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Why is there even a need for Muslim Manga?
Greetings and Salutations everyone. May the peace of the One and Only be with your kind reader. Today, I will cover a question and concern that comes to me every once in a while.
The question is, why is Muslim Manga even needed? So in this article I will attempt to explain that while also focusing on all the aspects of Muslim Manga that I work on. I will write through the lens of Muslim Manga, but these concepts can apply to non-manga media as well.
First, there are a few age ranges and audiences that I try to tackle with original Works, but to simplify them, the audience usually fall in the youth category (approximately ages 12 to 20), and children (approximately ages 4 to 12). Not that adults cannot gain value or relate to the works that are being made. It’s more so that the ages specified may gain more benefits from our content, as they are in a more impressionable age. As an older adult, we may have learned to access other types of media or information. Younger people can do this too, but with media focused world targeting their attention, they are particularly vulnerable in the younger age, hence why faith practicing Muslims need to have a place in the media that they consume. And so most of my work so far has targeted the youth category of 12 to 20, but I have worked on children’s books as well. More on that later.
Let’s start with the stories I write at Muslim Manga and why it is important. I work on multiple comic series at the same time.
Muslim Manga Club
Slice of Life, school life, Comedy
This series is a story featuring the Muslim Manga mascot characters. To learn how the characters have come about, check out this article. I started writing this series partially because the story just came to me as I thought up the characters, but also to give a persona to the organization. We also continue to build a culture of sorts around the organization of Muslim Manga by continuing to create stories and content and resources featuring these characters.
Follow the adventures of Aya and her friends as she establishes the Muslim Manga club in her high-school.
“Aya is a little.. how do I say it nicely? So... very energetic. “
New episodes on Fridays. Subscribe to it on webtoons, so you don’t miss out.
It is important for (younger) Muslims to have characters they can relate to. Yes, there are historical figures who are of great importance, and can be of far greater guidance than fictional characters that we make in deep Islamic spheres, but for young or new Muslims who are growing up in the west or even in the east with a constant push for influence through media, the next generation of Muslims are growing up with non-Muslim characters and actors as their role models. So in that regard, I would have to ask:
Have a lack of Muslim characters and have our children following the latest un-Islamic trends?
Or have Muslim characters that help young Muslims build a connection to Islam?
Don’t you think having Muslim characters could eventually lead people to come and appreciate those important historical figures? I think so. It is a stepping stone and one that we need to spend time on creating.
The west is has an image heavy culture and perhaps unfortunately they also push that culture on others. Whether or not we like it, the influence is there. If we remain absent in media, we are failing our ummah.
While growing the followers of Muslim Manga Club series, to around 40 thousand followers, most which are on the WEBTOON platform, I can see that there is a real craving for new content by both Muslims and non-Muslims. The need for representation for young Muslims is particularly felt in the comment section of the Muslim Manga Club series.
Hana & Love
Slice of Life, comedy, Shoujo, Islamic messages
This is a lovely (pun intended) story featuring Japanese highschool characters, among them a boy who is Japanese.
Hana & Love is a romantic comedy manga by Idachann and Hamed Nouri. Hana has sworn to never love a boy until Aditya walks past her. Suddenly, in a blink of an eye, Hana’s life has changed forever. Is this Love at first sight? Or Will this newfound love for Aditya end horribly?
Join as a patron to read all the episodes and help us continue to work on this series.
Talking about this story is difficult, because I don’t want to reveal spoilers.
My personal target audience for this comic is a little different from the actual audience. The actual audience tends to be Muslims who like manga and enjoy seeing interaction of a Muslim character and one who is not. This is an audience I am grateful for having. Very loving audience. But I also wanted to write a story for non-Muslims who could learn about Muslims’ beliefs through Japanese character’s eyes.
As Muslims, perhaps we have become accustomed to let others (non Muslims) write the narrative about us and to explain to the world what Muslims are like. Then we like to complain to say that we are not being represented properly. Im not comfortable accepting the behavior or complaining while sitting around and not taking active steps towards that problem we are complaining about. Instead I like to do something about it. So I’m making comics in different genres, including shoujo.
Hana & Love, also has a side story series that we update frequently.
Writing for comics isn’t always easy, especially for perfectionist people like me. Though, writing about myself is easier. There are some interesting moments that have taken place in my life. I figured sharing them with others in comic format would be appreciated. So I started writing these episodes.
