In a historic first for the multi-billion-dollar movie franchise, Marvel Studio has confirmed it will introduce a Muslim superhero to its screens, possibly as early as next year.
President Kevin Feige said his company plans to extrapolate Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan – a 16-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim – from its comic book series and bring the fictional character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This could be soon after the Captain Marvel movie is released on March 6, 2019, Mr Feige hinted.
“Captain Marvel’s shooting right now with [American actress] Brie Larson,” Mr Feige told the BBC.
“Ms Marvel, which is another character in the comic books, the Muslim hero who is inspired by Captain Marvel, is definitely sort of in the works.
“We have plans for that once we’ve introduced Captain Marvel to the world.”
Marvel is planning to do Miss Marvel after Captain Marvel y’all
Muslims. Prepare to finally be represented. pic.twitter.com/SKFofLDmBt
— R O D Y ⚡️ IW SPOILERS (@StaarksHeart) May 12, 2018
Fictional superhero Kamala, introduced in 2014, presents a nuanced portrayal of Muslim Americans and pushes past entrenched stereotypes about Islam.
She fights crime, while leading a typical teenage life in New Jersey and shows the challenges that children of immigrant parents often face with their identity and sense of belonging.
Mr Feige has not specified who would play superhero Ms Marvel – but fans are speculating that it could be Indian actress Priyanka Chopra.
Chopra, 35, is already the voice behind Ms Marvel in the Avengers Academy mobile game making her a likely candidate for the role, some fans have argued.
“I’m her voice and she’s my alter ego in Marvel Avengers Academy!” Chopra tweeted after receiving the role two years ago.
But many want a Pakistani teenager that closely resembles the comic-book depiction of Ms Marvel.
“Stop fan-casting Priyanka Chopra as Ms Marvel. She’s supposed to be a Pakistani teenager not an adult Indian woman,” Neelam tweeted.
“Don’t take rep [sic] away from Pakistanis and perpetuate the racist idea that Indians and Pakistanis are the same and interchangeable.”
‘We need role models’
Silma Ihram, president of the Australian Muslim Women’s Association, said she hopes the introduction of a Muslim superhero would present an alternative to “the current image of the subjugated Muslim women” which is a reality in some countries.
“It’s important that we have role models,” Ms Ihram said.
Its rare to get stories about young Muslim girls. Ms Marvel we need you. pic.twitter.com/9OSKaRybWt
— Farrah Khan (@farrah_khan) May 12, 2018
“Strong women in the Muslim world have been historically present and very influential so … to have an alternative role model which is based on historical fact is a great thing.
“Hopefully it will start to change the attitudes towards Islam as a misogynistic and violent religion.”
Islam is often presented as “something that it’s not” in media and “in the behaviour of a lot of Muslims in the world today, unfortunately”, Ms Ihram said.
“Hopefully the authors will be accurate in how they present Islam in terms of the way that we believe in and worship our creator and the way we treat each other.”