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That’s Haram!: Favorite Muslim Characters – Women

This month instead of a podcast ep, Seher and Kori write about their favorite Muslim women on screen and in print.

Zari | Legends of Tomorrow

Seher – Masterfully portrayed by Tala Ashe, Zari continues to be my absolute most favorite Muslim woman on tv right now and I doubt that’ll change any time soon. Zari’s the character I’ve always wanted to see on my screen. Between fulfilling the big eater and snarky deadpan tropes, she’s grown into this incredibly assured leader and my favorite member of Team Legends. I especially enjoy her relationship to Islam considering the world she’s from has completely banned religion. So that she still fasts for Ramadan and doesn’t drink alcohol just really makes me happy. Especially because so many Muslim characters are made “cool” by their adoption of ~western~ behaviors. Though she’s returning as a different iteration when the show returns like Maisie Richardson-Sellers’ Amaya turned Charlie, I am super excited to see where the writers take her character.

Kori – I’m not quite as big a fan of Zari as Seher is, but I still love this character. Zari is well-rounded, three-dimensional, and gets to exist as a person who is also a Muslim, not just “all Muslim, all manufactured Muslim dramatics all the time.” Ashe is returning to the series, as Seher said, but I still wish we could have kept Zari around for a while longer.

Kamala Khan| Marvel Comics/Marvel Rising

Seher – Having only read a few snippets of the Ms. Marvel comics, I can’t say that I’m an expert on Kamala, but as a Pakistani teenager trying to save the world, she’s the closest I’ll get to seeing myself in comics. My interactions with her as a character have actually been through Disney’s Marvel Rising shorts and related content (which is better than the movies, fight me!) Kamala’s journey as a superhero while grappling with how to practice her faith and deal with life as a teenager is infinitely relatable. This scene between Kamala and her Imam after she’s publicly kissed a boy (!) is hilarious and highlights what makes Kamala so fun to follow. She’s written incredibly realistically and reminds me of so many younger girls at my mosque.  

Kori – Kamala is a delight and I will not hear a negative word spoken against her. The brainchild of Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson, Kamala Khan is one of the most relatable, intimate looks at a superhero I’ve seen in comics in years. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kelly Sue DeConnick’s re-branding of Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. However, we got to be in with Kamala since the beginning, and the result is an audience that feels like they know this character on a personal level.

Dr. Dahlia Qadri | Grey’s Anatomy

Seher – Dahlia is the only character in 16 years of Grey’s to wear a hijab and feature in multiple episodes. Introduced in season 14, Dahlia is one of the newest set of interns to grace the chaotic hospital. Her breakout scene is still one of my favorite scenes from the show where she whips her hijab off to use it as a tourniquet to stop a patient’s bleeding. Later while she and Owen are scrubbing in for surgery he states that he was surprised she took her hijab off and she states the hijab is “a symbol of [her] faith, but [her] faith is about service and compassion.” It took 14 seasons but one of the most watched (and still highest rated shows on broadcast) finally gave me a hijab-wearing character who gets it. I don’t regularly watch the show anymore but still look for her scenes because she’s a ball of sunshine and we deserve more of her!

Kori – Dr. Qadri is the only hijab-wearing character on our list, but that’s okay. Muslim women come in all different shapes and sizes and varieties, and there’s no one way to pin Muslim women down (outside, of, you know, we’re Muslim.) That said, Grey’s Anatomy writers have come a long way in how they’ve both utilized Dr. Qadri and shown how they understand her faith. The hijab scene is a highlight, but there are several moments where we get to see the good doctor grow as a character while deepening her solid sense of humanity.

Yasmin Khan | Doctor Who

Seher – Okay so Kori and I did an entire episode about our love for Yasmin Khan and all of her family last month so just listen to that but we couldn’t write this piece without including her, because she’s the BEST. The third Pakistani (…hey TV why don’t we have non-Arab/Pakistani Muslim characters yet) character on this list (not on purpose!!) is my favorite Doctor Who companion and deserves her own dang show. Honestly, I wanna be like her when I grow up. She’s principled, interested in learning more, and has the coolest hair. What’s not to love? Of course, her relationship with the Doctor is lovely too, but I especially appreciate how one of the few pieces about Partition in British media was Doctor Who in the episode “Demons of the Punjab” where she goes back in time and meets her first grandfather. I can’t wait to see what happens next year!

Kori – My favorite character on this list, I adore Yasmin (Yaz) Khan. Lady companions of the Doctor have always been fraught with either romantic tension, a sense of unequal power dynamics, or the Doctor straight up behaving not so great. The Chibnall era of Doctor Who seems to want to break that cycle by not only giving us Thirteen who is the culmination of all the lessons she’s learned before, but also with Yaz, a level-headed, ultra-capable woman who can keep up with the Doctor’s thought processes when it really matters, and fits right in as her first mate. Yaz and the Doctor, along with the rest of the Fam have a far healthier symbiotic relationship, leading to a rock solid friendship based on understanding, faith, and maybe being able to wheedle said cosmic friend into taking you back in time to meet your Nani.

Images courtesy of ABC, BBC Studios, Marvel Comics, and the CW

Seher and Kori
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