Updated: Jan 8
Kareem is a Sufi Muslim cosplayer from Toronto enjoying expressions of faith, fandom, and healthy dialogue. Believing that all beings are connected, Kareem strives to support social justice, the environment, gender equality, diversity, representation and unity.
Photo Taken by Ryan Fisher
J: Let’s start off with something easy, What got you into cosplay? And how long have you been doing it?
KD: I cosplayed as a kid growing up, my birthday parties were usually dress up parties and we’d all wear capes that my grandmother had made. I started again as an adult when Jason Momoa was cast as Aquaman in 2014 and I finally felt connected to a hero that looked like me, and promoted ideals that I agreed with, like protecting the oceans, belonging to 2 worlds, and discovering one’s true potential.
J: How many different cosplays do you have?
KD: Not sure, haven’t counted.
J: Why did you start to cosplay, What does Cosplay mean to you and What has kept you doing it for so long? Is cosplay a hobby you could see yourself continuing to do in 10 years from now?
KD: I began cosplaying regularly because I finally felt like people with brown skin were getting fair representation in pop culture. Star Wars borrows SO MUCH Islamic imagery and symbolism, and gave Riz Ahmed a chance to be the first Muslim actor in a major role in Rogue One, as Bodhi Rook! This meant the world to me, since Riz Ahmed speaks openly about #RepresentationMatters and sadly was prohibited from entering the USA for Star Wars Celebration because of Islamophobic airport security measures, so we still have a long way to go. I’m using my cosplays as a platform to create spaces for dialogue about important issues like gender equality, cultural awareness and inclusion, spirituality, Islam, caring for the environment and so on. These ambitions are only growing as I realize how many minority groups and subcultures exist and benefit from being shared.
J: Do you have a dream cosplay or bucket list of cosplays?
KD: Oh heck ya. I want to do more female elaborate characters like Queen Amidala, and maybe Prince too.
J: What is your fav cosplay to date or cosplay genre and why?
KD: Rey is the comfiest cosplay, and I value comfort when I’m out and about. I like to move around freely, and have pockets and a bag, and this cosplay has all that, plus a lightsaber. As an avid martial artist, I also love the samurai aesthetic of her gi (shirt), obi (waist band) and tabards and triple hair buns. Plus it’s a gender bend, so it encourages people to re-evaluate existing gender roles.
J: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a cosplayer or even as a male cosplayer in a mainly female predominant industry?
KD: Sometimes I hear about women getting harassed by gropey or pervy men, even if there’s no physical contact. Sexual harassment can be verbal or non verbal, and when people are made to feel uncomfortable, I get pretty defensive, but I’m learning to trust people to take care of themselves, and am focusing on healing rather than fighting back. But I am ready to fight back, so holla at me if you feel unsafe.
J: Do you have any advice or words of encouragement, you would give to someone who is just starting out or thinking about cosplaying?
KD: Do and be whatever you want, regardless of other people’s judgments. Your hobby should bring you comfort and happiness. Do it for yourself, and treat others the way you want to be treated.
Photo taken by Junoon1
J: What accomplishment or project(costume) are you most proud of and why?
KD: 2019 was huge. In April I was an exhibitor at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago with Order 416 where I taught a few Star Wars Yoga classes, which was such a heartwarming experience. I made some solid connections. In October I was invited to New York ComicCon to speak about Islam at a panel called #SalaamFandom. This was huge for the Muslim fan community. In December I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for their podcast where I explained briefly how Star Wars themes of the Force resonate with my spiritual beliefs and Sufi Islam. Beautiful intersection of faith and fandom.
J: What is your favourite con and what con is your dream con that you hope to one day attend if you haven’t already?
KD: Star Wars Celebration!
J: Who are you favourite cosplayers, Or cosplayers that have been an inspiration to you and why?
KD: Joshua of the North (artistry and honesty), Frank Coraci (diligence), Black Beard Dad (raw talent), WonderChelle (promotes climate action), Tiny Levia (promotes classical Indian dancing), Helalipop (#HijabHeroes), Malihaness (also uses her hijab as a cosplay accessory), ReginaAbriel (humor), HashtagPerpetuallySingle (dedication and promotion of IslamicRelief Canada), and so many more. They all work really hard to promote their message.
J: Do you have any Cosplay pet peeves, If so what are they and why do they get under your skin?
KD: Expensive admission prices to cons, or not having a group of people supporting my wild ideas, and unfair representation. I want these cons to be accessible and inclusive to all fans, and there are a lot of groups that are not represented equally, like differently abled people, people of color, women, LGBTQ communities, Muslims etc..
Photo taken by Ali Reza Malik
J: How do you decide or choose a character, what is your process on starting a cosplay to finishing?
KD: I choose characters based on how I’m feeling and what message I want to send. I use the healing power of fandom to express myself and connect with others. I start cosplays as a daydream, and they never really finish, always improving.
J: What are your thoughts on paid and unpaid photo shoots? Do you prefer on location shoots or in a controlled studio?
KD: I would definitely pay a photographer for their efforts and dedication. Studios have great lighting, makes a huge difference. I enjoy physical activity, and locations are SO much fun and allow a level of action and realness that can really engage the theatre of the mind. Locations ftw!
J: There’s so much drama that surrounds the community. What are your thoughts, do you think it’s always been that way or is there more drama now with geek culture becoming so mainstream?
KD: I think there will always be angry people out there, they just get a lot of attention as squeaky wheels. I’ve been one, but I try not to engage with drama, and focus on healing. I remain equanimous.
J: So what is next for you? Tell me your secrets.
KD: I’m going to the Canadian Premier of STAR WARS - THE RISE OF SKYWALKER on Wednesday!!!!