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Meet Marvel's female Muslim heroes: From Kamala Khan to Monet St Croix

Muslim characters have become a regular feature within the comic book brand's stable of superheroes
Sooraya Qadir, also known as Dust, is an ethnic Pashtun character from Afghanistan (Marvel)

Fans of the Marvel comic book franchise and cinematic universe will already be familiar with Ms Marvel, or Kamala Khan, the crime-fighting Pakistani-American teenager and the company's most famous Muslim superhero.

The character, played by Pakistani-Canadian actress Iman Vellani, has her own eponymous series that airs on Disney+ and is set to feature alongside characters Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau in the upcoming feature film, The Marvels.

Widely praised for being the first Marvel show with a Muslim and Pakistani lead, Ms Marvel currently has an 80 percent fresh audience rating on leading movie site, Rotten Tomatoes.

But the character is far from being a token representative of the Muslim community within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Marvel Fandom site lists dozens of characters who are Muslim, from minor supporting characters to superheroes.

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These characters have a diverse range of backstories and include a niqab-wearing ethnic Pashtun, as well as a French-Algerian with telescopic vision.

From the indestructible Monet St Croix to the independently minded Sooraya Qadir, we take a look at five Muslim Marvel heroines.

Faiza Hussain

First appearing in the 2008 comic book series Captain Britain and MI13, Faiza Hussain is a British-Pakistani character who lives in Essex.

A doctor by profession, Faiza's superpowers become activated while helping those wounded during an invasion by a race of alien shapeshifters known as the Skrulls.

Creator Paul Cornell has stated that he did not want Faiza to be a representative of the Muslim community but instead a character who had her own unique personality.

Faiza Hussain first appeared in the 2008 comic book series 'Captain Britain and MI13' (Marvel)
Faiza Hussain first appeared in the 2008 comic book series 'Captain Britain and MI13' (Marvel)

"I have two aims here: to make her a real person and not someone who has to represent the entire British Muslim world all the time... I think superheroes are too prone to being standard bearers for whole communities," Cornell said, adding: "I want people to adore her, not to be pleased she's there as part of a quota system."

Faiza's powers include the ability to heal wounds, manipulate anything on an atomic level and being able to disassemble a living body while keeping it alive, among other things.

The young doctor also wields the Excalibur sword - the fabled sword of King Arthur - which allows her to sense nearby magic.

Sooraya Qadir

Usually featuring in X-Men comic book strand, Sooraya Qadir, more commonly known as Dust, is an ethnic Pashtun from Afghanistan.

As a mutant, Qadir is able to transform herself into a sand-like form, making it hard for her enemies to detect her telepathically or even magically. 

Her identity as a Sunni Muslim is an integral part of her character, according to Peter Eckhardt of Comic Book Resources, a website dedicated to the coverage of comic book–related news and discussion.

Sooraya Qadir is an ethnic Pashtun mutant for whom face is an important part of her identity (Marvel)
Sooraya Qadir is an ethnic Pashtun mutant who considers her clothing to be an important part of her identity (Marvel)

Sooraya wears an abaya and niqab and in the comic New X-Men: Hellions #2, she tells her mother Mirah Qadir that her choice of clothes is down to modesty. 

In her origin story, Dust is kidnapped from her mother by a slavery ring but when one of her attackers attempts to remove her niqab, she fights back using her powers and flays them alive.

Throughout her storyline, Dust emphasises the importance of her faith, telling a fellow character: "I give praise to Allah and ask him for his guidance as he is the creator of all things."

Her practice of religion is not without its detractors within the comic book, with fellow characters questioning her choice to cover up entirely.

Zarina Zahari 

Formally introduced in The Spider and the Dragon, Zarina Zahari is a relatively new member of the Marvel Universe.

While growing up in London, Zahari becomes the character "Spider-UK" and joins the WHO (the Weird Happenings Organisation). 

Zarina Zahari is a relatively new member of the Marvel Universe (Marvel)
Zarina Zahari is a relatively new member of the Marvel Universe (Marvel)

Zahari's connection to Islam is established shortly after her introduction in the comic book, which is set during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The character is set to take the month off but is called into action when a dragon attacks London, which she duly defeats moments before the breaking of the fast, or iftar.

Kamala Khan

Kamala Khan, otherwise known as Ms Marvel, is a Pakistani-American teenager and established character within the Marvel Universe, appearing in multiple mediums, including television, animation, video games and comics.

Khan got her superpowers after she was exposed to the Terrigen Bomb's mist, turning her into a polymorph, or a being with shape-shifting powers.

The teen is considered Marvel's first major Muslim protagonist, as well as the first South Asian American personality with her own comic book strand. 

Kamala Khan’s superpowers came into play when she was exposed to the Terrigen mist (Marvel)
Kamala Khan’s superpowers came into play when she was exposed to the Terrigen mist (Marvel)

She first appeared in 2013 with a cameo in Captain Marvel #14, later starring in the 2014 solo series Ms. Marvel.

The announcement of her comic book series received widespread attention and positive critical reception, with The New York Times Best Seller Ms. Marvel: No Normal winning the 2015 Hugo Award for best graphic story.

Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker came up with the idea for the character while Amanat was telling Wacker about her childhood as a Muslim American.

The pair decided to create the character with the intention of exploring "the Muslim American diaspora from an authentic perspective".

Comic writer G Willow Wilson, a Muslim convert, later set about launching the character in a series of comics.

The producers have stressed that the aim of the character is to show Islam as one aspect of Khan's character, rather than defining her entirely.

Amanat said that "as much as Islam is a part of Kamala's identity, this book isn't preaching about religion or the Islamic faith in particular".

"Her religion is just one aspect of the many ways she defines herself."

Monet Yvette Clarisse Maria Therese St Croix

Monet St Croix, known as Penance, is mostly associated with the X-Men comics in Marvel, with her first appearance in the 1994 comic The Uncanny X-Men #316.

A superhuman, Monet's abilities include extreme strength, speed, healing powers, telescopic vision, intuitive skills and much more.

The X-Men character Bishop - who is the rumoured son of Monet - commented on her skillset, saying she possesses a "superior rating" in all human physical categories. 

Though Monet can definitely throw a punch, she is also from an aristocratic background. The granddaughter of a French noble and the daughter of a wealthy Algerian royal, Monet's penchant for the finer things in life reveals itself through her love of luxury goods.

 Monet St. Croix is of French and Algerian background (Marvel)
 Monet St Croix is of French and Algerian background (Marvel)

While presented as a classic tough woman character, she has a lot of depth to her. Her soft-side comes through in her rocky romantic flings, her enslavement as Penance by her own brother and, in one instance, her breakdown where she admitted to creating a persona to seem stronger than she actually is. 

Moreover, Monet's character challenges prejudice against refugees and Islamophobia. One issue from the X-Factor - a spin-off of X-Men - depicts an anti-Muslim protest during which Monet flies in and announces that she is "a Muslim and a mutant!"

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