One of the defining traits of Orange Is The New Black is that the cast covers an extensive range of characters when it comes to race, gender, and religion. In Season 4, OITNB adds yet another perspective to its already diverse collection of characters with Muslim inmate Alison Abdullah. The show has already featured explorations into Catholic and Jewish faiths, but Alison's introduction to the series opens up opportunities to take a deeper look at the second-most popular religion in the world. Who is Alisan Abdullah, and what will her presence in Litchfield mean for the prison?
Obviously, there's far more to Alison than her religion. However, that doesn't stop the other inmates from probing her for questions regarding her faith when Janae invites her to the lunch table shared by Taystee, Poussey, Black Cindy, and Suzanne. Alison isn't one to let herself be walked over, however. Despite being a new face in Litchfield, it's not long before she's pushing back against the guards for their inability to provide maxi pads and tampons because they aren't considered "essential" items. There already seems to be some bad blood between Alison and her bunkmate Black Cindy over their religions (Cindy is proudly Jewish, having converted in Season 3), so will Alison be able to maintain the cool cucumber attitude she came into prison with and make it work despite their differences? It's going to be interesting to find out.
Alison is played by Amanda Stephen in her very first television role, but according to her IMDB, Stephen has extensive theatre and commercial experience. Having Orange Is The New Black as her first major role could prove to be a breakout moment for Stephen. OITNB has already proven to be a launching pad for the careers of Laverne Cox, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, and many other cast members. Early on in Season 4, Stephen gets some standout moments playing opposite actress Adrienne C. Moore and it's likely her profile will continue to grow as the show develops and matures.
Alison may not be the most mysterious inmate to walk Litchfield's halls, or the most boisterous, but her inclusion is important. While new blood is always a great way to shake up an ensemble cast, Alison showcases OITNB's mission of making sure that all different types of women are showcased on the series. Television has historically had a problematic portrayal of Muslims, so much so that Deadline reported the President himself said, "Our television shows should have some Muslim characters that that are unrelated to national security ... It’s not that hard to do."
The world is a rich, massive tapestry of beliefs and personalities and the addition of Alison to OITNB is just the latest celebration of a faith that isn't seen very often on television in a positive, or even neutral, light. Once again, OITNB proves that diversity and representation in the media is not that hard to do.