Let me preface this post by saying that we do not yet know the complete story of Quantico’s Nimah Amin, so the following will only be based on the few episodes that have been released.
SPOILER ALERT: For those who haven’t yet watched “Quantico” and plan to do so.
For those of you who don’t already know, Nimah Amin, played by Egyptian-Palestinian actress Yasmine Al-Massri, is an FBI trainee at the Quantico facility in Virginia. Unbeknownst to her fellow trainees, Nimah is actually a twin, with her identical twin sister Raina simultaneously playing her part as the same FBI recruit. As “the first experiment of its kind,” Nimah and Raina Amin seek to join the FBI as a duo who simultaneously gather and report information back to the FBI.
Nimah and Raina are Muslim Americans with Lebanese heritage. They don the hijab, even as the recruits train in the toughest of conditions. They’re covered head-to-toe in their underwater exercise and wear turbans in their undercover exercise. They don’t give anyone any excuse to criticize them for not being able to fulfil their duties as FBI agents simply for being Muslim and female. They are just as tough and rough, and even more so, than the other recruits. They are strong, powerful, confident and witty.
More recently, however, the show shifted their plotline to that of a love story. In episode six, Raina (the twin the trainees don’t know about) takes her crush on a fellow recruit, Simon Asher further. In the scene, they discuss boundaries, she takes her hijab off and he kisses her.
This scene baffled me and left me questioning the show’s intentions. Yes, Muslim women can fall in love and be loved, and yes, Muslim woman can be beautiful with or without hijab. However, the “unveiling” scene simply fetishizes the hijab. It makes a religious choice and commitment into nothing more than a piece of cloth that’s easy to take off and easy to put on, which it is most definitely not. As a Muslim American woman, this scene offended me. I wear hijab as a commitment to God and him alone. I’ve made my choice to only remove my hijab in the presence of my father, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, children and my husband, should I get married. To have Raina remove her hijab in front of someone she has no formal relationship with is sending the message that hijab is nothing more than an oppressive piece of cloth shielding Muslim women’s ability to love. This is a direct conflict with the show’s storyline for Nimah, one that includes Muslim women being able to do whatever other women can do.
Keeping this context in mind, Nimah Amin does however remain a strong, leading Muslim American character that has an in-depth and complex storyline. She speaks her mind and is not belittled by her colleagues. We haven’t seen many, if any, Muslim characters on American television that have actual substantial backstories and more than two speaking lines in the script.
So, the choice is yours. Whether you think “Quantico” is good for Muslim American women or not is up to you. For me, I’m a bit confused because on one side you have a strong, independent and beautiful Muslim female character and on the other side, you have a character reduced to nothing more than “the girl” in a fast-expiring relationship. You’ll have to wait until the first season is over before I make my final decision. Until then, I’ll keep tuning into “Quantico” and play it by ear.