Why Can’t Superheroes Be Muslim?

Marvel Comics, home to some of the world’s most recognizable superheroes, has widened diversity among its trademark characters with the announcement of its newest superhero — Kamala Khan, a Muslim-American Jersey teen with shape-shifting abilities.

Khan will make her debut in early 2014. Khan’s fascination with Marvel superhero Carol Danvers leads her to adopt the same secret identity: Ms. Marvel.

Editor Sana Amanat used her own American coming-of-age as the basis of the new series. “We strive to show the diverse world that exists out of our window,” she said. “[The series is] to show that outsiders don’t exist — we’re all insiders.”

Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, called the addition a sign of the times. “The Marvel universe is best when it reflects the diversity of the world around it, but sculpts a narrative that is universal,” he said of the world’s largest comic book publisher.

Rula Jebreal, a foreign-policy analyst for MSNBC, praised Marvel Comic’s decision to cast a Muslim girl as a hero in a post 9/11 world. “Marvel’s work is a watershed moment in breaking down fear and ignorance, and creating greater awareness and familiarity,” she wrote on The Daily Beast.

This isn’t the first time Marvel has flipped the script — in 2011 they introduced Miles Morales, a biracial teen who takes on Spiderman’s identity after Peter Parker dies. The update garnered mixed results. Spider-Man creator Stan Lee praised the story line, and others thought Morales was a great role model for young men of color, but sales were modest.

Culture-watchers will have a sense of Khan’s popularity after her series begins February 6.

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