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Salam Comics – Comics about Islam based on Islamic values

Tahereh Shafiee reviews the work of an Iranian comic artist who believes comics can play important role in opening dialogue among people of faiths

The Comic industry has audience from all ages, all religions and cultures. I see Comics as a great tool for all people to share their ideas and thoughts. It’s faster to produce than animation and the concepts can also be used in the animation and film industry.” – Mahdi Tabatabaie Yazdi In the Western world when we talk about comics the first thing that comes to mind is the famous ‘Marvels’ comic book action adventures. For generations we were barraged with stories of heroic characters (mainly Americans) that singlehandedly save the world from total destruction. Even infrequent non-American comic heroes, for some reason, have followed on with the same message, reproducing looks as well as storylines. There is no doubt that at present the entertainment industry is dominated by powerful countries and the production Tahereh Shafiee reviews the work of an Iranian comic artist who believes comics can play important role in opening dialogue among people of faiths of comics sees the new generation as end users, impacting on them culturally with satire, fiction or other genres. The impact that such comics can have on our children must not be played down. They have the ability to form the child’s character through narratives that are both dangerous and unreal. I have recently come across the work of a young Iranian comic artist with a different twist. Mahdi Tabatabaie Yazdi is an enthusiastic Iranian comic artist. He was born in Mashhad in Iran. Although he holds a bachelors degree in architecture, his personal passion is in comics and visual arts. His work struck me at first because comics are not exactly a common phenomenon among Iranian artists. For the last couple of years however he has pursued his childhood passion launched his dream project under the title ‘salamcomics’. What makes his comics different from other comic scripts is his Islamic take on tackling different issues. Tabatabaei passionately believes in using comics as a tool to have dialogue with people of other faiths. “Having dialogue is particularly important today as we live in a world with growing Islamophobia and our children and teenagers need some art forms such as comics to teach them about faith and positive values in a way that is more appealing to the youngest generations,” he says. His love and passion in introducing Islam to the youth is admirable.

There is no doubt that at present the entertainment industry is dominated by powerful countries and the production of comics sees the new generation as end users,
impacting on them culturally with satire, fiction or other genres.

Through his comics he tells stories of God, prophets and saints. When I asked him what makes his comics different to other Islamic comics created by artists in the West, he said: “Some Muslims have produced comics copying ‘American super hero’ ideas, comics that are tailored for Western audiences with a western point of view, in which they only changed a few aspects of characters; for example changing names to Islamic names or adding headscarves for female characters,… but in my opinion we should use our Islamic stories to present our beliefs in a completely new way.” One can easily see the Islamic element in his comic books. In ‘The Signs’ he presents the subject of the existence of God through a six-page comic where a playful character is able to put his argument across for the existence of God. ‘The chocolate town’, another fictional story, is on theological content based on the Abrahamic religions and why we should follow prophets. One of his more popular sketches is ‘The suicide’. This is a twelve page comic sketch addressing the radicalisation of Muslim youth at the hands of extremists, drawing on current events. In this book he criticises the extremists by showing young recruits being indoctrinated by extremist elements, who want to turn them into suicide bombers. Tabatabaie looks into social events to get inspiration for his comics. For example, ‘The suicide’ was based on a documentary film by Sharmeen Obaid- Chinoy. Sharmeen tackles a terrifying question: How do the extremists convince children to become suicide bombers? Tabatabaie uses the parody of a machine capable of turning young people into suicide bombers. In the short period he has been online, his comics have received many commendations from Christians and Muslims or from those who simply look for ways to understand the problems of today’s world. The Muslim community needs more youth like Tabatabaie. He represents the power of innovative minds capable of thinking outside the box, providing an alternative and refreshing narrative for youth. His art has a purpose not only to educate but to build bridges and break down walls of distrust. Like many other young artists of today, Tabatabaie has found it hard to obtain financial backing to allow him to properly take off. Despite this he is determined to march on driven by his belief that “the world needs comics as they can help to dialogue and share ideas with ease.” He is hoping that with help from the Muslim community, he will be able to pursue his dream and produce more Islamic comics.

To find out more about Mahdi Tabatabaie Yazdi
work and ways to help his project please visit:
www.salamcomics.com
www.facebook.com/salamcomic

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