In recent years, different industries have been attempting to give Muslim women a platform — be it in fashion, media, or sports. We've seen countless drama series feature visibly Muslim women (aka hijabis) for the sake of inclusivity. But, we're better off without the representation if it is to be covered in bundles of stereotypes.
Many Muslim women, hijabis or not, have raised concerns over the way the representation has been carried in numerous drama series over the years. Often times, the portrayal of Muslim women in these shows either reinforce stereotypes or fetishize the characters in a way that does not resonate with the reality of things for Muslim women around the world. For starters, creators of such shows use the hijab as a tool to make Muslim characters "easy to spot" which is a problem in and of itself. Such portrayal erases Muslim women who do not wear the hijab and spreads the idea that those who do not cover are less Muslim than those who do. Aside from that, some productions have given birth to the "token hijabi," a character who is treated as a human from a foreign land striving to become the *first* in something. The reason some Muslim women choose to wear the hijab is a personal one. Being given a token for her achievements (or because she *broke free*) is certainly not the answer to the "why".
Other than being treated as aliens, creators of certain shows often forget that Muslim women are not in need of a "White Male Savior," nor are they craving the life of a non-Muslim woman. Why are hijabis often portrayed as oppressed beings who hate their religion and want to rebel against their families?
Not every hijab-wearing woman feels oppressed. Not every hijabi dreams of leaving her home to "live her life" without her parents dictating her every move. And, if it hasn't been made clear already, not all Muslim women wear the hijab. This is not to say struggles do not exist within the Muslim community today. But is an eight-episode series doing those struggles justice? Certainly not. Are such struggles a true depiction of the diversity that exists among Muslim women around the world? Not even close.
If a non-Muslim, non-female writer put the storyline together, what authenticity can it really hold? People are tired of such lazy depictions of Muslims on popular shows. The problem has been addressed by multiple users on Twitter after Netflix released the second season of the Spanish-language teen drama "Elite".
In it, a hijab-wearing high school student named Nadia - played by Moroccan-Spanish actress Mina El Hammani - rebels against her conservative family. She takes off her hijab when her parents are not in sight, drinks alcohol, and experiences sexual encounters with a white Christian male (oh no, hijabis have feelings and desires, too!). But why couldn't Nadia have been depicted as a regular Muslim character who experiences regular things without it being a matter of controversy? Why did her character focus solely on the fact that she's a hijabi? Painting Muslim women in such a light is commonplace in web television series nowadays. The characters are built on faith identity, not personal identity. They perpetuate misconceptions rather than challenge them.
This narrative is old, offensive, and fails to relay authentic Muslim experiences without bringing stereotypes to the screen.