Hollywood Professionals Discuss Changing the Narrative


December 5, 2017

Last night in Los Angeles, a packed room of industry creatives gathered for a panel discussion called, “Rewriting the Story: Understanding and Crafting Authentic Muslim Narratives”, a collaborative event hosted by the Writers Guild Foundation and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

Sue Obeidi, Director of MPAC’s Hollywood Bureau, opened the evening by framing the conversation around the narrative that needs to be changed. “For decades,” she said, “the industry has portrayed Muslims mostly as villains. While it is not yet where we want it to be, over the last few years we have noticed a move towards more authentic representation, specifically on television.”

The esteemed panelists who engaged in conversation with each other and the audience have all worked to change the narrative through their creative projects, including Salam Al-Marayati, President of MPAC, Cherien Dabis (Empire, Quantico, Amreeka), Chris Keyser (The Last Tycoon, Tyrant), Dan Milano (Robot Chicken, Greg the Bunny), Sohrab Noshirvani (Dry River Road, Junkyard Dogs), Y. Shireen Razack (Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, Haven), and moderator Valerie C. Woods (Any Day Now, Soul Food).

Every image on film has the power to influence the way audiences see and feel about each other. These difficult times provide the entertainment industry with a tremendous opportunity to challenge existing stereotypes that perpetuate bigotry and fear by crafting authentic Muslim stories, and specifically by including the voices of American Muslim creatives in telling them. The antidotes to bigotry and fear are inclusion and familiarity, which more and more projects are working toward in every stage of development.

Panelist Chris Keyser, immediate past president of the WGA, West said of a project of his that was improved by those voices, “We wouldn’t have done as well if we didn’t have someone in the Writers Room that said, “This matters. You have to pay attention to this.” Salam Al-Marayati said of the industry, “It is important how open you are to change.” And Shireen Razack summed up the room’s collective goal, saying, “In Hollywood, “authenticity” is stereotypes. What we’re trying to do is make authenticity real world.”



Founded in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is a national nonprofit working to promote and strengthen American pluralism by increasing understanding and improving policies that impact American Muslims. Hollywood Bureau engages executives and creatives to increase the number of authentic, nuanced, and inclusive portrayals and representations of Muslims and Islam. The Hollywood Bureau also creates opportunities for Muslim talent to tell their own stories by connecting them to decision makers in the industry.


Founded in 1966, the Writers Guild Foundation is the premier resource for emerging writers and movie and TV lovers in Hollywood. Boasting a busy calendar of high-value events and a vast, seemingly bottomless toolbox for writers, the Foundation is unmatched in its mission to promote and preserve the craft, history, and voices of screen storytelling.


Marwa Abdelghani, MPAC Media Fellow, marwa@mpac.org, 323-258-6722

Chris Kartje, Director of Programs, Writers Guild Foundation, ckartje@wgfoundation.org, (323) 782-4692





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