Historically, particular religions and cultures have been capable of great good and bad. The Christians could be associated with great atrocities in the name of Christianity for example, the Spanish inquisition or the war between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. When we talk about Jihadist and the crimes that happen as in 9/11, we attach those visions to people of the Muslim faith or middle eastern culture. What we don’t talk about enough is the innate goodness that all human beings have. Throughout history, evil, not a culture nor a particular group of people has caused these types of prejudices. For example, Hitler overtime developed the opinion that a particular race was inferior and evil needed to be done away with. Good rational people were capable of good evil and did great harm based on a false ideology. Anne Frank and Corey Tebum were people in the face of evil who showed great kindness by hiding Jewish people during the holocaust. If all Muslims are Jihadists and considered to be terrorists by many, then how could all Germans not be considered Nazis and be part of the 3rd reich. Kamala Khan or Ms. Marvel, is a Pakistani American from New Jersey who discovers that she has super powers and decides to do good with it. The current paradigm is if you are from the middle east, you in some way have evil intent and are always plotting against anyone who is not of Muslim culture. What Kamala Khan is showing us is a shift in the paradigm that most human beings, regardless of race or religion, are innately good and do not wish any mallace to any other human being.
Kamala Khan’s first appearance in the comic world was in Captain Marvel, number 14 in August 2013, when she played a small unknown role that involved taking orders from Captain Marvel, her eventual predecessor. Most comic enthusiasts didn’t even know her name and just saw her as another small character with an unimportant role. Little did they know, three comic series later, number 17 in February 2015, she becomes Ms. Marvel after learning about her shapeshifting abilities. She assumes the helm of Ms. Marvel after her hero, Carol Danvers becomes Captain Marvel. It was very surprising at the time that a brown skinned teenage girl would receive such a highly regarded name from Captain Marvel herself. Diversity in the comic world prior to this seemed to be a one-time thing where a person of color was put in a small role to show some diversity in the comic world and could get people off their backs.
Marvel’s announcement broke the internet with titles such as, “Marvel plans to introduce first Muslim superhero into the MCU” and “The Marvel Cinematic Universe Is Finally Getting a Muslim Superhero.” Not your typical headline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since then, Marvel has also been coming out with books having females playing a big role like she-Hulk and Thor played by a woman. Kamala Khan strikes me as a two dimensional because she not only represents women’s rights of power, but also shows the inaccurate assumptions many Americans have on minority groups. Being Muslim plays a large role in Kamala’s life for religion and identity purposes, but she also has many other characteristics that may not be seen through the naked eye. The stereotypical perception on Muslims in America by a majority of people is terrorist, illegal alien, violent, fundamentalist, etc. Kamala Khan represents none of these accusations, and quite frankly the opposite. She is like any other sixteen year old girl who has crushes, goes to school, hates certain classes, and even enjoys to write. She is a prime example of a Muslim girl who gains super power abilities and chooses to good rather than bad.
Before Kamala Khan even became Ms. Marvel, she had an interesting story explaining her faith and her challenges with it in today’s modern world. Being Muslim, it’s rather common to grow up in a family who disapproves of pork meat due to its common practice in Muslim culture. Well Khan is in a mini mart with her friend Bruno and mentions the smell of BLTs and how delicious they look. He jokingly states they’re going to have to start charging her for smelling them. She replies, “Delicious, Delicious infidel meat…” (Wilson and Wyatt 2013, 1). She’s referring to the idea that it’s the meat that non believers eat according to their society. If she were to walk into a mini mart in Pakistan, she would likely not be greeted with the smell of pork meat thus leading to less temptation for a sixteen year old hormonal changing girl. This is showing her identity problem of being a Pakistani Muslim in America. The meat that all her friends can enjoy and eat, but she cannot because of her religion and rules.
A page later, you begin to notice the racism and prejudices Kamala must have to deal with often. Kamala, Bruno, and her friend Nakia are greeted by two kids from their school. A girl named Zoe and some boy. The boy invites Kamala and Nakia to a party that night but they replied with they both wouldn’t be allowed to go. Zoe jumps in and mentions she’s a bit concerned with the fact Nakia is wearing a hijab. She states, “But I mean… nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody’s going to like honor kill you? I’m just a bit concerned (Wilson and Wyatt 2013, 2).” This seems to be a common practice in America because of their lack of understanding the hijab and Muslim women in accordance to their culture. Obviously, Kamala and Nakia weren’t to happy with the ignorant question shown by their facial expressions. This is the typical societal presumptions that many Americans have that assume these women are forced to wear the hijab instead of choosing to themselves. Nakia quickly explains that nobody is forcing her to wear it and her father actually thinks she’s just going through a teenage phase. Zoe responds with, “Wow, cultures are so interesting.” This can be taken in context a few ways. For one, she could really agree with her and want to learn more about her culture but I do not believe this is the case. I think she is being conceited and still believes she is over both Nakia and Kamala.
The past is behind us and we must move forward. The assumption that Muslim women are slaves to their religion and society is an outdated belief that doesn’t factor many circumstances. Many Muslim women actually agree with similar American beliefs and have been fighting for larger roles in Mosque’s, especially as prayer leaders. The misbelief that the Middle East and Arab world are a part of Pakistan and their Islamic religion is one that many people believe to this day. Many incompetent people believe if you’re Muslim, you’re from the Middle East which is not necessarily true. The same stereotypes are brought out through Kamala Khan who although lives freely in the Western world, she faces many conflicts about her Muslim friends and racism against her culture.
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