Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wham! Bam! Islam!

As I flipped through my DVR'd shows to find something to watch, I saw that I had a new PBS Independent Lens episode. These days I mostly look for lighter shows...something I can veg while I usually skip over the Independent Lens recordings. However, the Wham! Bam! Islam! title caught my eye.

I watched, intrigued by the efforts of an Islamic man who has/is creating superheroes and role models that allow kids (and adults) to reframe what we've come to believe is the crux of Islam. "The idea was to offer new role models of superheroes born of Middle East history and Islamic archetypes that possess values shared by the entire world."

The TED video (above) talks about how the superheroes we all ascribe to in the United States (Superman, Batman, Spiderman) stemmed from religious origins related to the Christian faith. Naif Al-Mutawa wanted to do the same with Islam. Creating Islamic superheroes will hopefully do a few things...shift our understandings to the true focus of Islam, help us to see how basic human values cross all cultures, and help us envision brown people as superheroes instead of villanizing brown people in our society and creating unfounded fears.

The website offers a free, downloadable comic book. I struggled with the names and certain references as I read through it. Some of the concepts went over my head. I want to double check the concept with some of my Islamic friends, but my guess is that the words and references in the comics make perfect sense to those who came from an Islamic background. Maybe it's time for the rest of us to move away from our own ethnocentricity, step out of our own comfort zone, and attempt to understand history and beliefs that are much like our own, but with a different heritage. I know it would be of benefit to me to read these comics and begin to gain an understanding of the story line, if for no other reason to be able to have more knowledge about a culture that is very foreign to me, yet one that has had amazing influence in our current society.

We are in a place in our society where I have no doubt that our conversations about Islam in our American society will continue. As we make judgments about the religion and the people who ascribe to it, it is only fair to have both sides of the story...just as those of us who are Christians hope people look at both sides of the story when people like the Norwegian man write 1500-page manifestos using his Christian faith as justification.

You can find more info in the New York Times article.

Here's a free sample comic book: The 99: Origins.
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