Quantico’s apology is a slap in the face of every Muslim misrepresented by Hollywood

Published: June 18, 2018
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Supporters of Hindu Sena, a right wing Hindu group, shout slogans and burn posters of Priyanka Chopra. PHOTO: REUTERS

The past week has caused uproar in the international media, after a Hollywood show had the misfortune of treading conflicting political grounds. ABC, an American television studio, later issued an apology to Indian fans after its crime drama Quantico portrayed Hindu nationalists in a negative light, as they planned a terrorist plot and tried to frame Pakistan for it.

The scene from Quantico’s most recent episode, The Blood of Romeo, received prompt backlash from Indians after Priyanka Chopra, who plays the lead character of an FBI agent, holds up sacred Hindu prayer beads as evidence that the plotter, who planned to detonate a nuclear bomb in New York, was an Indian nationalist.

Online trolls had a field day and called Chopra out for ‘betraying’ India and offending Hindu sentiments.

As a response to the barrage of online outrage, ABC issued a formal apology to its Indian audience:

“The episode has stirred a lot of emotion, much of which is unfairly aimed at Priyanka Chopra, who didn’t create the show, nor does she write or direct it. The show has featured antagonists of many different ethnicities and backgrounds, but in this case, we inadvertently and regrettably stepped into a complex political issue. It was certainly not our intention to offend anyone.”

However, after seeing this acknowledgment and apology issued out of respect for the sentiments of Indians and Hindus, I’d like to ask, where is the apology for us Muslims? Or does the western media not consider itself at fault for its prejudiced portrayal of Muslims?

ABC’s apology prompted Fatima Bhutto to suggest that she too is waiting for an apology. In her talk on Hollywood and propaganda, Bhutto specifically asserts how Muslims are treated and portrayed in films and that the media must not misuse its power by smoothing down our resistance to things like torture and war.

It is absurd that the world instantaneously reacted to the ill-representation of Hindus and, upon being pressured into apologising, also issued a heartfelt one. The lack of respect or attention given to the outrage of Muslims with regard to their unrealistic and offensive representation in the media often leads one to wonder whether it is sheer ignorance or a political agenda that fuels offensively biased productions to be aired for the masses to view.

The most pertinent example of course is that of Homeland, whose problematic depictions of Muslims as well as its misinformed portrayal of Pakistan has frequently led to the ire of viewers on social media.

Media, particularly Hollywood, has the immense power to normalise things that are in fact immoral, biased and unrealistic. However, most of the time it just communicates unacceptable messages, ultimately leading to the masses accepting what they watch as fact.

There is no doubt Hollywood too often portrays Islam in a negative light, which has been normalised to the extent that Muslims globally have accepted the stereotypes directly linked to their faith. Perhaps this is where Muslims go wrong – accepting these stereotypes and blatant Islamophobia as the norm, and not voicing out in protest. But when the mainstream media “casually” depicts Muslims as troublemakers and terrorists in the plot, it becomes essential to raise our collective voice.

In a world where Muslims are also soaring to brilliant heights and achieving milestones, they need to be truthfully portrayed by Hollywood. The stale and regressive “Muslim characters” most definitely need an evolution. Hollywood needs to move forward from showing Muslim men purely as thugs, terrorists and taxi drivers, to successful businessmen and politicians as well.

Similarly, where Muslim men are portrayed mostly in a negative light, Muslim women are rarely incorporated into the narrative. If by some miracle they are included in the plot, their characters are either shown as submissive or unintelligent, which is quite the opposite of the realistic image of empowered Muslim women residing in the West.

The media is a powerful medium which can not only influence the masses, but also reform ideologies. However, this constant negative portrayal of Muslims will condition people into believing that if not all, then a majority of people practicing Islam are barbaric, violent and inhumane. Presently, while globalisation is at its peak, the media holds the responsibility of promoting religious and cultural tolerance, rather than giving air to the wildfire of radicalisation and racism.

