Buraaq – Fighting Islamophobia with Comics

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Kamil and Adil Imtiaz migrated to the United States in the early 1990s to pursue higher education. Both brothers have now been in the IT industry for more than 20 long years. Superhero and science fiction stories and the art of storytelling itself had always been of great fascination to Adil and Kamil. Even as kids, they used to draw their own comic book heroes and write stories. They share mutual hobbies like reading, sketching and watching science fiction movies. Reading all the big Marvel and DC superhero comic books was one of the brothers’ favorite activities.  It was a medium that was attractive, fun and allowed their imagination to soar.

Over the years, the brothers began to realize that there was a serious lack of positive characters that they as Muslims could relate to in the world of entertainment. The growing trend in indecent and immoral content became a cause for concern. Being fathers themselves, they were worried about the type of shows their kids would watch and be exposed to. They were running out of alternatives, especially in the case of young adults.

‘Instead of just complaining from the sidelines, we decided to put our God given artistic skills to use and the idea of “Buraaq” was born. A superhero, who also happened to be a practicing Muslim.’

But the process is not that simple. As the brother share that creating a comic is not a very easy task. Each tiny step in the process matters. Everything starts with a story. It has to be developed, along with the main characters.  There is a need for a rough storyboard to see how the scenes will progress. The script is finalized and then the artwork is done. The artwork itself has phases: sketching, inking and then finally coloring and effects. Once the final document is ready, it is sent to a publisher. The entire process could take months.

They were well aware of what they were diving into. They did have some concerns, but those ebbed away with time. Since the idea of a Muslim superhero was a relatively new one, they were obviously concerned about the feedback and general response of the global Muslim community. How would they look at this new character? Would they accept the idea?

Thus came about the story of Buraaq’s protagonist Yusuf Abdullah – an ordinary “nice guy” who works for a charity in the day and flies around using his superpowers to fight evil at night! He’s a practicing Muslim and the actions of both of his alter egos are subject to the teachings of Islam. Buraaq is packed with non-stop action layered with sci-fi, as it is set in the futuristic Nova City!

The response to Buraaq has been amazing. Fans from all over the world love the idea and character. Even non-Muslims have appreciated the effort and initiative. They believe that such stories need to be told more often in the form of comic books and movies.

‘Thanks to Almighty God, the response over the years has been overwhelmingly positive and very encouraging.  It proved to us that there is a need and market for such content across the world.’

With Burraq, Kamil and Adil want to bring clean, wholesome stories full of action, fun, and adventure to the global audience. Their main narrative revolves around the higher purpose of life and the moral responsibility of humans on this planet as they are God’s best creation.

For them, Buraaq is not just a passion, it is a mission. The 5 issues of the comic that have been released up till now have been self-funded. They do, however, require major funding for the 3D animated movie project and are working hard to reach that goal.

Over the years, the brothers have raised awareness for Buraaq by using various social media platforms. They also have a strong social media presence with their Facebook page having more than 141,000 followers. In addition, their story and interviews have been published in numerous articles, newspapers, and blogs, both internationally and locally.

The jump from a comic book to an animated movie is a huge one. However, Kamil and Adil hold the view that while comic books have a market and readership, the future of storytelling and entertainment lies in animation, specifically 3D animation.  Box office results in the last decade have shown a sharp rise in the popularity and success of 3D animated movies that target kids and young adults. The trailer was released to much fanfare last year with soundtrack by famous musician Shani and voice over by the legendary Junaid Jamshed.

‘In 2015 we launched a 2 min 60 sec 3D animated promo to showcase BURAAQ, and the response has been wonderful.’

Buraaq has a lot of fans in Pakistan and they are very vocal and passionate. On launching their comics in Pakistan, the Imtiaz brothers shared that Pakistan is a great market for such content, and it should be released more often. They want the youth to own this character and to feel proud of the message, since Buraaq is a story about self-discovery, spiritual growth, and the fight against injustice and evil. For readers in Pakistan, the comic can be download from the free CFX Comics App.

‘We believe this story will strike a chord with any young Pakistani or the youth in any country for that matter. Our message is universal and is based on Islamic values.’

Kamil and Adil’s goal is not to preach or give sermons; rather their aim is to provide entertainment with a clean, inspirational message in a subtle and attractive manner. Seeing Buraaq, the superhero, fight against evil, or Yusuf Abdullah, the regular guy, serve the needy, while knowing all along that he is a practicing Muslim, creates a strong psychological impact on the audience. They hope this will help break stereotypes across all communities.

Buraaq has been released in Pakistan by CFx Comics, the team behind the internationally acclaimed ‘Paasban – the Guardian’ series. CFx Comics and the makers of Buraaq share a common intention of bringing out the peaceful and true image of Islam, immunizing the vulnerable Muslim youth to being misguided about their religion by hateful influences.

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