Tokyo Hamed is a manga about the life of Hamed (with many episodes taking place in Tokyo). Hamedo is the founder of Muslim Manga and writer of Muslim Manga Club, so there are also a lot of references and behind-the-scenes stories of how Muslim Manga characters came about. It is illustrated by Ida chann and written by Hamed.
Compared to some of the series like Hana & Love, where I have to think about the elements of the story for an extended amount of time, Tokyo Hamedo is simpler to write stories for and thus I can release more episodes more quickly. Tokyo Hamedo is about my own life, so it is like an autobiography comic in where moments are collected and shared in 4 panel episodes. I try to make each episode funny, but there are some serious topics that are discussed and they are not always funny. Since it is about my own life, I don’t really have to think over it too much to make sure it is right and if it matches up to whatever I have planned for the story. The challenge is sometimes I remember an old story, so creating the story to be sequential in timeline is not always possible. Sometimes old stories are
Heart of Fawwaz
The Heart of Fawwaz is a graphic novel about a Muslim Malaysian boy and the friends he’ll meet. But he won’t only meet friendly students. Fawwaz also has to encounter prejudices as he starts his student life in Japan while attending Shirouki High School.
We have a new full color episode of Heart of Fawwaz available to our patrons. Become a patron today and read it!
I haven’t seen many if any boys’ comics, where a Muslim character can be in an action story and be the good guy. Building stories and comics for young boys who like these kinds of thing. Muslim writers can definitely use this genre to help young Muslim boys. At a younger age, many boys may navigate towards this genre, so why don’t we give them content that fits this genre, but from a Muslim’s perspective? There are a lot of comics, or animated shows that have un-Islamic content in them, but you won’t find out until you are already invested. This is unfortunately a reality that exists, be it on public TV or on demand services like netflix or amazon prime video. I’m trying to make an alternative option for faith practicing Muslim families.
Shounen, Action, historical time period
Samurai Akiyama is a story that I wrote, and voice-acted for in Japanese. The story takes place in an alternate history of late 1500s Japan, but very much based on actual ideas that were present. It is a period where practitioners of foreign religion are targeted and, unfortunately, killed. There are also movies written in this period that show the persecution of Christians. What I did was insert Muslim characters in this period and wrote a story about it.
You can watch part of the voice over version animatic here. Unfortunately, I cannot work on too many stories at the same time because of limitation of time and especially funding. If you would like to see this series continued, consider becoming a supporter of Muslim Manga.
I have noticed that we don’t really have many cool Muslim characters in media that Muslims can look at and can feel a little proud of who they are as Muslims.
For example, growing up, there were a lot of movie tropes about ninjas or samurai or even characters with guns. These movies, cartoons, and characters would be widely accepted and children and adults would build a positive feeling about. And yet, if a Muslim character has guns, then this character will be seen as villainous. I can’t quite understand the double standard there. And in other genres such as samurai or ninja, Muslims also don’t have a presence. That’s fine in a sense, because non-Japanese people were not present in such historic periods, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from making the Last Samurai where the main character is a white American man or the 3 Ninjas movie (an old movie) where three American children are shown as ninjas.
Media can be a blank canvas. You can write any story you want. You can make alternative history stories. There is an anime called Gintama. It is in some sort of alternate Edo period of Japanese history where aliens are also present.
I’m not saying that we should adapt everything that we should adapt everything that western and other non-Muslim media has into content for Muslims, but I suggest we create content so that Muslims can be proud of their identity as Muslims.
comedy, memes, jokes, motivational
“Wa” means peace in Japanese and “Salam” means that in Arabic... Pretty cool name for a comic series, right? WaSalam is filled with adventures and punny madness of the super genki Aya, and Sura, her serious younger brother. Updates are on Tuesdays. Story: Hamed. Art: Zhar. This is a side story of the main comic, Muslim Manga Club. Read it on webtoons or MuslimManga.org.
Subscribe to the series on webtoons. New episodes are out on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Having relatable contents, be it memes, comics, or Islamic reminders, is something that is seen in Muslims’ social media, but I have often seen it using mass media images. WaSalaam gives Muslims Muslim friendly comedy without the influence of the original content that may or may not have had un-Islamic underlying messages.
