This post will be long but it deserves to be a long post which is open to input from yourself. You’re free to mention or vocalise any concerns you have regarding the representation of particular races, genders, sexualities, religions, etc.). I’m sporadically active so whenever I’m on here, I’ll try my best to reply and discuss concerns you may have.
I’ll provide links to various articles, websites and resources to help guide you in the right direction of understanding how to properly represent characters.
Well, let’s get into it!
If you’ve decided to write about characters outside of your race, sexuality, culture and so forth - you’re not always going to be 100% sure about how to portray them. This is why it is important to do research whilst writing about characters or heavy topics then it goes without saying that you need to be mindful. You’ve made the decision to write about particular characters and it’s important that you portray them appropriately.
Abrahamic faiths are religious beliefs that are monotheistic (this means they believe in one God) and they all have the common forefather Abraham (also known as Ibrahim). There are three mainstream Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) but I will discuss as there is a lack of representation of the faiths mentioned below:
Islam (will be discussed on another post)
When portraying Jewish characters, it is important to note that they are a very diverse group of people all around the world.
The degree of how much people practise their faith is a personal choice and it is something that needs to be appreciated when portraying characters.
This is clearly discussed in the link regarding the “Some Helpful Information: Jewish Characters!”
Please note that there are particular items of clothing in the portal that Jewish people may wear depending on the denomination they follow such as (but not limited to):
The Star of David Necklace
This necklace isn’t a cute accessory for your Kaylen Bree (sorry if you’re called that lol) character in your Loving the Bad Mafia Boy story but rather it has a deep significant meaning since the Star of David is an important symbol in Judaism representing how God protects them from all six directions (north, east, south, west, up, down and middle) and historical significance.
Liberal/Reform Jewish people may see the donning of the Kippah as optional, however, most Jewish people when in the Synagogue, praying or attending religious events or festivals may wear this. It symbolises respect for God and can be very diverse in styles.
Religious festivals and events are not only limited to Shabbat and Hanukkah. These events are an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate their faith. A link is provided in the sources to help you develop a wider appreciation of the festivals and events observed.
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (Bar for Male and Bat for Female) are a coming of age period for young Jewish people as they turn 13. They have a celebration to commemorate their new life into adulthood!
The holy book is known as the Torah and is written in the language Hebrew - this is the book providing the teachings for people to follow and guidance as well. The way one interprets scripture can be liberal (they do not interpret it literally, the words are open to interpretation) whereas some are more fundamental/orthodox (the words are to be taken literally).
The place of worship is called a Synagogue - people may attend during various religious festivals as well as during times of prayer and celebrations such as weddings
I may continue writing this post and it will continue to grow from time to time - it takes time and research to develop these posts so please be patient with me if you do use my thread as a resource. I’ll try my best to come back every now and then for updates
Well, well, well. This young bean hasn’t posted for a while so apologies for that. This post may be longer but it is because I’m Muslim myself but I’ve studied other religions in-depth too. I don’t have any magical credentials, I do have a background in philosophy though lol.
Let’s get into the next batch of posts. Firstly, I will start by representing Muslim characters. I’ve found my groove so the format of my posts will look different from now on but still has a structure and sources you can refer to.
DISCLAIMER: Each of the posts in my thread is intended to inform you, and if you ever want to add input then please post anything you feel that should be added. I’m going to also provide links but ideally, you should use different sources of information to help you produce well-rounded characters.
Islam: a monotheistic (one God) Abrahamic religion and the word Islam means submission to God.
Muslim: a follower of the religion, Islam.
Halal: this can be an act, object or food that is considered permissive in Islamic law
Haraam: something that is considered forbidden in Islamic rule
Ramadan: a holy month when Muslims observe fasting (no food or water) from sunrise to sunset.
Hijab: the word itself means cloak, this is a word used to describe the headscarf worn by some Muslim women too.
Eid: a religious festival that Muslims celebrate by spending time together with family, eating, and how people may please - the important thing to note that there are two Eids. Eid Ul Fitr is to celebrate the end of Ramadan whereas Eid Al Adha is to commemorate the story of sacrifice - the prophet Ibrahim (he is called Abraham in Judaism and Christianity, note that Biblical and Torah figures are featured in the Qu’Ran but are Arabically named).