Muslims around the globe should rightfully demand an apology for being represented negatively throughout western media; however, our primary plea is that media networks and script writers put an end to producing TV shows and films that ignorantly continue to represent Muslims in a regressive manner.

Hira Hyder

Hira Hyder

The author is a journalist who strives to be a voice for those who struggle to voice themselves. She believes that any obstacle in life can be battled by the right amount of spirituality, positive energy and chocolate! She tweets @HiraHyder (twitter.com/HiraHyder)

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

  • Anon

    Bhai, forget about Hollywood and Bollywood, what about your own movies like “Khuda ke Liye” projecting……Recommend

  • Genie

    Why should people of virtue be offended by lies that come from compulsive liars whose lies are propagated through the media. Do we not know that such liars also tried to make people believe by propagating a lie that “Jesus was wicked man”.
    Do people not have eyes, ears and sense to sense out lies?Recommend

  • James Kapoor

    If Muslims are so concerned abut an apology on their depiction as terrorists and nutjobs why don’t they convert to Hinduism and live peacefully like Hindus?Recommend

  • jay

    Muslims have only themselves to blame ! The world see’s what is happening . From Al Qaida to LeT , Boko to Jemaah Islamiyah. Muslims have only themselves to blame. Hindus dont go about blowing people up !Recommend

  • Rahul

    If you go anywhere in the world, there is negative perception of Pakistan. Why should Hollywood and Bollywood not portray this reality? Muslims that soared to great heights like Malala or Dr Abdus Salaam are persona non-grata in Pakistan. When Malala visited Pakistan earlier in the year, I watched the Pakistani talk show where she was called a fake and a western stooge.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    But then who are Al Kaida, ISIS, TTP, JuD etc? For which faith they are killing every day?Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    No Hindu or Hindu organization has every conducted a Terror operation outside India.

    Why should Hinduism or Hindus share the stage with certain Abrahamic Religions which have?

    Even in Pakistan no Hindu Temple or Hindu has participated in Terror, but Pakistan itself has attacked many Mosques like Lal Masjid which have and killed God-know-how-many Muslims for being Terrorists.

    Just because you are embarrassed, doesn’t mean you bring down other peaceful ideologies with you.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Looks like sour grapes from Pakistanis that Indians and their Religions are portrayed well in Hollywood movies, but same doesn’t apply to them.

    Well, you can fool yourself, but not others all the time.Recommend

  • gp65

    “All this has left Muslims in India and across the world whose identities have been marred, dragged and abused endlessly by Bollywood and Hollywood for decades to ponder haplessly over the seemingly infinite tentacles of anti-Muslim bigotry”
    Please provide a single example where Bollywood has mared, dragged and abused the Muslim identity.Recommend

  • Ilias Ismil

    The main point of contention was that the so called false flag operatin didn’t make sense and that Indians have never been involved in terrorist activities on foreign soil.
    While it’s true that most muslim are not terrorist, but most terrorist attacks against the west and America have been carried out by muslims.
    As for Hollywood, it needs a plausible enemy that will match the current political climate. For a long time it was Russia, in fact in Rambo 3 the mujahidin were shown as noble warriors. But then Palestinians started hijacking aeroplanes and killing athletes at Olympic events. Not to mention the killing of thousands of fellow muslims every year. Yet no muslim alliance has ever been created to fight this menace, we all blame the west for this and move on.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Pakistanis still looking for false equivalenceRecommend

  • Gratgy

    Considering half the Bollywood producers and superstars are Muslims themselvesRecommend

  • InsanityWithin

    So true but then again the war on terror intiaited by US was actually a war against Muslims. With media being an integral instruemnt of that war, Hindu’s as non-Muslims will be spared. Interesting though, when they mock Islam, we usually hear rants like: Its fiction, comedy, Get over it! Apparently the so-called moderate non Muslims can’t get over fictio/comedy when it targets them.Recommend

  • Arani

    I think the author has a fair point to make. Even as a Hindu, I would concede that. The apology was unnecessary and unfair on other communities.Recommend

