We’ve all been warned of the dangers of a single narrative. The belief that a group can only have one homogeneous story has led to embarrassing assumptions, painful discrimination, centuries of oppression, and even genocide. We know this instinctively, but do we really understand the true damaging impacts that a single story can have on the individuals who exist in its shadow? In my conversation with Americanish filmmakers, Aizzah Fatima (Producer) and Iman Zahary (Director), they explored what it’s like to be subjected to a single story as Muslim women, and the rewards liberation can bring.
“Growing up, all we saw were Muslims on screen as either terrorists being angry or women being victims of the barbaric Muslims or brown people,” Zahary said during our videoconference interview. “You as a kid get convinced, that's how it is. … I would be on a plane and I would see a Muslim and then I would get scared.” Zahary is a Muslim woman who wears hijab and who studied religion and Arabic at the University of Florida, but as a youth in the aftermath of 9/11 her perceptions became clouded.
“That's absolutely my experience as well,” Fatima said. “Like post 9/11, there was so much of this like fear of the other and fear of bearded men. I totally remember being on the subway and some bearded dude would come on with a freaking large briefcase and I'd be like, ‘Well, is there a bomb in there?’” Zahary laughed. Fatima continued, her cadence half-joking, half-serious. “’Like, what's happening?’ Look, because we were fed so much of this in the news, and that you see people like us who come from that background, who come from the faith. If we're questioning, I can't imagine the person, you know, in the middle of like Mississippi or Arkansas who has never met a Muslim person what they are thinking.”
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