In comics and other areas of pop culture, representation matters. Fictional characters are never just characters. They also serve as a mirror for the world around us and for ourselves, showing us who we could be for better or worse. This is especially crucial when fictional characters can impact the real people they represent. Last year, for example, several gay fans of the television show “Supergirl” have said that the portrayal of gay characters on the show managed to literally save their lives in various ways.
Similar things have been said about Mark Waid’s run on the “Daredevil” comics and Grant Morrison’s “All Star Superman.” Although the current political climate has made things awful for Muslims living in America and abroad, they continue to exist in American comics and beyond, as superheroes and more. Check out these 15 Muslim comic book characters.
15 KAMALA KHAN (MS. MARVEL)
Created by G. Willow Wilson, Sana Amanat, and Adrian Alphona, Kamala Khan is a Pakastani American superhero known as the current “Ms. Marvel.” Hailing from Jersey City, she is the daughter of immigrant parents and balances her hero work with her schoolwork and personal life. Part of that personal life involves practicing her Muslim faith with her friends and family, which occasionally helps out with her superhero antics. In one instance, the head of the family mosque, Sheikh Abdullah, gives her good advice about her attempts to be a hero without knowing about her powers.
The most powerful aspect of her cultural ties comes from Kamala Khan’s own superhero costume, which she made herself using a burkini her mother bought for her. Through the burkini, Kamala Khan was able to claim the mantle of Ms. Marvel as her own after realizing that she doesn’t have to imitate her idol Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel.
14 SIMON BAZ (GREEN LANTERN)
Simon Baz is a Lebanese American who becomes the first Muslim member of the Green Lantern Corps. Simon’s Lebanese heritage was inspired by Geoff Johns, who is half Lebanese and the co-creator of the character alongside artist Doug Mahnke. Growing up, Baz is persecuted for his ethnicity in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As a young adult, he is chosen to become a Green Lantern after attempting to save lives by driving a stolen car into an abandoned car factory after discovering it was filled with explosives.
Since then, he has helped defeat the Third Army and the First Lantern. Upon becoming a member of the Justice League, his criminal charges are dropped and his innocence publicly declared. His most recent comic book appearance is in the comic book series “Green Lanterns,” where he is seen working alongside fellow Green Lantern Jessica Cruz on planet Earth as part of their training.
13 BILAL AISSELAH (NIGHTRUNNER)
Bilal Aisselah was an ordinary young man from Paris, France until his sixteenth birthday. On that day, he and his best friend Arif were caught in the middle of a French-Muslim protest and badly beaten by the police. Although they healed, Arif would encounter the police again and be killed after setting fire to their station. Upon learning of his friend’s death, Bilal realizes the faults of both the protesters and the police. Using his newfound morals and his training as a parkour athlete, he becomes a masked vigilante named Nightrunner.
After a chance meeting with Batman and Dick Grayson, it is decided that he become the French representative of Batman Incorporated. He receives a penthouse apartment with a secret base and crime fighting equipment from Bruce Wayne as well as special training from Dick Grayson. At first, he is met with scorn by the Muslim people of France because they view him as an American who hates their ideals. However, Batman advises him to think of himself as a symbol and that he can change how people view him. With this encouragement, Bilal comes into his role as “The Batman of Paris”.
12 MONET ST. CROIX
Monet St. Croix is a mutant with a variety of superhuman powers, such as super strength, invulnerability, dexterity, and speed. She also has invulnerability, a healing factor, a photographic memory, the ability to levitate and fly, and telepathic powers. She has been a member of different branches of the X-Men, including “Generation X” and “X-Factor Investigations.” While Monet was a member of “X-Factor,” it was revealed that she was Muslim by having Monet defend her religious upbringing at an anti-Muslim protest similar to the Ground Zero mosque protests that occurred in 2010.
In the Marvel Universe’s fictional protest, people shout “America for Americans! We don’t need any more Muslim terrorists getting in here! They’re just as bad as mutants.” At this point, Monet literally flies in and declares, “I’m a Muslim and a mutant!” Since the X-Men have long been a symbol for those who are discriminated, having Monet do this is courageous. These days, she is a member of Magneto’s branch of the X-Men known as the “Uncanny X-Men.”
11 SOORAYA QADIR (DUST)
Soorayah Qadir is another mutant who becomes a member of the X-Men. Originally born in Afghanistan, she discovers she has the power to turn into a sand-like substance after attacking a slave trader who tried to remove her niqab (the facial part of the clothing known as the abaya). She is taken to the X-Corps base in India, where she initially turns into sand to hide from the X-Men stationed there. Jean Grey senses her presence and telepathically convinces her to reveal herself.
