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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. JC

    Welcome to the "real world" of television. It's not about your life (which is probably boring); it's about getting sponsors and making lots of Mullah. I'm a gay man and all I see on TV are gays in the role of comic relief - you know, the flamboyant witty queen who whips off the one liners at the bar. Here's some news: all minorities cringe when we see ourselves "represented" on TV. It's up to us to educate, such as what you're doing here.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  2. Texan

    Dude, welcome to the real world. Most always, ANY religion is misrepresented by the media. Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhism and even atheism, you name it, It will be misrepresented. Our media is very manipulative.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  3. r

    What disgust me is that Aman throws in a race card.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  4. Bob Decker

    Thank god I read this piece because I didn't know Malcom X was still alive I thought he was killed.But any show with Muslim characters would work them in with non Muslims and show a cross section of the community. A show with only Muslims would be hard because there is such a mixture and such diversity.I agree with the article and since I can't get the show here in Mexico I will have to wait to see. But every Muslim I have met has been regular person and very much a member of community .

    November 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Terry Jones

      @ Bob Decker

      " But every Muslim I have met has been regular person and very much a member of community."

      But then again, so are most rapists, pedophiles, embezzlers, etc...

      November 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      And you!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Terry Jones

      Busted!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  5. alexinwonderland

    Aman Ali,

    Don't hate, just change the channel! Life is too short. Meanwhile, I doubt you realize that the term "midget" is incredible offensive to little people. It's the equivalent of the "n" word. Most Muslims I know are not as judgmental as you – in the Q'uaran it is forbidden.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      IF it is equivalent, then why do you say Midget but not Nig ger? You have made them non-equivelent just by that statement.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  6. Jack

    I fully agree with Aman Ali. The show seems to go out of it's way to show exceptions in the muslim community just to impress others. A muslim women boozing or another trying to open a night club is not common. TLC must have scanned the whole country to find these women. But then, a muslim woman marrying a non muslim is not uncommon. The guy converted to Islam to marry the woman he loved. What would have been an exception would be a muslim woman changing her religion to marry the man she loved.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      It is TLC! Cat fights, drinking, S-ex, drinking......watch if that is what you like. Don't if it is not. That thing in your hand is called a remote control (or your dik depending on what you are watching right now.)

      November 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  7. D-Nice

    This guy thought TLC would aire a good show. Um hello, have you watched any of the other shows on TLC? They all suck, just ask Sarah Palin.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Thank you D-Nice. Dude clearly has an axe to grind.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  8. Piper

    Why not a show about all the "peace loving muslims" who riot and burn stuff when some commedian insults their pedophile prophet?

    November 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • pfft

      or what about a show that features the WBC picketing soldier's funerals just for the sake of spreading hate and intolerance? i mean, is it not god's will?

      November 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      That would be good if the sponsors were the American Armed Forces. Every redneck in the country would be tuned in. Good call!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  9. Chad L

    Every show has an agenda behind it. This one happens to show how these Muslim families live their lives. It doesn't mean that is how Muslims in other countries live, or even how the Muslim family next door to them lives. All we know is man kind has been fighting each other over three things since the dawn of time Money, Land, and Religion. Why? Because a single person can use any of those to control people. People need to stop listen to what a specific leader in their church says and figure it out on their own. If you only base or faith on how someone else deciphers the Bible, Qur'an, Torah, etc then misunderstanding will always be an issue.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  10. Hooligan

    Considering most Americans don't know the Difference between an Arab Muslim and an Indian Hindu... I'd say this writer should stop whining and let time take it's course.... It's not misrepresenting it is simply showing a small sect of a certain group so to show moron Americans who bundle ALL Muslims in one group NOT to be separatists or fearful simply because someone has a scarf wrapped around their head.

    Give it time and get off your high horse.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Jack

      Well if the show is representing a small sect, it shouldn't be named "All American muslim".

      November 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  11. Sara

    All these comments are so nasty and prejudice. What is wrong with America today judging an entire race? Every Muslim is their own person. Some are simply wonderful. And just like in America some of them are not wonderful people.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      I think you are wonderful Sara.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  12. Hage

    Sounds like this guy doesn't have an understanding for the population of American's who know nothing about Muslims. It appears so many uneducated people think all Arabs are Muslim gun-wielding terrorists. This show is trying to dispel some horrible rumors about Muslims and Arabs. I've met countless people who think all Muslim Arabs are terrorists; somehow those same people don't seem to have the same idea that African-American Muslims are terrorists. This show is to teach people like you about tolerance. Especially since you call yourself a Muslim.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      No, this show is to sell diapers and pain medication.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Jack

      I agree with you. Why don't people consider African muslims as terrorists I wonder.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  13. butts

    Welcome to the TV world of religious stereotyping. Doesn't matter what faith, stereotypes makes it easier for Hollywood shuffle the complex truths of our world under the carpet.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Movin' on up! To a De-luxe apartment in the sky!

      November 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  14. angryblkman

    this show, and the person who wrote this article are both pure trash!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Why?

      November 15, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Hooligan

      why? because no one is focusing on the poor black man routine any more?

      November 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      LOL

      November 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  15. theLord

    Nice try buddy, it's not the Muslims that adopt our way of life like Hindus and Chines have, its the backward thinking bigots who bring their garbage with them when they come that most Americans can't stomach, so go away.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      From time to time I think people need to be reminded that this nation was stolen from the Native Americans and their entire way of life and populations were wiped out. "Americans" have nothing to gripe about.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  16. Bianca

    I didn;t like the show. I agree it doesnt represent the american-muslim culture, Disappointed!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Are you suggesting that there is only one American-Muslim culture?

      November 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  17. ged

    the correct term is midgets... Also, any religion tends to be intolerant of others..especially "christians". All religion spawns hatred and intolerance. Spirituality, no matter what God you worship is the path to take.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      The correct term is "wee little people" and all religions are bad.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  18. Hal

    Like any religion in America, if you do not force me to believe yours I won't force you to believe mine.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      That makes no sense at all. So if I force you to believe mine, now you believe mine. Therefore if you force me to believe yours, it is already mine. Logic please.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  19. hippypoet

    420 🙂

    November 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • pfft

      I support this comment.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      GF Fiddy

      November 15, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  20. SLove

    I liked the show- and I think it is a great way to start an end to all of the prejudice against the muslim population. Okay, your population statistics are flawed. There may be more muslim americans living in NYC, but there is a higher concentration of muslim americans in michigan. There is more of just about everything in NYC- it is huge. And the reason it doesn't focus on a 20 somthing year old trying ask a girl out is because it does nothing for sharing how a FAMILY of muslims in the US might live day to day. Yes, there may be under represented races in the show- but it is just one show, in one community. If you wanted to share the lives of every group, you would need many different shows. Please, just shut up and stop ranting. Do you think jersey girls appreciate the extreme behavior that the girls of jersey shore display? NO... because it is televsion.

    November 15, 2011 at 8:49 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.