- COURTESY THE MUSLIM GUY
- Mohamed El-Attar, 22, creates short, satirical videos in the hopes of countering ignorance and stereotypes about Islam.
Nowadays when you watch the news, Muslims are not presented in the best light,” says Mohamed El-Attar.
A 22-year-old accountant by day, El-Attar has launched a YouTube channel called That Muslim Guy—creating short, satirical videos in the hopes of countering the hate, ignorance and stereotypes he believes the mainstream media helps spread about Islam.
“A lot of people misunderstand Islam, thinking that as a Muslim you have to be an old, grumpy person who hates everything,” says El-Attar. “But Islam promotes humour, smiling and the living of a happy, balanced life and that’s why I thought of presenting facts about Islam using comedy.”
Some video topics so far include a humourous look at “What is Islam?” and an explanation of The Trump Effect. El-Attar says he’s frustrated watching media associate Islam with violence and politics, and hopes to show a more normalized view with his videos.
“The majority of Muslims aren’t hurting anyone,” he says, “but then a small minority commits a terrorist act and they suddenly become the representatives of Islam.”
According to Media Smart, a Canadian not-for-profit charitable organization for digital and media literacy, “the most prevalent Islamic stereotype is the radical Muslim who is bent on waging jihad, or holy war, against the West. It usually represents violence as an inseparable part of being Muslim.”
El-Attar says there’s often a bias in how stories involving Muslims and crime are framed in the news. The Chapel Hill shooting of 2015—where three Muslims were killed—wasn’t reported as a hate crime or terrorism, he says, but a crazy, lone-wolf shooting about a parking dispute.
“When a Muslim does something wrong, Islam goes to court,” says El-Attar, “but when a non-Muslim does something wrong, that individual goes to court, not the religion.”
Zia Khan, imam at the Centre for Islamic Development on Robie Street, says local media in Halifax is not covering enough stories about Muslims, and is also misinformed about the culture.
“Sometimes the media sees us in terms of how we dress, the way we walk or just because of our ethnic features and they think we are unable to articulate our point of views, so they somehow extract their nonsensical ideas from CNN or Fox News,” says Khan.
The Centre was recently in the news because of a business dispute with its neighbour, Good Robot Brewing. That news attracted some attention from anti-Islamic commenters, but Khan says the worst story ever covered about Muslims in Halifax was the one that appeared in The Chronicle Herald this past spring, which reported that a refugee child choked a classmate with a chain while yelling “Muslims rule the world.” The Herald later retracted and apologized for the story.
“It was a hoax that created a lot of hate for us,” says Khan.
El-Attar says there aren’t a lot of stories being covered about the Halifax Muslim community, but he doesn’t entirely blame local media.
“It is also our fault because we are not doing enough events or gatherings to represent our religion and to show people that we are part of this community and that we can offer something.”
Khan believes it’s important for more young people, like El-Attar, to voice their opinions and take a stand against harmful stereotypes—whether those stereotypes are against Muslims or any other community.
“If you see any group, whether it be Jewish, Korean or Japanese, being scapegoated for something wrong, then we as Muslims should stand up for them,” says Khan. “So if it is happening to us, then that’s what we should do, too.”