what the superhero’s wearing, don’t read the comic and don’t look at her. Teekh?
    I’m a Muslim woman and I wear what I deem fit. No HUMAN entity has the right to judge me. Don’t like it, don’t look at me.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Nobody

    That comment is worded in such a way that you imply Allah is FORCING something on his followers. I won’t comment further on how ridiculous that implication is because you strike me as someone who sees through tunnel vision, ignoring everything around it. I choose not to see things that way and that’s my right, just as tunnel vision is yours. Cheers.Recommend

  • Pappu

    I am only sharing (and not forcing) Islamic point of view. I respect your way of life whatever it is. I totally believe in “live and let live”. Regards.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Because we aren’t a plague on Pakistan. Yes, but our interpretation is Jinnah’s Pakistan.

    That’s like saying that your computer was built for Windows 7 and then installing Windows 3.1 and claiming it is the same thing.

    Upgrade your software.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    You are running with what it says about ‘decency’. Let me blow your mind:

    http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2012/06/45564/hijab-is-not-an-islamic-duty-scholar/

    “Last month at Al Azhar University, Sheikh Mustapha Mohamed Rashed
    defended a thesis that sparked a heated debate among religious scholars.
    The candidate concluded that Hijab, or the veil, is not an Islamic
    duty.”

    You see, this isn’t the first thesis and nor will it be the last. The question is, are you willing to understand?Recommend