Denomination: various groups of Muslims follow Islam in different ways, some are more liberal whereas some are more conservative. There is no right or wrong, but this should be acknowledged when you do write about a Muslim character - you can depict them being on the more conservative or liberal spectrum.
Allah: this is the Arabic word for God, this God is not different from the God depicted in Christianity and Judaism.
Quran: this is the holy book of Islam considered the direct word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammed. The way the scripture is interpreted can vary greatly depending on certain religious groups and individuals - there are two major groups that are liberals and fundamentalists.
Liberals: these are individuals who may interpret the scripture in a broader light, so, for example, the word “Iqra” (meaning read) may be seen as to read the world around you whether it is through pondering about creation or through study. Liberals may see some of the text open to interpretation and will acknowledge this when practising their faith.
Fundamentalists: these are people who may interpret scripture in the literal sense. They believe the words in scripture should be taken literally and people should follow it to a T.
A Guide on How to Depict Muslim Characters
Something to note…
Muslims come from all around the world and can be of many races, they can be black, white, brown and so forth. The important point is that the idea of “looking Muslim” should be an idea you throw out of your mind. Anybody from any race can be Muslim and that is a simple fact.
Culture can influence the way somebody practices their faith, so for example, if somebody grows up in a more secular society they may feel less inclined to wear certain clothes and do certain things or maybe they live in an ultra-conservative community meaning they may practice things more strongly such as having gender segregation between families when eating (note that this is cultural rather than a religious requirement, I will discuss this in greater depth further on).
What can Muslims eat and drink?
Pig meat-based products are off the menu so that includes bacon, pork, gammon, ham, pork gelatine and Kevin Bacon (that one was a bad joke sorry). These meats are considered haraam meaning its consumption is prohibited in Islam.
The reason behind pig meat being forbidden is because it is considered unclean (that’s a Cliff’s notes version, sorry brah)
I’ve blurred certain parts so read at your discretion. The reason I blurred it is that it goes into details on how the meat is cut and understandably, not everybody will feel comfortable with that.
When eating meats they should be halal so the animal should be cut at the throat (the windpipe, carotid artery and jugular vein) after a prayer is uttered. The animal should be alive and healthy before slaughtering and the blood should hit the ground. The way halal meat is cut bears some resemblance to kosher meat.
No, water doesn’t have to be halalified nor does salads and various other foodstuffs. It is mainly animal-based products and animal meats that Muslims should be mindful of when eating out as not all restaurants offer halal meat.
Drinking alcohol is considered haraam and drug consumption for recreational use isn’t recommended either.
Certain denominations may not permit certain food groups, whereas some other denominations permit them - so keep that in mind if you consider writing a Muslim from certain denominations
I know a Muslim who drinks/does drugs/eats non-halal meat/bacon…
There are quite a handful of people who will drink alcohol, eat bacon, etc. and consider themselves to be Muslims. However, they’re not representative of Muslims as a whole. They may have their reasons for their decisions ranging from being one foot in, one foot out of the faith, being in a secular environment, etc. There are various reasons why they may not follow these rules of Islam but that is their personal decision.
In the event you wish to represent Muslims who drink, etc. you should discuss how your character practices faith is not representative of other Muslims. The fact is that alcohol, pig meat products and non-halal meats are not permitted to consume but people have the autonomy, there will inevitably be people who won’t follow all the rules.
How do relationships work with Muslims, etc.?
As you may be aware, a lot of stories have a lot of partying, the dance with no pants, and so forth.
Here are the main things you should note - sex before marriage (Zina) is considered a sin, courtships/dating may be permitted (again, this depends on the denomination and how strictly somebody follows the faith), but I’ll provide a link below that explains it better than I ever could.
(Source found from Shadow’s mega thread - I’ll add her links for posts she has made too).
What can Muslims wear?
You may be aware of something known as the hijab (the word goes beyond the headscarf, I’ll discuss this further) which is a headscarf that women may wear and can be stylised in various styles such as the following…
The beauty is that the headscarves women may choose to wear can be done in many styles so it is a great form of self-expression for hijabis, there are many materials, styles and colours that headscarves are available in
Wearing the headscarf or not is a personal decision and a decision that should be respected. Typically, headscarves are worn out of modesty to cover one’s hair from the gaze of people beyond their family (known as non-mahrams, but mahrams are people who may be permitted to see one’s hair)
The main intention is hijab is the idea of modesty and what is considered modest in one country may vary from another which is a fact that Islam acknowledges. Some people may opt to wear long dresses whereas some other people may opt to wear jumpers and jeans - again, a personal choice.