When Soorayah reforms, she announces herself with the word “Turaab,” an Arabic word that means dust. The word stuck and from then on, her teammates would call her by the codename “Dust." Soorayah would go on to become a part of a few X-Men teams, including the Hellion Squad of the “New X-Men” comic series and Cyclop’s squad of “Young X-Men.” Soorayah chooses to wear traditional Islamic clothing out of modesty. Although this causes friction between the X-Men and their enemies, her faith has enabled her to survive tough battles.
10 DR. FAIZA HUSSAIN
First appearing in the comic series “Captain Britain and MI:13,” Faiza Hussain is a doctor who gains the ability to control any living organism after being hit by a Skrull laser weapon during an invasion. Series writer Paul Cornell described her powers as “safely opening up a body and sorting it out on a subatomic level.” This is useful to her as a doctor and as a budding superhero, as she has been shown disassembling a body into its basic parts while keeping a patient alive and stopping an army of Skrulls from moving.
In addition to this power, she also becomes the wielder of the legendary sword Excalibur and uses it to fight vampires after becoming a member of MI:13 and the steward of the Black Knight. During the “Age of Ultron” crossover event, she briefly becomes Captain Britain when the original Captain Britain Brian Maddock was afraid he would die in battle.
9 MONICA CHANG
Most people associate the name Black Widow with Natasha Romanoff, but there are also others who have taken up the mantle. One of them is Monica Chang, who became Black Widow in the Ultimate Marvel Universe and is also the ex-wife of Nick Fury. She had one child with Nick named Julius Chang. As Black Widow, she worked with the Avengers in order to recapture Captain America and also fight the Red Skull. She also captures and recruits the Punisher into The Avengers.
After being transferred into The New Ultimates, she became the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and assists Jessica Drew, who took on the name Black Widow for herself. In Marvel’s mainstream universe, Monica Chang appears in the series “Avengers A.I.”, where she is the head of the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s A.I. division. Alongside Henry Pym, a Doombot, Victor Mancha, and Vision, she fights against an artificial intelligence threat named Dimitrios. It is in this series that it is revealed that she is Muslim.
8 KAHINA ESKANDARI (IRON BUTTERFLY)
Originally created by Milestone Comics and later integrated into the DC Universe, Kahina Eskandari is a Palestinian with the ability to move and shape metal and metallic objects. In fact, her codename Iron Butterfly comes from the awesome medieval style plate armor she wears into battle, which comes with huge angel wings that allow her to fly by levitating herself. While she is a corporate translator by day, by night she is the field commander of the Shadow Cabinet, a crew of crime-fighters in Dakota.
Although her origins are unclear, it is known that her family was murdered and that she is seeking to avenge them. She was inspired to join Shadow Cabinet after listening to the words of Dharma, the team’s leader who preached about global justice. In addition to being field commander, she is also shown to be a genius tactician and great with a sword. She first appeared in “Hardware” issue 11, when she offers the high-tech superhero Hardware a place in Shadow Cabinet.
7 THE 99
Created by Naif Al-Mutawa and published by Teshkeel Comics, “The 99” features a team of superheroes with abilities mainly based on the 99 virtues of Allah in Islam. Although the title appears to imply that there are 99 members on the team, their numbers actually consist of only a dozen people. These individuals are from many countries around the world, such as the United States, Malaysia and Hungary. The members of The 99 also have codenames that represent the 99 virtues and their powers.
For example, Mumita The Destroyer has the power to destroy objects while Darr The Afflicter has the ability to cause physical pain by focusing anger on other people. All their powers come from the stones known as the Noor gemstones, which also serves as a target for the villians led by the evil Rughal. Although the comic series has been met with controversy by American and Arab conservatives, the series has been praised by President Obama, Forbes magazine and other media outlets.
6 MARJANE SATRAPI
The English version of Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” consists of two autographical graphic novels that illustrate the author’s coming-of-age experiences amid the Islamic revolution in Iran. The title refers to the ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis. Through the use of a child and an adult narrator, the book tackles politics and oppression through the intertwined lens of religion, gender, and class. Amid everything, the author struggles to figure out who she is and what she stands for by learning about her family’s heritage and the world around her.