  • sterry

    There may be a negative perception of Muslims in many Western countries but Pakistan is not considered as offensive as other Muslim countries because it is seen as a democracy. So Muslims may be linked to perceptions of terror or in the case of Europe asylum smuggling but Indians are tainted with different perceptions such as being the Rape Capital of the world, having most slums and lack of toilets. Don’t kid yourself, Indians are not seen in a good light and this has more to do with perceptions of poor hygiene and rape.Recommend

  • siesmann

    These kinds of controversies mostly act as good,and free advertisements for films and shows.Both sides of the aisle eventually end up seeing it in much higher numbers. Padmavat made good money on the controversy over it.Recommend

  • Atsuf Kalum

    This should be a sign for any Pakistani and especially Indian muslims if they have a sliver of self respect left in them who watch Indian movies. This is disgusting and a slap to all muslims in India and Pakistanis who die to watch Indian movies and speak against banning Indian movies in Pakistan.

    This kind a shows that what they show and see in movies is not just “art”. I feel like throwing up.

    Shame on you Pakis and Indian muslims who don’t get tired of enjoying blatant insults aimed at their whole existence. Learn something from this episode.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Provide a single example? Of Bollywood marring, and abusing the Muslim identity?
    How about three!
    1) Holiday- A soldier is never off duty.
    2) Insaan.
    3) Zila Ghaziabad.
    Even ‘Raees’ shows Muslims as nothing more than gangsters.
    Then ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ with Madhuri Dixit, Huma Qureshi, Naseeruddin Shah shows
    Muslims as rip off artists, low morals, that includes the Begum of a dead Nawabzada
    as a scheming ex courtesan.
    Currently, it is de rigueur, to show Muslims as thieves, gangsters and terrorists in
    Bollywood movies.
    All on Netflix.
    Can give countless more examples. But that will take 10 pages.Recommend

  • Patwari

    So sorry to burst your Hindutva bubble. They caught an Hindustani naval officer
    inciting, providing succor, and money, [bags of $dollars] to two bit thugs who use
    this money to buy, mainly, drugs. Hashish, bhung and other assorted drugs to feed their
    habits. Whatever money is left over they use it for arms and ammunition, supplied by a second faction of Hindustanis, who are supported by Afghani intelligence forces.
    Hindustan can do no wrong. Modi Sarkar at the wheel.
    Rising Shining Nationalistic Vermilion Fascist Saffron Hindustan.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Do you understand the meaning of Abuse?Recommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    Yes , Babri masjid was destroyed by Muslim extremists dressed in saphronRecommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    Do you have any self respect or conscience left in youRecommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    For which faith Hindus killed mercilessly in GujratRecommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    Your hatred is ofcourse understandable as your community was ruled by Muslims / everyone for the last 1500 years.Recommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    Kulbhushan jadev ????Recommend

  • shehryar bukhari

    Khuda k lye also projected the side of USA which isnt acceptable to mostRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but your Taliban kidnapped him from Iran, as confirmed by a German diplomat who cited his sources in Taliban. Taliban then sold him to ISI.
    Besides, there are Pakistani spies in India. Doesn’t mean they are Terrorists.
    Hashish, bhang and other substances are part of our Hindu culture. Such substances are being legalized in America, Europe and other countries. Goes to show our culture was much advanced than today’s modern societies.
    If you truly believe Hinduism is evil, can you tell me why Pakistani Army has attacked Mosques and Madressahs but not a single Temple?
    You can lie to yourself, but not others.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Art imitates life and vice versa.
    Even in Pakistan not a single Temple or Hindu has been convicted of Terror. Why should Hindus and Hinduism be put on the same pedestal to ideologies which clearly have been responsible for mind numbing amount of violence in the world?Recommend

  • wb

    And all are based on true stories. Even if you take 100 pages. Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particular have not contributed to the positivity of the world. So, expect 10000 more Indian and Western films to depict Muslims and Pakistanis in bad light.Recommend

