In 2010, the broadcaster Katie Couric suggested a possible solution to change attitudes about Islam in the United States: “Maybe we need a Muslim version of ‘The Cosby Show.’” Aasif Mandvi, the former correspondent for “The Daily Show,” gave it a shot with a 2015 Funny or Die spoof called “Halal in the Family.”
But attempts to seriously address the issue have become more common in recent years. In 2017, in a widely hailed speech in the British House of Commons, the actor Riz Ahmed spoke about the importance of onscreen representation.
“If we fail to represent, we are in danger of losing people to extremism,” Ahmed said.
After Ahmed’s speech gained publicity, Sadia Habib and Shaf Choudry, an academic and a tech consultant in Britain, created the Riz Test, the Muslim equivalent of the Bechdel Test, which set criteria for judging Muslim portrayals in film and television. (A representative for Ahmed said he was unavailable for comment.)
Among the categories: Are the characters “presented as irrationally angry?” or “talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of terrorism?”
“The general portrayal is obviously quite negative,” Dr. Habib said in an interview. “It almost serves to perpetuate this idea that Muslims are quite backward, culturally deficit, and you get quite a lot of contradictions.”
Recent projects that failed the test include the BBC hit “Bodyguard,” Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” and even the smash Marvel movie “Black Panther” where, in an early scene, a terrorist screams, “Wallahi, I will shoot her!” — Wallahi, in Arabic, means “I swear to Allah” — after the main character T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) goes to rescue Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).