For example, a young Baz and his family, the mother in an Islamic headscarf, watch in horror as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 unfold on their television. The next panels show men wiping “Go home” and other graffiti from the wall of an “Islamic Center of America,” bullies ripping a headscarf off Baz’s sister Sira, and Baz going through a security check.
Baz is a laid-off auto engineer who turns to auto theft but gets caught after stealing a van that, unbeknownst to him, is packed with explosives. The husky, olive-skinned Baz soon finds himself being interrogated by two dark-suited agents in a sequence of panels that hits on Islamophobia, illegal detentions, torture, and the war on terror.
“I’m a car thief, not a terrorist,” Baz, wearing an orange jumpsuit that evokes those worn by inmates at Guantanamo Bay, tells his interrogators in one scene. In another, a policeman tells Baz, “Relax Muhammad,” as he tries to strap him onto a torture table.
“This is pretty cool because he’s a little bit more mainstream,” said Sadia Ashraf, a 37-year-old communications specialist in Los Angeles whose two kids, 9 and 11, are comics fans like her. “I think there aren’t enough mainstream Muslim role models out there for people to see, so this is really good to have.”
Johns also created Kahina the Seer, an Iranian character in DC’s Aquaman series, but who was killed by a villain. DC Comics is also behind Nightrunner, a French-Algerian crime fighter recruited by Batman alter ego Bruce Wayne. Marvel Comics has created Dust, a young female mutant from Afghanistan in the X-Men series. In 2006, an American-educated Kuwaiti psychiatrist started “The 99,” a group of superheroes whose powers each represent one of Islam’s 99 attributes of God.
Like other Muslim superheroes, Baz has been criticized by anti-Muslim websites. Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch accused DC Comics of abetting jihad by promoting a false notion of Muslim victimhood, writing that “the goal of the victimhood game is to deflect attention away from jihad and Islamic supremacism.”
Johns was unavailable for comment.
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