Top 5 Muslim Characters in American TV

Fann lists five notable Muslim TV characters who have garnered acclaim and made a significant impact on pop culture. 

Top 5 Muslim Characters in American TV

There have been many memorable Muslim TV characters in American television history, each representing their own diverse backgrounds and narratives. While it's subjective to determine the "best" characters, Fann is listing five notable Muslim TV characters who have garnered acclaim and made a significant impact on pop culture. 

1. Dev Shah, “Master of None” (2015–2021)

Played by Aziz Ansari, Dev Shah is the main character in the Netflix series "Master of None." Dev is an actor navigating life and love in New York City, and the show explores various aspects of his identity, including his Muslim background.

Dev's character reflects the experiences of many first-generation immigrants. He is of Indian descent, and the show often delves into the cultural clashes and adjustments that come with straddling two worlds — the traditional values of his parents' generation and the more liberal, multicultural environment of New York. While Dev doesn't explicitly delve deeply into religious practices, his Muslim identity is present in the cultural and familial aspects of his life. The show occasionally touches upon religious holidays and family traditions, providing a glimpse into the role of religion in his upbringing.

2. Ramy Hassan, “Ramy” (2019–)

Created by and starring Ramy Youssef, "Ramy" is a Hulu series that follows the life of Ramy Hassan, a first-generation Egyptian American navigating the challenges of being a Muslim in America. The show delves into issues of faith, culture and identity.

Ramy's Muslim identity is prominently featured in the series through depictions of his religious practices, including prayers and fasting during Ramadan. The show provides an intimate look at how these practices shape his daily life. Throughout the series, Ramy embarks on a spiritual journey to seek a deeper connection with his faith. He explores different avenues of spirituality, encounters various mentors, and grapples with questions of morality, purpose and existence. 

"Ramy" addresses the intersectionality of Ramy's identity, exploring how being Muslim intersects with other aspects of his life such as his relationships, career aspirations and friendships. "Ramy" doesn't shy away from addressing social and political issues affecting the Muslim community. It engages with topics like Islamophobia, cultural stereotypes and the impact of world events on the lives of Muslim Americans.

3. Salim, “American Gods” (2017–2021)

Omid Abtahi plays Salim, a character in the fantasy series "American Gods," exploring themes of faith and identity. The show, based on Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name, explores the interactions between gods and mythological beings in contemporary America.

Salim is a devout Muslim who travels to America from Oman for business. He is a salesman and is initially shown navigating the challenges of his new life in a foreign country. His story takes a fantastical turn when he has a life-changing encounter with a Jinn. Salim’s arc also touches upon the cultural clash experienced by immigrants in America, reflecting the challenges of adapting to a new culture while trying to maintain one's identity and values.

4. Nasir "Naz" Khan, “The Night Of” (2016)

Naz is the central character in the HBO miniseries "The Night Of" and the role that earned Riz Ahmed his first Emmy. The show explores the criminal justice system as Naz, a Pakistani American college student, becomes the prime suspect in a murder case.

Naz’s Muslim identity plays a central role in the series. The show explores the cultural and religious aspects of his life, including his relationship with his traditional Pakistani parents and his own beliefs. The clash between Naz’s American lifestyle and his parents' more conservative values becomes a significant aspect of his character development.

Naz's arrest and subsequent legal troubles highlight issues of racial profiling and the challenges faced by individuals of Muslim and South Asian descent in the aftermath of a high-profile crime. The show portrays the impact of public perception and media sensationalism on Naz's life. As he navigates the complexities of the criminal justice system, Naz’s Muslim background becomes a factor in how he is perceived by the legal authorities, the media, and the public. And while incarcerated, Naz faces challenges related to his faith, including the struggle to practice Islam in a restrictive prison environment. The series offers a gritty portrayal of identity, self-discovery and the impact of the American justice system on a person’s life.

5. Nimah and Raina Amin, “Quantico” (2015–2018)

In "Quantico," Nimah and Raina Amin are identical twins portrayed by actress Yasmine Al Massri. The show follows a group of FBI recruits training at the Quantico base, with a dual timeline structure that alternates between their time at the academy and the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Raina wears a hijab and Nimah doesn’t, though like any good story with twins, the two swap places frequently.

The show has had a positive response from young Muslim women who have said they appreciate that the Amin twins have motivations and backstories of their own, unrelated to stereotypical storylines about Muslim women revolving around men or terrorism. Viewers have said that Nimah's and Raina's personal quests to interpret their faith and its boundaries reflect the many ways one can be a Muslim woman in America today.

These characters have contributed to the portrayal and representation of Muslim identities and experiences in American television, showcasing diverse perspectives and challenging stereotypes. Each character brings depth, complexity and relatability to their respective stories.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Fann.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.