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Anonymous writes...

While I appreciate you taking feedback on Halo from us Muslim fans and trying to improve her representation, I honestly think she's too flawed to be fixed for a number of reasons:
1. Gabrielle Daou. I think this is an odd name for a Muslim Arab character. Gabrielle derives from Gabriel, which is a Biblical name. The Quranic version is Jibril (the archangel) and as far as I know there's no feminine version...plus a lot of Muslims don't like to use the names of the angels for humans in the first place. It would've been better to give her an Islamic name; there are SO many with beautiful meanings that you could've played with. And the surname Daou is not one I've seen before, so I could be wrong about this - I've tried researching and it's been hard to find information about its origins. It doesn't appear to be a very common surname, I'm curious how you guys even found it because it's not in any of the lists of most common Arab or Muslim surnames I encountered. But from what I can gather, it's mostly seen in Lebanon. I don't know exactly where Qurac is in the YJ universe, but I know in DC it's typically around Saudi Arabia and Iraq. If that's the case, there are lots of surnames more common to that area you could've used to make it more accurate or you could've used a more common Muslim surname. This may come off as nit-picky, but I think these sorts of things matter if you're going to make her ethnicity and religion a central part of her character. We're past the days of making vaguely Arab characters with traits from several different cultures like Disney's Aladdin.
2. Going off that, you've got an American South Asian woman voicing her doing a generic "brown voice"...I'm an American South Asian woman myself and that does not feel right to me. South Asian and Arab cultures are often blended together in Western media (Aladdin again) and they're very different. Why not make Halo Pakistani since the voice actor knows Urdu or use a voice actor who speaks Arabic to create a more accurate accent?
3. What is the reason Violet continues to wear the hijab? She just says it "feels right." One of my biggest pet peeves with how Muslims are portrayed in Western media is thinking that every Muslim woman wears a head scarf because the Quran says so. It's actually a huge source of debate within the religion, people have different interpretations of what modesty means, and many of us do not believe in wearing it. Then on top of that, there's the politics surrounding it. Of course I respect the women who do choose to wear it and the ones who do have a variety of reasons why. If Halo is supposed to be hijabi representation, it'd be great to know why she chooses to continue to wear it and maybe help dispel some of the stereotypes around it. As of now, it kind of seems like she only wears it because Gabrielle was a Muslim and that's what she thinks Muslims do.
4. The whole concept of the motherbox occupying the body of a dead Muslim girl. It almost feels like whitewashing in a way - you've got a character who's coded as Muslim but really isn't one. I don't know if that's the best way to describe it, but it just feels icky to me.

I'm sorry for the length and I know none of this was intentional. But it just feels like there was not enough research done when creating this character and it would've been better to have an Arab Muslim writer help create her. I do not like her as Muslim representation and I'd really like to see less emphasis on that aspect of her character. In my opinion, "Gabrielle Daou" died and her identity as a Muslim died with her. Violet Harper is a different person who simply occupies her body, so Islam does not need to continue to be a central part of Halo's character.

Greg responds...

1. You have a good point here. But the name didn't come from us, it came from the original comics (with a slight adjustment). Sometimes, we compromise/split the difference to honor our source material. It is, perhaps, a flawed approach, and in the future we'll think twice about it. But I don't agree that Gabrielle's name, which may not be perfect, is SO wrong that it invalidates her as a character. And in any case, Gabrielle is gone. So her name is moot.

2. I won't pretend I'm an expert, but we asked the voice actor to do an Arabic accent. This is what she gave us. Again, given that Qurac is a fictional country with intentionally vague geography, I don't think we're so off the mark here that it invalidates the character.

3. By now, I'm hoping you've seen why Violet continues to wear the hijab. They are on a journey of discovery. Sometimes, you just need to have a little patience with us. We can't always address everything instantaneously. We have a lot of balls in the air and many, many characters.

4. I think the point you're missing is that Violet WASN'T Muslim. Gabrielle was. Violet stated that they weren't a Muslim. Out loud. Clearly. Now, they're wondering if Islam has meaning for them. Nothing's been decided yet. But they're interested in learning. And I don't know why we'd want to discourage that. I mean if ANY non-Muslim character - whether from Qurac, Happy Harbor or New Genesis - decided they were interested in exploring Islam, you wouldn't discourage them, would you?

(Sidenote: Jews do discourage conversion. It's possible, but we don't encourage it. But Islam and Christianity are two religions that seek out converts.)

5. We probably should've involved a Muslim writer early on. And we probably should've consulted with MPAC much sooner than we did. I won't deny that. Although we DID consult with individual Muslims and got feedback. You may not like the answers they gave us, but to paraphrase Madia from this past week, no major religion is a monolith. You can no more claim to speak for all Muslims than the Muslims that we talked to.

Here's where I disagree with you. (I respect your opinion, but I do disagree with your conclusion.) We now have other Muslim characters, such as Khalid Nassour and Madia Daou, so Violet is not in the show to BE our Muslim representation. They are there to be Violet Harper/Halo. Their interest in Islam is, we believe, an important part of their character, and I have no interest in taking that away from them. But Violet doesn't have to carry a flag for Islam either. And to be clear, neither Khalid nor Madia nor Samad nor Muhammed nor Jane - all Muslims - are in the show to be REPRESENTATION. They are characters. But the more Muslims we have in the show, the less any one character has to carry the weight of being THE Muslim in the show.

In any case, I truly hope you've been watching this week. I'm hoping that the scenes between Madia and Violet have given you a new perspective. If not, well... so be it. We can't please everyone. But in general, I've gotten a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the Muslim community on those scenes, and so we're staying the course. And this time out, at least, the course was set with the help of MPAC, a Muslim writer and a Muslim voice actor. That's really the best we can do.

Response recorded on April 04, 2022