Bam! Pow! : Terrorism VS Comics

Meet Suleiman Bakhit, a Jordanian man who wants to change the Muslim cultural narrative

Suleiman Bakhit made an effort to visit elementary schools around his university after being the victim of a racially motivated assault at his university in Minnesota after 9/11. He wanted children to know that not all Middle Easterners were terrorists. At one point, a class asked him if there was such thing as an Arab Batman or Superman—and idea that stuck with him when he realized that there wasn’t one.

Unable to stop thinking about it, he taught himself to draw, dropped out of his Master’s program, and started his own comic book company in Jordan.

Today he is a TED fellow and the head of a successful comic-making company.

In a recent profile by the New York Times, he talked about the importance of narratives, and their power to combat terrorism. He says that the basic narrative form outlined Joseph Cambell’s “Hero’s Journey” has been put to effective use by terrorist groups, especially ISIS, in their propaganda. Speaking to the New York Times, he said:

“The greatest heroic journey in our culture is the journey of the Prophet Muhammad, who left his village to go meditate in a cave in the middle of the desert. He was meditating, and there the archangel came down and gave him the message of Islam. He came out of that cave transformed with a new vision of Islam and united all Arabs around that vision.

“What’s interesting is that Bin Laden emulated that journey to the letter. [He] left his life of wealth and aristocracy in Saudi Arabia, went to the caves in Afghanistan and emerged from these caves a new leader, with a new vision to cleanse the shame of the Muslim nation through violence.”

Speaking to the CBC, he said: “Unfortunately the only response we have to counter terrorism nowadays is drone strikes, warfare, and that’s it. And I’m not being naïve, that’s an important part of the fight, but we’re completely ignoring the fight on a cultural, narrative and a mythology level. These terrorists are trying to rewrite our narratives, rewrite our stories, and present it as the only stories nowadays that are coming out of the Arab world…they are incredibly infectious.”

Though 1.2 million comics sold stand as a testament to how infectious his comics are in return.

Photo Credit: Oslo Freedom Forum and Warrick Page for the New York Times

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