The headscarf isn’t actually mandated in the Quran, instead what is said that somebody should dress modestly.
Wearing a headscarf is a form of modesty one may opt for but if you have a character who wears the headscarf, ensure their arms, legs are covered (so no crop tops, skirts, etc.)
If you want your character to wear a shorter dress, skirt or ripped jeans - make sure they have leggings underneath so their legs are covered.
However, the important thing is that whatever one wears, it should be modest. Again, you’ll find people who may not wear entirely modest clothing (showing their legs, bare stomach, etc.) but that is their personal decision!
Tattoos are a bit of a hot topic - some denominations such as Shia Islam permit donning tattoos whereas Sunnis may not don them, but as a general rule if you depict a Muslim who adheres to their faith, avoid the use of tattoos unless you’re writing about a Muslim questioning their faith, etc. (you have to establish that clearly in the story)
Piercings are permitted such as nose piercings and ear piercings - I know some of my hijabi friends are covered in ear piercings but obviously you couldn’t tell whereas some people have no piercings at all. The amount of piercings one has is a matter of personal choice, culture and denomination again.
Other religious articles of clothing from faiths other than Islam such as a bindi, the Cross necklace, etc. are not permitted either.
Even if certain authors claim to have “seen a Muslim wear a bindi and hijab” - that is an example of misinformation. Chances are the author encountered somebody wearing a tikka (this is a head ornament worn typically in Asian culture) to adorn oneself.
Important things to note when writing about a Muslim character
Your character is a person - don’t make them become a trope or a crappy stereotype (the links I have provided will give you more insight on what these tropes can be)
Muslims are a wide range of people, everybody has their own ambitions, dreams, fears, likes and dislikes so when writing about a Muslim character keep this in mind
You can have Muslims who are athletes, artists, musicians, scientists, journalists and writers, they have varied personalities, some people are more introverted but some are more extroverted
Here are some tropes to avoid:
Here are some stereotypes I want to debunk:
“Muslim women are oppressed” - that’s far from the truth. Islam intends to empower and protect women, a lot of assets based laws are in fact to help protect a woman in Islam. Any countries or legislations that identify as Islamic but oppress women are not examples of Islam but rather are examples of abusing the faith and trying to cover up their own twisted ideologies.
“Jihad is violent, they’re all so violent!” - Jihad means struggle and this struggle can be an internalised struggle such as battling addiction, trying your best in school, looking for a home as well as many other everyday struggles can be considered Jihad. Islam in nature is peaceful and anybody who uses Islam for violent means is not only a coward but is abusing the name of Islam. Post 9/11, there was a rise in hate crime because of the lack of understanding of what Islam truly represents. This is proof of how dangerous ignorance can be.
“All Muslims are Arab and from the Middle East” - this couldn’t be further from the truth. Muslims are very diverse and come from all around the world. Also, there are many Christian Middle Easterns and other faiths too - you’ve got to realise religion and race are different.
How and where do Muslims worship?
Prayer is done five times a day and each time of day has a specific name Fajr, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib, Isha. Fridays are known as Jummah where people will congregate to pray a special prayer (the time of this prayer usually is during 1pm or so) and the place of worship is known as a Mosque. Before prayer is done, one would do wudu (ablution, cleaning one’s body)
Each mosque has different requirements - a general rule of thumb is when you go to visit a mosque or pray at a mosque you wear modest clothing and cover hair with a fez/topi (hat) if you are a male (not always required) or a hijab/head covering as a woman. Also, you’ll typically enter a mosque without shoes.
This will be posted to help you develop a deeper understanding of the following faiths (the information on these posts are a combination of my background in studying religion and own knowledge as well as research):
Ahimsa: the ethical principle of non-harm. It means no harm to live things and refraining from violence towards others.
Brahman: The Ultimate Reality. Brahman is considered the efficient, formal and final cause of existence.
Vedas: A shruti text and is made of four books: Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva
Temple: This is a place of worship to unite Gods and human beings together.
