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My Take: 'All-American Muslim' doesn't speak for this Muslim
One of the families in TLC's new show.
November 15th, 2011
04:20 PM ET

My Take: 'All-American Muslim' doesn't speak for this Muslim

Editor’s note: Aman Ali is a New York-based writer, stand-up comedian and the co-creator of 30 Mosques in 30 Days, a Ramadan road trip across America.

By Aman Ali, Special to CNN

Anytime I hear about a TV show coming out that features Muslims, my initial reaction is almost always “Oh man, please don’t suck. Please don’t suck.”

Unfortunately with TLC’s new reality show, it does.

“All-American Muslim” is the network’s new series about a group of Muslim families living in the Arab-rich city of Dearborn, Michigan.

Brilliant! What better way to show the mainstream public an insight into how multicultural and intellectually diverse Islam’s followers are… with a show focusing on just Arabs (20 percent of the world’s Muslim population) who follow the Shia sect of Islam (about 10 percent of the world’s Muslim population).

The show, which premiered over the weekend, presents itself as a glimpse into the American Muslim community but ignores an overwhelming majority of the cultures that comprise it. South Asians like my parents, who came from India, make up one of the largest group of Muslim immigrants in the United States.

That doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that the show makes no reference to African-American Muslims, another huge American Muslim group. Many of the black slaves that built the foundation of this country with blood, sweat and tears were Muslim.

And Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Dave Chappelle and Lupe Fiasco are all American Muslims, too. Hell, Detroit is right next to Dearborn. All the producers had to do was turn around and they’d find one of the most active African-American Muslim communities in the country.

The first episode said Dearborn has the largest population of Arabs in the United States – a statistic I’ve heard echoed time and time again. But I just checked the latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and learned that the Arab population in New York City is more than twice that of Dearborn. Seems like TLC can’t even stereotype correctly.

A bigger issue I have is with the show’s characters.

One woman is a boozing, tattoo-laden rebel child who wants to marry an Irish Catholic. Another is a scantily-clad and confrontational business shark who dreams about opening her own nightclub.

While I appreciate that the show is implying that Muslim women are more than just devout, headscarf-wearing housewives locked in the kitchen all day, why do the “liberal” characters represent an opposite extreme? Most Muslim women in this country don’t fit neatly into the ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal categories. They’re in the gray area.

The men on the show, meanwhile, are just plain boring. There’s a Muslim cop who insecurely reiterates his patriotism every 10 seconds. I’m surprised he doesn’t sleep in American flag pajamas and that his cell phone ringtone isn’t a Toby Keith song.

My favorite part of the show’s first episode is the spotlight it throws on the predominantly Muslim football team at Dearborn Fordson High School. “All-American Muslim” spends significant time on the team but leaves out that they’re 6-5 this season and scoreless in the first game losing by more than 40 points.

While its great that faith means so much to these players, it would be nice if scoring touchdowns meant just as much to them, too.

I recently co-created a project with called 30 Mosques in 30 Days, in which my friend Bassam Tariq and I drove over 25,000 miles to each of the 50 states to tell unfiltered stories about Muslim Americans. “All-American Muslim” doesn’t speak for them, nor does it speak for me.

These stories bear little resemblance to the narratives of my own or the ones I’ve stumbled across in my community.

You want to do an authentic story about an American Muslim? Do a story about a scrawny 20-something guy who awkwardly spends months mustering up the courage to tell a girl he likes her. Or girls that blabber about another girl they see talking to a guy for more than 11 seconds.

Best yet, passive aggressive parents that try to segue anything that comes out of your mouth into a lecture about why you should have been a doctor or why you’re going to die alone if you don’t get married by age 23.

That’s Muslim America. They’re stories of people no different than any one else in this country.

TLC has disappointed me. But maybe that’s not saying much, considering the network airs two shows exploiting the lives of little people and one called “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Aman Ali

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Opinion • TV

soundoff (1,669 Responses)
  1. msevans06

    I don't think you understand the meaning of the word "exploit" and also that "midget" is no longer a politically correct term. I'm shocked that CNN even allows this to be posted on their website. What a waste of space.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Jeff

      Midget is perfectly fine. We are getting overly "politically correct here. As a little person, midget, dwarf I never an offended and neither should you.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  2. arfe

    If I am going to make a sweeping generalization on a group of people based on a single incident, i.e this article, and I am, then the only thing I took from this piece is that Muslims aren't funny.

    ......."Hey whats the deal with airline food? I mean, am I right?

    November 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  3. pfft

    There is no god. Stop differentiating yourselves between which imaginary friend you send your telepathic messages to.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Greg

      The usual atheist response to everything.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Matt

      I love your post 🙂

      November 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • pfft

      Actually it's just the atheist response to the question "Is there a god?". For instance, if you asked me what the capital of Texas was, I would say Austin, not "There is no god." Care to say anything with a hint of relevance, Greg?

      November 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Greg

      You can neither prove there is no god nor can I prove there is. All you can do is offer an opinion. For some reason atheists much like vegetarians always feel the need to inject their beliefs at the drop of a hat into any conversation.

      Q: How do you find an atheist a crowded party?

      A: Oh, don't worry. They'll let you know!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Greg

      BTW, no one ever asked you if there was a god. You heard the world religion and just couldn't hold back.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • pfft

      People tell me there is a god daily practically anywhere I go, lol. For some reason, much like vegetarians, christians always feel the need to inject their beliefs at the drop of a hat into any conversation. Your sweeping generalization of atheists mirrors that of practically every group. My opinion is based on observable, scientific fact, not ancient texts scribbled by desert nomads. BTW no one ever asked you to reply to my comment, you simply saw the phrase "There is no god." and decided to talk down from your pedestal. Prove to me that a magical hemorrhoid didn't create the universe and I will gladly use your method to prove the existence of god.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Greg

      The discussion has been about the TV show All American Muslim. Yet, you and some of your ilk (as usual) see this as an opportunity to go off-topic and bash the 90% of the population that believes in a higher power. FYI, my very best friend in the entire world is an atheist. The same way I don't go around spouting my religious beliefs, he doesn't go around telling people online and off that religion is stupid and making fun of people's beliefs. You should learn from that.