Since its publication, the graphic novel has been translated into many languages and praised in Western countries. In 2010, Newsweek put the book on its list of 10 best non-fiction books of the decade. The book has also been banned, making the American Library Association’s list of frequently challenged books in 2014. In 2007, the book was made into an animated film that won the Jury Prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
Originally introduced in a 2011 comic book series published by “Split Moon Arts,” Buraaq was created by Adil Imitaz and Kamil Imtiaz in order to combat the negative stereotypes of Muslims. Buraaq has the powers of flight, super strength, and the ability to control the elements. Buraaq is the alter ego of Yusef Abdullah, a young man in his early 30’s who runs a relief organization. The comic series follows Yusef from childhood to young adulthood, chronicling the events that would cause him to become a superhero.
One night, Yusef’s parents are killed in a hate crime and he goes out into the desert to grieve. Once there, he gets knocked out by a combination of a storm and a meteor shower. Transformed on a molecular level, he gains superpowers and rediscovers his identity by reconnecting with God and his Muslim faith. From there, he becomes inspired to help others know their purpose and to fight villains who threaten the values of humanity, justice and tolerance. In addition to having a comic book series, Buraaq is set to star in an upcoming animated film.
4 SILVER SCORPION
Disabled superheroes rarely get the attention they deserve, so having one created by a group of young disabled disability advocates is revolutionary. “Silver Scorpion” is the result of a collaboration project between the publishing company Liquid Comics and the American and Syrian attendees of the 2010 Youth Ability Summit. Silver Scorpion becomes the alter-ego of a Muslim teenager named Bashir Bari. After losing his legs in an accident and later witnessing the murder of a mysterious metalsmith, he is chosen to become the guardian of a power that lets him manipulate metal with his mind.
Launched in Arabic and in English in 2011, “Silver Scorpion” features not only Bashir Bari, but also other superheroes that are disabled or able-bodied who come together to combat an evil force that threatens the world. Through these characters, “Silver Scorpion” shows that disabled people can come together and be something more. They have power not in spite of their disabilities, but because of them.
Qahera, whose name means “Cairo” as well as “conqueror” or “vanquisher” in Arabic, is not a superhero to mess with. She hates being sexually harassed and will hang you from a clothesline if you try it with her or any other women. As Egypt’s Muslim superhero, she wears a veil and battles misogyny with a sword, fighting abilities and a quick and funny wit. She is the brainchild of Egyptian artist Deena Mohamed, who was inspired by the real-life sexual harassment and white savior ideologies that Egyptian women experience everyday.
Qahera’s exploits are told in a series of comic strips that have been posted online as a webcomic. One of the first issues features Qahera rescuing a woman who is constantly harassed by guys on the street. After promising to help the woman testify against the men, she literally pins the guys to the wall and sprays a message for the cops that reads, “Police, these men are perverts.”
2 SHAHARA HASAN
Published in 2014 by Vertigo Comics, “Bodies” is an intricate miniseries about a murder mystery that occurs in four different time periods with four different London detectives. One of those detectives is Shahara Hasan, a young woman who becomes involved with xenophobic protesters after being told to investigate the murder. Taking place in present day London, her side of the comics deals with Islamophobia and anti-Muslim attitudes even as the plot thickens with the mystery of the body.
Detective Shahara is a good person dealing with a lot of bad stuff. She is conflicted about her role as a police officer, invested in her culture and worried about her family being threatened by anti-Muslim people. On top of that, she is attempting to solve a case that makes no sense. By using humor and her brain, she manages to do what she needs to in order to do her job and survive, and that makes her a notable and relatable character.
1 KISMET MAN OF FATE
As the very first Muslim superhero, “Kismet: Man of Fate” has the power to know what happens in the future. In fact, his name comes from the word “kismet,” which is defined as the belief in a power that controls the future. Featured in “Bomber Comics” in 1944 and created by artist Omar Tahan and editor Ruth Roche. The oddly dressed superhero was recently discovered by P.H.D. religion and comics scholar A. David Lewis and featured in the magazine “Super Weird Heroes.”
Like other superheroes created in his era, Kismet fought Nazis in Europe, specifically the south of France. In order to motivate others to his cause, Kismet wears a fez that has the letter “V” on it for Victory, but is also bare-chested. He also spouts catchphrases that are stereotypically inspired by his Islamic faith, such as, “By the beard of the prophet!” and “By the star of Islam!” Despite what the name of Kismet’s artist implies, the team who worked on Kismet were Jewish and some (like Omar) used pen names.
Be sure to let us know in the comics who your favorite Muslim comics character is!