Puja: A practice of worship at home or temple
Karma: The law of cause and effect (every action has a consequence).
Four aims of life: There are four aims/goals
Artha (economic prosperity)
Atman: ‘eternal self’. It refers to the self beyond ego or false self - the essence of a being. Their ‘soul’/‘spirit’.
Dharma: it means ‘duty’, ‘virtue’, ‘morality’ and refers to the power upholding the universe and society
Samsara: this is known as the process of reincarnation, essentially the cycle of life.
Reincarnation: This is the concept that after death, the soul is carried into a new physical body that can be human or non-human (animal or divine being). The body you may be reincarnated on will depend on karma during a past life, if you accumulate bad karma or good karma - it can potentially affect the next lives.
Moksha: the freeing from the cycle of life and death, free from the cycle of action and reaction.
Nirvana: this is the most ideal state of being achieved through acquiring moksha and the end of samsara.
There are three main Gods:
Vishnu: the creator of the universe and maintains order in the three worlds (underworld, Earth and the Heavens). He has three avatars
Avatars: this is a Sanksrit word meaning the earthly incarnation of deities. Vishnu is considered to have ten Avatars and two well-known Avatars are Krishna and Rama. Krishna and Rama are not separate Gods.
Brahma: the beginner - he makes the cycle of life proceed.
Shiva: known as the destroyer, responsible for the death and completes the cycle of life. He is the only God living outside of the Underworld or Heavens, he opted to live in the Himalayas. Father of the God Ganesha.
Hinduism is the main faith of India and there are notable populations of Hindus in South East Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. However, note that in India there are also Christians, Muslims, Jains and Buddhists as well as additional faiths and the same applies to each of the countries mentioned. The extent of how much one follows Hinduism is a personal decision, so not everybody follows everything uber strictly.
The dietary practices of Hindus are diverse ranging from vegetarianism to non-vegetarianism - the diversity of diet should be taken into consideration when you are writing about your character.
Hinduism doesn’t explicitly forbid meat eating, however, it strongly recommends the idea of ahimsa
Due to the concept of ahimsa, some Hindus may opt for vegetarianism or Lacto-vegetarianism and ensuring the food they consume are produced ethically.
Lacto-vegetarianism is something favoured by quite a few Hindus, this is a diet permitting the consumption of milk-based food and all other non-animal derived food but excludes meat and eggs
There are three main reasons why:
- Ahimsa is applied to animals - To offer only vegetarian food to their preferred deity and receive it back as prasad (an offering made to a God, these foods tend to be shared amongst devotees) - Conviction that non-vegetarian food’s detrimental to the mind and spiritual development
Different sects of Hinduism have different dietary practices as well (refer to the Wikipedia link)
Quite a lot of Hindus are non-vegetarians consuming eggs, fish, chicken and meats. They may still opt for Lacto-vegetarian meals for most of the day
Beef is avoided as cows are considered holy animals but dairy products are eaten.
Alcohol is not prohibited but its consumption is not recommended. However, in Hinduism there are no explicit prohibitions regarding meat consumption and intoxicants - this is an individual decision.
Relationships in Hinduism
There are no explicit rulings regarding dating and pre-marital relations - this is something where culture may take precedent. In cultures like India it is not always seen in the best light (doesn’t mean dating never happens but in some families, it isn’t something that would be permitted. Please note, I said some families).
Technically, you can have a character who is Hindu and dating but ensure you do further research as well.
Links to relationships in Hinduism:
What do Hindus wear?
There aren’t strict dress codes and the style of clothing one may wear will depend on various factors like their personal fashion sense, environment and culture.
However, I will mention some traditional articles of clothing I will mention that have significance in Hinduism:
Bindhis: mentioned in the earliest Sanskrit texts, this is traditionally a red dot worn between the eyes on the forehead. It was originally worn as a sigh of married women but grew in popularity amongst younger and unmarried women. It is known as the ‘third eye’ in Hinduism warding off bad luck
There are many beautiful festivals Hindus enjoy but I’ll provide a handful, you’re free to check out the link to find out more!
Diwali: the festival of lights. This is a festival commemorating that goodness wins over evil/light supercedes light - the way people may celebrate can be having fireworks and diyas (lamps) adorning one’s home and great food.
Holi: a very colourful festival rightly known as the festival of colour. This is the festival signifying good over evil.