Journey of a Muslim
Heart Warming, Comedy, Relatable
I work on this from time to time as the editor and story contributor sometimes. It is currently on hiatus, but in general on social media, this is quite a popular comic series. There are many fun relatable characters doing things that many Muslims do, going through experiences many Muslims to through.
It is good to have more stories like this, so that Muslims can both find characters they can relate to, but also find other Muslims through interacting with these episodes on social media.
Children’s Book Writer
As of not too long ago, I have also been working on a children’s book and wish to be making it into a series of books.
I have seen some Islamic and or Muslim-friendly children’s books and I find it to be a mixed bag. The more recent ones are quite good, but I find something missing and that is what I would like to address. We must build characters that Muslim children can grow up with and who can teach morals to our young ones. And our children can continue growing up with the characters even when they are youth and young adults. Most of the children’s books I have seen are one-off stories where you are introduced to the character and there might be a beautiful story, but that is it. After the book is closed, those characters remain in that book alone. I have seen maybe one Islamic children’s book that was a series with the same unique character appearing in each book. And yet that was limited to children only. We already have the characters of Aya and her friends established as characters in the comic format for youth and young adults, but I also want to build the children-friendly character version.
There are a lot of characters that we as western Muslims will recall growing up with. I will mention Elmo and Cookie Monster because I’m particularly fond of them. These are characters that as adults we come back to with a renewed interest or love. We also need Muslim characters like that. If we also look at brands such as Hello Kitty, we will see how iconic the character is. We also need that for Muslims.
There are also characters that we grow up with and even identify with their moral values, but as society changes their moral values, the updated versions of these characters have their morals updated too. So, putting our trust in characters that have their values unstable is not a good idea. Instead, putting our trust in characters that are closely associated with our values as well as built by people who we share values with is a lot less risky.
You like Islamic material for children? Go to AyaSura.com and use coupon “onmuslimmanga2022“ to get a special 20% discount for readers of this article. First 100 people. This works on the Surah Edition, the Quran Edition of the Aya & Sura Flashcards and the sticker sets.
Other areas of Muslim Manga
Besides the above areas of writing that I have been heavily involved in, there are a few other areas that are notable to mention, though it must be noted that these are not all the areas of Muslim Manga. If you are interested in volunteering in some part of Muslim Manga, you can fill out a volunteer application form.
Muslim Manga started by hosting community events and rewarding participants with prizes. It helped grow the community further and helped encourage people to create content and to be creative problem solvers using content creation. While unfortunately, due to time limitations, I haven’t been able to keep this up regularly, it is of paramount importance to continue it.
If you like to get involved in event hosting, donating prizes or money to cover cost of giving prizes, you can do so. To volunteer, fill out a form here. Ways you can volunteer can be to create graphics for the events, create example artwork, to use social media to share the event with people and get them involved in the event.
Muslim Manga started out by creating regular events for the community that encouraged Muslim artist to create new artworks and stories. This is something valuable to continue to give the new generation of Muslims an opportunity and platform to grow on.
Editing Other Comics
The Muslim Manga community hosts and creates opportunities for both Muslim focused manga and Islamic manga to be published and read. One such comic that I worked on the editing of, was the Pious Student.
Just as Muslim focused manga is important, content that can have Islamic reminders or Islamic learning lessons is equally important. While the majority of what I work on is Muslim character focused, that doesn’t mean that Islamic focused manga are any less important. If you like to learn more about what the difference between a Muslim manga and an Islamic manga is, read this article.
Why put money or time in such a media?
There is a lot of area in the Muslim media world, that we as Muslims are missing representation or don’t put enough effort into it. Honestly, it is almost disgusting how little effort as “practicing” Muslims, we put in this field.
From my observation over the last couple of decades, ignorance about Islam, both in Muslim families, as well in non-Muslims’, is prevalent. There is even hate towards Muslims. Muslims have even been stabbed or attacked and killed by people who hated Muslims and Islam. The answer is education, and one method of education is to have a media presence.
If we want other to do the educating, then our children will not learn the Islam that we have learned. And non Muslims won’t have the opportunity to learn about Muslim and Islam that they won’t get unless we put time and money in Muslim media. It seems like a waste that we have a knowledge and that we are not finding the proper ways to share it with others because we are procrastinating or underestimating the dangerous of doing nothing.