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Home » Dakota Fanning in "Sweetness in the Belly" might be the face of Islam we need
Mashable Entertainment

Dakota Fanning in "Sweetness in the Belly" might be the face of Islam we need

Sweetness in the Belly is the latest film to stir up whitewashing allegations. The film is adapted from a novel of the same name in which an English girl (played by Dakota Fanning) is abandoned by her parents in Morocco before journeying to Ethiopia where she is raised Muslim. Fanning’s character then grows up working to aid fellow immigrants and refugees in reuniting with their families.

However, even before its release, the concept of a white woman playing an Ethiopian sent the Muslim world into outrage – despite the fact that she is biologically English. Fanning even defended herself publicly stating, “Just to clarify. In the new film I’m part of, Sweetness in the Belly, I do not play an Ethiopian woman,” the 25-year-old actress wrote in a message on her Instagram Story. “I play a British woman abandoned by her parents at seven years old in Africa and raised Muslim.”

Many social media users didn’t take much comfort in the statement.

The concept of Islam, to many who don’t really know or have never truly faced it, conjures up pretty specific images on race, skin colour and even personality traits – a white woman, although they exist, is not usually depicted as a Muslim.

Religions don’t have a skin colour, though, do they?

By depicting a white woman as a Muslim, it is, on a small scale, showing that Islam does not have a criteria or a face, it has many. It’s very easy for people to disassociate themselves with those who do not visually represent them – which is the entire concept of inclusivity. It is the reason there has been such a shift in Hollywood and the world in general – we want to feel like our stories are being told.

People relate to other people that look, talk and have similar experiences to them. Your race, religion and nationality usually defines said experiences. Women relate to women, men to men and white people to white people.

By highlighting the faith of a minority under the physical appearance of a majority, we’re bridging the gap between the two – bringing us closer to empathising with one another. We’re never going to get anywhere as a species, if we aren’t willing to accept that it is the majority opinion that needs to change.

One of the biggest problems we face as a society, is judging people we don’t understand by the criteria that we have created. And, we do it all the time, just stand in line at the airport for “random” screening. We define what we think a person’s beliefs are simply by the way they look, dress, the colour of their skin and even their choice of facial hair, only, that doesn’t define their beliefs at all. Once we remove and erase the definitions of Islam that the rest of the world believe, we can truly begin to show the real definition – peace.

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