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- Category: Culture
His determination to stay neutral during the conflicts in his troubled neighborhood, and his physical skills, make him a suitable candidate for Batman’s international league of crime-fighting heroes.
But before he can embark on his heroic journey, he needs to fight the fury of disdain that is brewing up in the blogosphere against him.
Rightwing bloggers are ticked off because Batman’s pick for France is an Algerian Sunni Muslim. Nightrunner, whose real name is Bilal Asselah, is a French citizen but his ethnicity and religious faith have become a source of animosity for some on the Right. Warner Todd Huston, writer and owner of Publius Forum, criticizes DC Comics for taking political correctness to the extreme by recruiting a Muslim as Batman’s representative for France. His argument is that Batman should have chosen an “actual Frenchman to be the French savior,” because according to him, the civil unrest and tension in France is caused by none other than French Muslims themselves.
“The whole situation is a misreading of what ails France. The truth is, neither communist Union members nor “Neo-Nazi” parties are causing riots in France. Muslims are,” he says in his article. “Yet DC Comics is absurdly making a Muslim immigrant the “French savior”? This is PCism at its worst. Not only that but it is pretty condescending to France, too. France is a proud nation. Yet DC Comics has made a foreigner the “French savior.” This will not sit well with many Frenchmen, for sure. Nor should it.”
I am not sure if Huston is the expert authority on all things French, and neither am I, but common sense and an open mind would suggest that Asselah is a French citizen, and that puts him on a par with all his fellow French citizens. He asks why a “Muslim immigrant” cannot be a “French savior”. What exactly does religion have to do with your nationality? Is it not possible to be Muslim and French? Well, clearly that’s a heated question.
Another post on The Astute Bloggers, a blog that claims to be “exposing leftist propaganda,” says, “How about that, Bruce Wayne goes to France where he hires not a genuine French boy or girl with a real sense of justice, but rather, an “oppressed” minority who adheres to the Religion of Peace.” The blogger concludes the post by guessing that the writer of the comics, David Hine, “is taking out his leftist anger on France for finally taking the steps to fight back against creeping shariah and Islamic supermacism, by banning the niqab for starters.”
The rightwing bloggers argue that the Muslims in France are not integrated with the rest of the French society, and as Huston claims, they are at a constant war against the French nation:
“It has gotten so bad in France that in some parts of its cities, those parts controlled by marauding gangs of Muslim youths, whites never enter for fear of their lives. Not only that but not even police dare enter these areas. This dangerous situation does not seem anywhere near being solved. In fact, it’s just getting worse.”
The selection of a Muslim youth as the French savior might have raised eyebrows in France because of the country’s ethnic differences, but such a determined step by DC Comics should be taken in a positive light, and be welcomed by French and non-French alike. Surely setting a good example for youth is a positive thing. The Nightrunner character offers a role model for Muslim youth because of his rejection of violence as a means of protest. He should also be viewed as an answer to all the Muslim stereotypes that are propagated by the media; he breaks the mold.
An article in Death+Taxes, an indie music and culture magazine, outlines Hine’s motive to choose a Muslim character as Batman’s ally in France:
“The process of developing a story is complex and there are all kinds of things I looked at. The urban unrest and problems of the ethnic minorities under Sarkozy’s government dominate the news from France and it became inevitable that the hero should come from a French Algerian background.”
In fact, it’s standard in comics- our modern answer to the Epic tales of old- that the least likely individual is in fact thrust into the role of “savior”. Asselah went through a time of intense civil discord in his neighborhood, but unlike his friends who resorted to violence to fight for their rights, he remained neutral. Even after being caught up in crossfire between the Muslims and the French police, he promises not to take revenge. But his best friend decides otherwise, and dies in an attempt to torch a police station. Asselah’s journey from a passive observer of events to Nightrunner can be summed up in his own line from the comic series, “Even if stopping these murders damns me, doing nothing damns everyone else.”
That message perhaps resonates the most with those some call “moderate Muslims” (i.e. every Muslim in the world other than the handful of determined extremists). Doing nothing to stop the violence and hatred in fact fuels the conflict. Nightrunner sees his responsibility to “fight the good fight” as a response to his own peers’ bad choices. As the quintessential hero, Asselah strives to change the circumstances around him and manifests his vision of himself as the true citizen of France. And, why isn’t he considered a true citizen of France?
A BBC News article reports that Baroness Warsi, a senior Conservative and the co-chairman of the Tory Party in the UK, believes prejudice against Muslims has become common practice in the UK. “Anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry is quite openly discussed,” she said about the attitude towards Islam in the country.
Baroness Warsi works to bring to light “what many Muslims privately complain about – that prejudice against them does not attract the social stigma attached to prejudice against other religious and ethnic groups,” the article said. The rightwing bloggers have applied the same mindset of prejudice and stereotyping towards the positive portrayal of Muslims through the character of Nightrunner.
What if a villain in the Batman series is introduced as a Muslim, what would be the reaction then? It would conform to the stereotype perpetuated by Conservatives; it would be an easy, thoughtless characterization. In fact, human beings and their motivations are more nuanced and it is far more likely that the over one billion Muslims in the world each fight in their own way for justice and truth every day. Doesn't that make this superhero a far more accurate characterization?
The portrayal of Nightrunner as a Muslim superhero through various mediums of comic books, television series, action figures and film will help embed a heroic image in the minds of children, He will be the “good guy,” the hero for the underdogs, both Muslims and non-Muslims. When children grow up siding with the good guys, they themselves try to be heroes. And, having a narrative that looks at the actions of an individual, rather than grouping them with a stereotype, also educates children to look at people and their actions individually- to analyze what truly makes someone good or bad. What better than a Muslim superhero to break the cycle of prejudice and offensive labels against Muslims in the society?By Alnas Zia, Aslan Media Contributor
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