  • wb

    By the way, thank you for your love towards Bollywood and Indian cinema. Clearly, we need more and more Pakistanis to keep watching our films (which are pure rubbish by the way) and making us some money. I’m actually loving it.Recommend

  • Patwari

    You mean like Muslim Massacres in Bharati Occupied Kashmir?
    That would come under abuse.
    Like burning a whole Muslim village in Meghalaya? [Was it Manipur?]
    That would come under abuse.
    Would that include raping women on sidewalks?
    That would come under abuse.
    Could include raping an 8 year old Muslim girl in IOK?
    That would come under abuse.
    A 17 year old Muslim youth stabbed to death on a commuter train?
    That would come under abuse.
    How about a rape of 8 month old girl and a 70 year old nun?
    That would come under abuse.
    A Muslim man giving a co worker, a Hindu woman, a ride to her
    house, was beaten senseless, nearly killed?
    That would come under abuse
    Well, a busload of passengers raping a 23 year old girl on a bus, killing her? (in Delhi to boot!)
    That would come under abuse.
    YOU know very well what abuse is. It is rampant in YOUR country.
    See, YOU belong to the Rape Capital of the World. So there.
    Rest is moot.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    1500 years? lolRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    We don’t want our beautiful religion to be compared to islam. What is so wrong in this?Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Babri Masjid stands on a Temple which was destroyed by Aurangzeb. Tit for tat.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Well, er, see, hmm,…Hindus go about raping and killing 8 years old
    Muslim girls in IOK. Blinding young Muslim students with pellet guns.
    Harassing old Muslim men and grandmothers, in IOK. Running over
    injured Muslims in the streets with jeeps. Assassinating Muslim newspaper
    editors.
    Killing Muslims in the streets with swords. Stabbing young Muslim teenagers
    to death on trains. Beating up Muslim women with chicken meat. Claiming it
    was cow meat. Hanging Muslims from lamp posts claiming they went near a
    cow. Having a Refrigerator Police, that goes around looking for cow meat in
    Muslim neighborhoods.
    Then we have the extremists outfits like RSS, Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman
    Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, plus the warriors, Saadvi Prachi, Yogi Adityanath, Maharaj, [personal guru of Modi Sarkar] Amit Shah, culpable in the genocide of 2,300
    Muslims in Gujrat…And leading all this, the Saffron Lord, Butcher of Gujrat…himself.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    They killed Muslims because Muslim cowards burnt alive 58 innocent women and children in Godhra. There had to be consequence and punishment.Recommend

  • Atsul

    First because Pakistan authorities don’t blindly blame Hindus for any act without investigation, like it happens in India everytime. As soon as a terrorist act occur within minutes they start blaming one muslim group or another, have you ever wondered how d they do instant investigation?

    Second, what do you call the act of hardcore hindus destroying Babri mosque, burning Muslim villages with men, women and kids alive? In which your current Prime Minister was involved, the guy who was banned to enter any country was made a PM by a terrorist minded nation.

    Lynching and killing poorusl villagers for eating a dead cow?

    TERRORISIM IS NOT JUST USE OF BOMBS. It’s any act that is forced to scare and hurt innocent people.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    1) You can call us biased if Muslims are blamed only in India. But, it happens all over the world. No such thing happens with Hindus. Hindus are peaceful al over he world.

    2) What existed before Babri Masjid at that spot? Ramjanmabhoomi. Who demolished it? Hindus are reclaiming what is theirs. Babri Masjid was a symbol of oppression that had to go. I’m sure you will agree once you read about it.

    You say HIndus destroy entire villages. How many have been destroyed in 2017? I can name more than a dozen Terror attack by Muslims this year in Muslim world alone! Clearly you are equating 2 unequal things.

    Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    ABC apologized. There were peaceful protests against Quantico. No one was threatened or BOMBED. ABC realized it was on wrong side and so apologized. What is the fuss.Recommend