Ask yourself these 5 questions when you see a Muslim character in a movie.

​Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

It's no secret that Hollywood has a diversity and representation problem.

For years, Hollywood has produced television shows and movies that often portray Muslims, South Asians, and Middle Eastern people with harmful stereotypes.

According to Jack Shaheen, a writer focusing on Arab representation in cinema, Muslim and Arab characters are often confined to three archetypes. He called them "the three B's": bombers, billionaires, and belly dancers. And sometimes, in addition to swinging their hips as belly dancers, some of the women are depicted as living under oppression in black abayas and burqas.


It's quite easy to find shows that fit the bill. The grand majority of Muslim characters in "Homeland" are either suicide bombers or Arab billionaires. Even in beloved children's movies, like "Aladdin," the characters are based in a "faraway place / Where the caravan camels roam / Where they cut off your ear / If they don't like your face / It's barbaric, but hey, it's home!"

But it's time to change the outdated and redundant negative typecasting of Muslim and Middle Eastern characters.

A new test has been introduced to measure how Muslims and Arabs are portrayed in television and film.

The Riz Test is a concept formed by a small group of film buffs that were inspired by a speech that Riz Ahmed, known for "The Night Of," made to the U.K. Parliament about the Bechdel test and media representation.

"We're passionate film buffs but we're tired of the same old stereotypes and tropes being perpetuated in Films and TV shows," the group wrote in a tweet.

Like the Bechdel test, which measures how women are portrayed in fiction, The Riz Test has a quite simple criteria.

The Riz Test asks the viewer to consider five questions if their film or show includes one identifiable Muslim character:

  1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of Islamist terrorism?
  2. Presented as irrationally angry?
  3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards, or anti-modern?
  4. Presented as a threat to a Western way of life?
  5. If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic? If female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts?

There have been some great improvements in recent years. A few television shows have featured Muslim characters that don't fall into the traps of The Riz Test, such as "The Bold Type's" Adena El Amin character and "Queer Eye's" Tan France.

It's important now, more than ever, to include accurate representation and portrayal of Muslims and Arabs on the big screen.

Hollywood is often a reflection of the society that we live in, and sometimes, it serves as an introduction to the unknown.

In the United States in 2017, Muslims only made up 1.1% of the general population, and not a lot of Americans have ever befriended a Muslim in real life. This means that most of the understanding Americans have about Islam, Muslims, Arabs and their society often come from what they see on television, films, and the news cycle. And with 80% of the media coverage on Islam and Muslims being negative, it's no wonder there's still a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment and misunderstanding across the country.

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

But accurate portrayals isn't just about improving the way Americans view Muslims; it's also about benefiting our society as a whole.

As Ahmed said in his Parliament speech, "If we fail to represent, I think we're in danger of losing out in three ways, the three E's: (1) We're going to lose people to extremism, (2) we're going to lose out on an expansive idea of who we are as individuals and as a community, and (3) we're going to really lose out on the economic benefits that proper representation can bring to our economy."

In other words, the time is now for Hollywood to generate diverse and accurate portrayals of Muslims and Arabs on the big screen.

You can watch Riz Ahmed's speech below:

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

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Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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