      BTW, you're the one that said that there is no god. I never said there was or wasn't therefore, I have nothing to prove. Don't try to wiggle your way out of it. You state the "facts" as you see them, so let's see the proof.

      November 16, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  4. Sellman

    Most US black muslims converted while in the prison system and really have no idea what it truly means to be muslim. I agree, although we're the melting pot of the world... Our culture and muslim culture just doesn't mix.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • moneysworthless

      ^^Ridiculous comment. Care to point out statistics for your claim?

      November 15, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • John B

      Did Spike Lee teach you that? You freakin moron.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • zarmanthefly

      most of the black Muslims I know have never been to jail that is an ignorant statement

      November 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Muslim-Mom

      I converted and have never been in prison, I know many other African American Muslim's who were never in prison.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  5. Foreal89

    who cares I wish you all go back

    November 15, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  6. Khalid

    Awesome article. Spot on.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Shane

      Unnecessary article, poorly written and insulting to African-Americans, women, and little people.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  7. Abba-Dabba-Du

    So sick & tired of these lame attempts by cnn to render islam as relevant. It is a cult stuck in the 13th century, and they will continue to fall into the abyss of history.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Adam in Colorado

      No.. that's Christianity you are thinking of.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • jchoo

      yep, islam is a cult. why else would people go round and round around a rock?

      November 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  8. arfe

    I honestly have no idea what the message of this incoherent article is. But someone should let the author know that "midget" is the Little Person's "n" word. Shame, shame!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Khalid

      Then you obviously haven't graduated high school.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  9. Michael Knight

    It's still a mystery to me as to why so many African-Americans follow a false prophet ( Muhammad ) that has insulted the black people. Muhammad called black people -barnyard animals. He also stated that Black people looked like gorillas and monkeys. Why do Black People follow a man that thinks so little of them?.......................It is a mystery.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  10. jeremy

    I really like your article. I find it to be spot on. I especially like the part about midgets.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  11. Kat_1969

    Wow...I think the problem isn't with what a person believes, but our inability to respect beliefs that don't mirror our own. Muslim, Christian, Pagan, Atheist...it shouldn't matter...as long as they're good people.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Leslie

      Agreed!

      November 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • bummer

      religion is dumb. christians are dumb. islamatics are dumb. bunch of tards

      November 15, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • truthseeker

      I agree with bummer. Religion = suckers

      November 15, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  12. ja-coffalotte

    Muslims and Christians are equally worthless. Who really believes these fairy tales anymore? I mean c'mon, immaculate conception? Sorry Joseph, someone hit that.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • God

      I hit that Ja... I hit that GOOOOD.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Leslie

      Oh ye of little faith.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  13. jennyy

    the day is comming where the Jews will take over the world

    November 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • God

      I may just smite you for this. Watch it Jenny with 2 Y's.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  14. Lewis Skolnick

    The prophet Mohammed was a pedophile and all Muslims condone that sort of thing.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • God

      Yes, that's right Lewis. Spread the good news of Jesus to your breathern! Those pedo muslums MUST BE STOPPED

      November 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  15. Wastrel

    "Many of the black slaves that built the foundation of this country with blood, sweat and tears were Muslim."

    The idea that many of the slaves brought to America were Muslim is disputed, to say the least. There were undoubtedly a few. Perhaps no more than a few.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  16. HooterBro388

    I sure do hope the "author" is a better comedian than a "writer."

    November 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • God

      No need for quotes dipsh!t.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  17. Shane

    Organized religion is the root of most evils today: Abuse of children and women, wars over religious territories, terrorists with radical religious beliefs, denial of a women's right to choose, denial of gay rights, oppression of differing cultures, corruption in churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. Fools–all of you who follow and subscribe to any religion. You contribute to the ills of the world by giving credence to such dangerous lock-step beliefs.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Martin

      The Soviet Union is the Hood Ornament of Atheism.. and Stalin slaughtered more people than Hitler., Not to mention Mao.

      The Bible and Christians are correct when we say: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"

      All people are morally imperfect, including all atheists, including you. :

      Jn 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

      Repent and follow Jesus! He can change your entire life like he did mine and millions of other people!

      Jn 8:23But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.”

      25“Who are you?” they asked.

      “Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied. 26“I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

      November 15, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Shane

      I think the drivel above proves my point nicely. idiot.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  18. illuminated Genius

    Islam is one of the worst evils in this world -Richard Dawkins

    November 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Hamza M

      You name seems to be an oxymoron of your personality.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  19. lathebiosas

    When does the All American Atheist get a show? Fastest growing demographic in the world. Zeitgeist!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  20. Mo

    What a stupid piece. This shows the ethnic bias that some have within the Muslim religion. let me guess, if the show was about an indian muslim family who stick stricktly to an indian community and advertise in the classifieds that they only want their son to marry a physician or lawyer of indian descent, it would be a great show which is totally representative of Islam. Dear sir, Islam is a religion, not an ethnicity. This is the problem of immigrant muslims in the USA, they have the "Ethnic Superiority" complex, that totally undermines Islam as a universal religion. Such a shame to hear these words from someone who got us a show about 30 mosques, that lots of muslims, regardless of their background, really liked and thought highly of!!!!!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.