Pakistani film and television actress Mehwish Hayat, who has recently gained international recognition for her work in the popular Disney+ Series Ms. Marvel, has credited the show for changing the conventional image that the world holds for Muslims.
Muslims have confronted vast cultural and religious stereotypes in movies and television shows for many years, dating way back before the tragic 9/11 incident, repeatedly disseminating the image of Muslims as a community of violence and terror which does not hold any affinity with American ethics and morals. The vilification of Muslims in the media has also been well documented by academic scholar Jack Shaheen in his book Reel Bad Arabs.
In the meantime, Ms. Marvel, a unique, one-of-its-kind TV series that depicts the journey of Kamala Khan, Marvel’s first Muslim superhero to headline her own comic book as well as get her own show, has stolen the pop culture limelight.
Ms. Marvel was an answer to my prayers: Mehwish Hayat
The show, which recently got its first season on Disney+, has gained stupendous popularity worldwide, who see “Ms. Marvel” Kamala, a Muslim girl with Pakistani origins, going to mosque, celebrating the festival of Eid- something that the mainstream movies and TV shows could never depict aside from the fundamentalist, terrorizing, xenophobic stereotype of Muslims.
Mehwish Hayat, the renowned Pakistani actress who plays the character of Aisha who is Kamala’s great-grandmother, spoke to PopCulture.com in an exclusive interview, lauding Disney+ as a “godsend” for breaking the stereotype of Muslims around the world.
“For the last five to six years, I have been very vocal about how Muslims and Pakistanis have been misrepresented in the West and in Bollywood and wherever I went on any global platform, I made sure that I made my voice heard,” said Hayat, “I was talking about this issue and starting a dialogue because it’s really unfair on this entire nation and people to be misunderstood because of the misconceptions that have been created around us. So [Ms. Marvel] was an answer to my prayers, literally, when this happened, because I’ve longed for this day, literally, to see us being represented in a more balanced and fair portrayal.”
“How it has the ratings and the way everyone has responded, the fan base — it’s just proof that people do want to know about our culture, about our people, because they had no idea about the Partition, about Karachi, about our food, about our music. There’s so much that needs to be explored, and I think just one show is not enough. There should be more movies, more shows that need to be made to actually understand and represent our culture, which is so vibrant, so colorful [and] so full of life,” she added.