INTERVIEW: A Conversation with the Imtiaz Brothers

BURAAQ (secret identity: Yusuf Abdallah) is a superhero tasked with combating Islamophobia throughout the world. Created by Adil and Kamil Imtiaz in 2010, BURAAQ (the name references the steed that carried the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem) is intended to give readers a positive view of Islam, as well as providing much-needed media representation to Muslim kids around the world.

Muslim comics readers haven’t had many opportunities to see themselves represented as superheroes. The most well-known is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager who last year took on the mantle of Marvel Comics’ Ms. Marvel. But given the negative and false perceptions of Islam in so much mass media, the creation and growing popularity of BURAAQ adds vital representation in the West to the superhero comic-book world.

Adil and Kamil are also currently working on creating a BURAAQ animated series, titled “Rise of a Hero,” that will further BURAAQ’s narrative as he fights for “truth, justice and freedom,” which Adil and Kamil cite as universal values of Islam.
I recently caught up with Adil and Kamil Imtiaz to learn more about BURAAQ for The Stake.

I On the Arts: What kind of background do you two have in art and writing? 

Imtiaz Brothers: Growing up as kids in Pakistan we were big comic book and science fiction movie fans. As such we used to have a stack of comics by our bedside and used to read up on all the Marvel, DC hero stories. While we do not have a professional background in art or writing, we did have a knack for storytelling and drawing superheroes. Even as 5th graders we would sketch our own comic heroes and write adventure stories. After migrating to the US in the early 90’s, our focus turned to higher studies and building a career in Information Technology. The passion for arts had to take a back seat.

IOtA: How did you come up with the idea for this project? Why a superhero comic? 

IB: Over the years we begin to realize that there were very few Muslim characters in the world of entertainment that could be seen as positive or inspirational. We felt that the Muslim world needed a character that would stand out from the lot. We also wanted to counter the rising trend of Islamophobia in the mainstream media. Our passion for storytelling and art was rekindled and the idea for BURAAQ was born in late 2010.

IOtA: What has the response been to BURAAQ? Has it been in line with your expectations? 

IB: Thanks to God, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We have more than 126K fans on Facebook (and growing) from all across the globe. They love the idea of a Superhero who happens to be a practicing Muslim. Someone who is confident in his identity and firm in his faith.

IOtA: Are there any plans for BURAAQ to interact with superheroes of other religions? 

IB: BURAAQ has friends from different faiths and backgrounds. He joins forces with a group of brave men and women known as the “Truth Seekers.” Their mission is to save mankind from the nefarious designs of the elite of this world.

IOtA: What are each of your favorite superhero comics? Why? 

IB: Our favorite heroes are Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the HULK. Superman started it all. All heroes followed after him. He flies, which fascinates kids and adults alike. Batman is the more mysterious type and relies on martial arts and gadgets. Spiderman is funny and adventurous, while the HULK is just awesome to watch.

IOtA: Who are your favorite comic book artists? 

IB: There are so many great artists out there, but Jim Lee and Alex Ross are two names that come to mind.

IOtA: Who inspires your art? 

IB: Hard to name one artist. We are inspired by the comic book style in general.

IOtA: What other media do you think is ripe for more positive portrayals of Muslims? Are there any works that you find that do a good, nuanced job? 

IB: We believe there’s so much that can be done in the entertainment space. There is a serious lack of alternatives for the Muslim youth. We need to produce more high quality animation and movies. Stories that are clean, positive and inspirational. I believe Mrs. Marvel has struck a chord with the US audience, and that is definitely a good start.

IOtA: What else would you like the readers of this interview to know about BURAAQ?

IB: The fact that Yusuf Abdallah (aka BURAAQ) is a practicing Muslim should by no means prevent our friends from different faiths to enjoy a good, clean, adventure story. Our goal is not to preach, rather to inspire the youth around the world. We just launched the BURAAQ 3D animation promo and the response has been awesome! We are taking BURAAQ to the next level and a 3D series is in the works.