Islamime?… (Part 1)
In parallel with his crowdfunding campaign to crowdbuild his anime project MultipHacet, creator Nadir Shirazi will be sharing reflections during Ramadan 2021. Part 1 deals with definitions and the desire to bring together his Muslim and Anime narratives in a world that stereotypes both. Stay tuned throughout the month for parts of this unique ongoing journey.
To visit the experiment see: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/themultifacetseries/islamime
What is Islamime, anyway?
Islamime is a combination of two words — anime and Islam. I created the word to represent the fusion of two separate global communities that both face intense judgment from people who don’t care to understand them.
I’ve lived in both worlds for most of my life, and I’m tired of trying to keep them separate. I want to help create a NEW global community, where people like me can find and interact with people who’ve experienced that same sort of cultural divide.
I came up with this working definition to help me contextualize my Muslim-inspired animation project, MultipHacet. I hope it’ll evolve over time!
— Nadir Shirazi April 14, 2021 Ramadan
So, what’s MultipHacet?
MultipHacet isn’t so much an anime project (though, it is also that) as it is a response to a life-changing event when I was eighteen.
My first day at university in Toronto, Canada should have been a pretty amazing day. Unfortunately, that first day was September 11th, 2001.
The way the world saw me changed overnight, and I found myself having to defend my Islamic faith not only from the mainstream media and my scared peers, but also from the radicalized Muslims who had suddenly become the face of Islam. I was trapped in the middle, between two sets of people who were trying to redefine me in ways I never wanted to be.
That day forced me to look inward for answers.
For the nearly 20 years since, I’ve explored my own identity — as a Muslim, a Multi-Faith educator, diversity consultant, academic, and as a father. In the process, I built a new relationship between my faith and my daily life, and I found a new way to express it to the world around me: storytelling.
Anime has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but it was always something that I had to keep a bit secret. It was always this niche thing, with a not-so-niche reputation for being pervy and weird, so I had to keep it to myself, or I’d get all sorts of judgment from the people around me — especially as I transitioned into adulthood.
Fortunately, that’s changed in the last few years. In 2021 during this global pandemic anime has never been more popular. It has penetrated so far into the global mainstream media that big name Hollywood Actors like Keanu Reeves and Idris Elba are launching their own shows. Streaming giants are snapping up shows left and right, and kids are growing up watching anime with their parents, not behind their backs!
While it’s a beautiful time to be an anime fan now, in 2013, I looked around at the world that was beginning to enjoy this thing that it had hated for so long, and I said to myself, “That. I want to tell my story like that.”
In 2014, I partnered up with the incomparably talented people at Rune Entertainment Inc. (www.rune.co) to put the weird idea that was starting to take shape in my head into animation. With the help of wonderful people from many different walks of life, we raised over $21,000 to create the first wave of character art, and a proof-of-concept trailer that breathed life into this new, anime-inspired world of mine.
It was a world divided, where extremists, both religious and secular, vied for control of the last remaining water source. They would fight with prisms that would pull light from the very air around them, and cast it into all sorts of fantastic shapes for all manner of situations.
Since then, I’ve taken my work and ideas to all sorts of companies — from giant streaming networks to smaller studios. There was interest all around, but they couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around my ideas for a fantasy world steeped in Muslim identity, but bursting with a life all its own.
Honestly, after I really thought about it… I realized that I didn’t have the whole picture, myself. I’d gotten so wrapped up in the world of Dunya, that I’d lost focus on what really mattered: that the fictional world was based on my own relationship with Islam and I was watering it down.
The stories of the people who live in this fake world can become so richer if I step back and stop hiding my Muslim identity and share it with all types of anime fans Muslim and non. Nearly two decades after 9/11, Islam is still a very misunderstood thing despite having millions of amazing Muslims around the globe. But you know what also has millions of awesome worldwide fans but is maybe even more misunderstood. Anime.
So, I’m stepping back from the studios and executives for a minute, and reaching out to all of you.
We may be starting small, but nothing worth doing has ever been easy. Please, help me turn this idea into the global revolution for our communities that I know it can be. Bring your faith in big dreams and your anime spirit, and let’s go on this journey together!