*Willow Smith is catching heat over her forthcoming debut novel and its representation of Muslims.
Smith co-wrote her upcoming book “Black Shield Maiden,” with Jess Hendel and the story “follows a young African warrior who was stolen from her home and brought to the world of the Vikings, where she meets a princess,” per Ace Showbiz.
Here’s more from the outlet:
An excerpt of the book was recently unveiled by publishing company Penguin. The article states that “the Amazigh are dangerous on their best day. They have little regard for anyone who doesn’t worship the Muslim god – and even their own tribes are always at war with one another.”
The novel proclaims that it is the first “series that makes visible the histories and mythologies of medieval African peoples, and women of the Viking age, which have been erased by dominant Western narratives in media and education.”
Tell me I’m not crazy for being horrified by how the Amazigh (indigenous North African group) & Muslims are portrayed (third pic) this is a preview from Willow Smith’s new fantasy book (first pic)- I saw EXPLICIT Muslim rep (second pic) & thought omg so cool! Then I read on 😭 pic.twitter.com/VEhSs8keuv
— S. Mughal / سدرة (@readswithsid) February 19, 2022
The Islam reference is mentioned in an ‘exclusive extract‘ uploaded online by the Penguin publishing firm. Social media users are outraged over how Muslims and Amazigh people are depicted in the book. One person called it “dehumanizing.”
“Why is she using actual indigenous groups for her fantasy book?” wrote one social media user. “The Imazighen [Amazighs] aren’t some ancient mythical people, we’re very much real and alive and she’s basically portraying us as this harmful stereotype of barbaric savages,” they added, calling on Smith to stop writing about topics she does not understand.
“Tell me I’m not crazy for being horrified by how the Amazigh (indigenous North African group) & Muslims are portrayed,” one person tweeted. “I saw EXPLICIT Muslim rep & thought omg so cool! Then I read on [a crying emoji].”
A second user complained, “The representation of Amazigh people in Willow Smith and Jess Hendel’s forthcoming fantasy novel is unacceptable. @PenguinUKBooks should have hired sensitivity readers before publishing this book.”
A third said, “I’d just like to know why Willow Smith is depending on such racist and Islamophobic stereotypes for her new book. It’s 2022. We are not playing into this bs still. We know better so we should be doing better.”
Following the online backlash, co-author Jess Hendel responded on Instagram that the novel “tackles directly prejudices about the Amazigh and other Islamic peoples” adding that “they did a ton of research on early Islamic caliphates and their many overlooked complexities and contributions”.