A lensman fights Islamophobia with his portraits

Brajesh Upadhyay, Washington
Published : 10:17, Sep 01, 2018 | Updated : 19:16, Sep 07, 2018

Sayara & Nihal (From left)An American Muslim photographer has embarked upon a mission to counter the growing anti-Islamic rhetoric in the United States with the help of his craft.

Carlos Khalil Guzman, a Brooklyn-based lensman, is capturing images that aim to break the stereotypes and showcase the diversity within the Muslim community across the country.
Over the last two years, Guzman has crisscrossed the United States to click images that have resulted in a photo series named “Muslims of America”.

The portraits, including those of Bangladeshi Americans, depict Muslims from all walks of life, gender, ethnicity and backgrounds. So far, it has 73 portraits from 26 US states. He hopes to complete it with 114 portraits, representing the 114 chapters in the Quran, and eventually turn the project into a travelling exhibit.

“The ultimate goal is to educate people, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike about the truthfulness of Islam,” says Guzman.

In an e-mail interview with the Bangla Tribune, he said the goal is to create “conversations about intersectionality between struggles given the fluidity of identities Muslim Americans share”.

Along with the portraits, each of his subject’s favourite verse from the Quran or the hadith (sayings of the prophet) have also been listed. He says the series predominantly focuses on women because they are more often the target of hatred and misunderstanding.

Shadi & Nida Abu Baker (From left)Guzman converted to Islam in 2012 while in college and has a degree in commercial photography. He says he chose to focus on Muslims because “Islam continues to be associated with terrorism”.

“It is the scapegoat used by politicians, white supremacists and some media outlets to falsely claim that Muslims support acts of violence and the erosion of democracy,” he says.

Most of the project has been self-funded and at first, he asked friends and family if they wanted to be part of it. After it got picked up by US media outlets, he has been receiving emails and messages on social media from Muslims across the country who want to be in it.

Noor & Ala (From left)The series is gaining traction at a time when Muslim groups have reported a rise in hate-crimes against the community and have also alleged an “anti-Muslim bias” in mainstream politics.

Early this year, a Muslim advocacy group, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), released a report saying hate crimes targeting Muslims rose 15 percent in 2017.

Guzman says the reaction to his series for the most part has been positive from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“I have gotten some hate mail but that only reinforces my conviction to continue working on it,” he says.