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July 13 2024


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Siddig Believes Arab Stereotypes Are Diminishing

By Michelle
May 3, 2007 - 8:44 PM

Alexander Siddig (Bashir) discussed working as a Muslim actor in Hollywood and his hope to continue to play diverse characters in a new interview with Arabic news service Al Jazeera.

In Hollywood: Casting the Enemy, available on YouTube from links at Sid City, Siddig explains that he attributes his career success to "the fact that things are changing." His film Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott, "is a sympathetic film to Saladin and the Saracen armies, if you like." He also appreciated the fact that Syriana pointed out how various people from the film live. "There was no denigration of the Arabic people in that movie, there was just an attempt at exposing the truth."

Siddig added that as an actor, "You have to earn the right to get onto people's screens, and if I'm lucky I will, like Omar Sharif, be an Arab in one film and in the next I'll be a Russian...he earned that right and I have to do the same thing."

Sharif himself said in Hollywood: Casting the Enemy that if portraying Arabs badly makes money, film producers will continue to do so because "Hollywood is only interested in making money."

Asked why he chose to appear on 24, a series known for negative portrayals of Middle Eastern people primarily as terrorists, Siddig replied, "I think the fact that 24 has this reputation for two-dimensionality in its portrayal of terrorists, and the fact that they are moving now to a place where they wish to explore those terrorists in a much more interesting, much more inclusive way, bodes well for the show and bodes well for the cultural mindset in Hollywood...the producers have to be taught, the writers have to be taught to write more responsible stuff."

Siddig believes that this is beginning to happen now. "In the last three or four films that I've done, starting with Kingdom of Heaven, Syriana, and - I've yet to see what it looks like - maybe 24, there's a responsible approach to how Arabs are depicted on the screen."

Information about the programme appears at Al Jazeera's English web site. Links to a recording of the program are at Sid City.

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