Muslim Superheroism and the New Green Lantern

The mainstream media (i.e. news sources outside the comics journalism sites) has taken a sharp interest in the naming of a new Green Lantern for DC Comics, the Arab-American Muslim car thief Simon Baz, granted a cosmic GL ring in Green Lantern #0. Some media sources missed the point of Baz being another member of the Green Lantern Corps rather than the sole Green Lantern, similar to the error made a few months ago when Alan Scott, who is gay, was anointed as a Green Lantern as well.

More tellingly, several media channels reported Baz as the first Muslim superhero; Baz is the first Muslim Green Lantern, but not the first Muslim superhero nor the first Arab-American superhero. An extensive (though by no means exhaustive) list of Muslim superheroes can be found at Adherents.com. This group of protagonists has also been the subject of talks held by comics scholar A. David Lewis, as found at the Harvard University Center for Middle East Studies’ Outreach Center website.

In fact, Baz has lead to peculiar discussions and inquiries being made all across the political spectrum. As an example of the two poles, Jihad Watch‘s Robert Spencer claims that he was misquoted and misapplied when Washington Post writer Omar Sacribey attributed Spencer as having said that DC Comics was playing the “victimhood game” in making young Baz the target of islamophobia. Separately, in odd support of DC Comics’s efforts, The Pasedena Sun asked a panel of clergy and experts, “Can a Muslim Be a Superhero?” to which many of the respondants replied in the affirmative. Levent Arkbarut of the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge offered what might be the most insightful response: “The fact that we are asking this question means some fringe elements in our society have still not accepted the average American citizen of the Islamic faith.”

Limited discussion has taken place thus far on the frequent mentions of writer Geoff Johns’s Lebanese background and how/why/if that should play a part in a character’s authenticity. Can a Arab-American superhero only be properly portrayed by an Arab American? Moreover, should one only write of characters in his/her own demographic, faith, or sexual orientation?

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