Is Black Panther Islamophobic?A Non-Black Muslim Analysis for Non-Black Muslims
Over the last few days, I have watched my Black Muslim friends and acquaintances celebrating the release of Black Panther like nothing I've ever seen before. The energy of hope that filled my social media the past few days has been truly inspiring. Then, almost directly after other friends, predominantly non-black Muslims brought up the Islamophobia in the film. This saddened me, and for a little while my resolve to celebrate the film, in the same way, was weakened, as I felt that even with this landmark victory we Muslims were still not able to find safety within it.
I was finally able to watch the film last night, and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Before I get into my analysis of Islamophobia within Black Panther I want to be clear that this analysis and article is directed to my non-black Muslim and non-Muslim friends. This is important because I will not take something away from my Black family members who have found solace and hope in this incredible movie.
I also want to highlight that the reason I'm writing this article is that we are constantly putting the burden on Black POC to address the offenses, both subtle and explicit, of other more privileged populations. If we are to say that we are co-conspirators then we need to stand up to our own who are making these possible offenses. Ultimately, Black people shouldn't have to teach us Black 101 classes, unless they want to and/or are getting paid for educating the rest of us.
With all that said though the simple answer is yes, but does it matter?
The reason I want to highlight the fact whether or not this matters is not because I'm condoning Islamophobia in any shape or form, but the unfortunate reality is that I haven't seen a non-white supremacist or Islamophobic movie in a really long time. It is incredibly rare to find movies that are free from all forms of oppression, specifically Islamophobia. My first question to the individuals bringing this up now is did you watch any of the other Marvel Movies? If so, did you speak about it then? Did you speak out about Iron Man or even Captain America Civil War? The list goes on and on and the Islamophobia in many of those movies was far more explicit.
The second reason I highlight it and wonder if it is our place as non-black Muslims to identify this as Islamophobic and harmful is the following: in the end of the day, it doesn't affect us the same way. Islamophobia is not the same for everyone, and is different for Black Muslims vs Brown Muslims vs White Muslims vs Asian Muslims and so on and so forth. The portrayal of a Boko Haram style kidnapping for many people will be viewed as a Black Muslims problem. Ultimately, it will be Black Muslims who suffer for this, and not ALL Muslims. If Black Muslims called for a boycott of the film then I would not ask a single question and will boycott today, tomorrow, and will not watch the movie until the day I die or the day Black Muslims tell me it's okay to, whichever comes first. It is the same reaction that I had hoped my own allies as a Palestinian would have towards Wonder Woman, and it's the least I can do.
Third, are you also discussing the other elements of oppression in the movie? Are you speaking out about the different forms of masculinity in the movie? Are you speaking out about the subtle imperialism and pro-US Empire themes? Are you having conversations about the jabs at radical activism? There's plenty to discuss, less than most movies, but still enough. This is important because if you're not being intersectional, then you just want more privilege and don't actually want justice for everyone.
My final point is this, how are you loving and celebrating Blackness on a daily basis? Both the Muslim and Non-Muslim Black communities? If this is the only time you've spoken out about Islamophobia then could it be that loving and celebrating blackness is not a priority in your life? Why is it somehow okay when movies celebrating whiteness are Islamophobic, racist, and a million other things, but not a movie that celebrates Blackness?
Now, if you have done all these things, and your analysis of Black Panther is an extension of the Social Justice work you've been doing then I can't go against that and trust that your analysis is not built on anti-blackness.
Ultimately, I don't view Black Panther as the ideal movie, and the goal we need to be setting for other movies. I believe that Black Panther MUST be the beginning and the least we accept from Hollywood. Why can't we live in a world where movies and other forms of entertainment are void of oppression, both subtle and explicit? You might say that's a lot to ask for, but honestly, we need to do more. Black Panther was fantastic, and I am so excited to live a world post this movie where we can have more films depicting people of color in more than just the token POC role, villains, or the first to be killed role. We can, and deserve movies that inspire us to change the world, to eradicate oppression in all its forms, and find places where we Belong. We deserve it all.