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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. joe

    hey aman...why do all the muslim want to kill the jews and christians? And dont give me that crusader crap since the muslims attacked lands that were originally christian and jewish.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • junaid

      all muslims? why dont you get to know a muslim first instead of making false acusations...

      im muslim, i live in an area where we have a huge muslim population, many also in local and state government positions. Im pretty sure we focus on our own lives rather than taking lives. Its absurd to think over one billion people in the world hate jews...

      honestly you will never let go of your hate... hate me for who you think i am, thats fine but while your life is filled with hate, ill be enjoying mine.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Joe

      Its a shame to have the same name like you.. If you look up the meaning of "Ignorant" in the dictionary... you will see your photo right next to it... Go read a book first, moron.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Mecca Me Crazy

      How about "The Infidel's Guide to the Koran" by Robert Spencer? That's a good one to start with.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  2. Yeshiko

    A small correction: Arabs are not Shia, but Sunni in general. But I agree with the author that the show is just another reality show, which has nothing to do with the reality. Funny huh!

    November 15, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  3. Sandy

    Thank for your input! I watched the first 5 muntjac of the show and turned it off. They sure did not represent me ! Thank God! I am an American Muslim, but nothing like the ones on the show! I enjoyed reading your article and I am happy that someone thinks like me!

    November 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • junaid

      i completely agree... we need them to sure the muslims in the middle- the show def didnt not represent me nor the majority of muslims i know...

      November 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Tory DePilla

      Do you have a whisker trainwreck like he does?
      Because TWO people with whiskers like that is really not something we as a species should be encouraging in any way.

      Please investigate face waxing. It could change your face today.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  4. Artemis

    "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."
    You can't be serious. The majority (and I mean 99.99%) of Africans brought to this country were most certainly NOT Muslim. In fact, the African slave traders that sold Africans to the white Europeans were the African Muslims. Get your history straight.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      OH HE'S SERIOUS ALRIGHT. YOU SEE THAT NEATLY PIMP TRIMMED FACIAL HAIR ON HIS FACE? THAT'S THE LOOK OF SERIOUS RIGHT THERE.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  5. Retired Marine

    Okay so they want to live in America but they want to try to change our laws to just exactly what they left in their old country. If it was so nice there why did they come here? We have our laws and they should abide by them. I don't remember hearing any of them condeming the attack on Sept 11, 2001. They were laughing and happy as hell. Religon ? What religon stones people to death or cuts of someones head to show how they do things, or blows up a plane with hugh crowds on them. The only thing I know about those people is what I see of their actions. All Muslims arent terrorists but all terorists are Muslim.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Those religions would be (plural) Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • Bob

      Timothy McVeigh was a Muslim?

      November 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • JM

      Well said!!!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • pfft

      Anders Behrin Breivik was a Muslim?

      November 15, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Kat

      yea because the 1% Muslim population controls the Congress, white house, media, banks, the Feds, military industry and about to impose their laws on the country, haha. You're sound like a classic graduate of the atlas drugs blog.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • bored

      all priests aren't child molesters, but all child molesters are priests

      November 15, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  6. jona

    waaaaa... shut up and make your own show.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Oh my god, don't encourage him!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Will it be a cooking show? I like cooking shows.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  7. Mike Donaldson

    A Muslim using the word "midget." Classic.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Why is that "classic" I don't get it.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  8. truth will out

    SHARIA LAW. that is all

    November 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      That is all what?

      November 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  9. SANJOSEMIKE

    While it is certainly true that Muslims vary in their family lives as well as their participation in Muslim religious life, the one connecting factor between every Muslim is the fact that they all want Israel destroyed. In addition, the connecting factor between all African American Muslims is their hatred for Jews in general. To the general (non-Muslims audience) these opinions will not be expressed. Between fellow Muslims however, they are sacrosanct.

    Muslims are different yes. But they are the same on the above issues. Mr. Ali above will deny these allegations publicly, but will support them resolutely in private. What I am saying specifically is that he will lie to you.

    sanjosemike

    November 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Bonju Patten

      The hysterical issue about Black Americans who have turned Muslim hating Jews is that Jews are forever shielding black Americans from bigotry. Jewish people go to great lengths to help the Blacks in America only because they know they are next on the ethnic chopping block. My experience with Muslims is less than nice and I believe that Black men who go from whatever religion they were born with (Baptist usually) turn into Muslims because they see the opportunity to suppress their own black women;forcing them to wear scarfs and burkas and on their female children as well. Sickening. To the author of this article – Muslims don't belong with Americans – they belong back in their 22 Arab nations. For your information, Black slaves were NOT MUSLIMS but were slaves to the Emperors of Rome. When their masters died like King Tut for example and he died a young man in his late teens; all his young slaves were buried alive with him and those slaves were all BLACK.

      So if you go around saying that black people are MUSLIMS you are mistaken man. Very wrong. In my opinion, ISLAM IS A DISEASE AND MUSLIMS ARE THE TOOL.

      BONJU PATTEN
      of AMERICAN-ARMENIAN DESCENT – HATE THE TURKS WHO ARE MUSLIMS

      November 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      You have no evidence of this. Prove it.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Teacher

      What??? If this was in anyway true...which it isn't...the only way you would know this is if you were a Muslim...but then by your own arguement, you wouldn't be telling us this.

      All sarcasm aside, it is this very ignorant beliefs that is dividing our world. It doesn't matter what your creed or colour is, propogating such filth tarnishes humanity.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  10. PeriSoft

    Hey, this article is totally unfair. 'I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant' is awesome!

    Seriously; where else can the phrase 'The infant's face was flushed' be taken literally?

    Some people just have no appreciation for true art.

    ...and to the various trolls, idiots, wannabe thugs, wannabe idiots, racist wannabe troll thugs, and wannabe thug trollist racers who are raging heartily about threats to / on / under / tangent to the equilateral spline of the United States:

    Up your nose with a rubber hose.

    I could have responded to your collective lunacy with a reasoned and calm argument, but instead I decided to put just as much effort and rationality in my rejoinder as you did in your socialized stemgobbling. Don't know what stemgobbling is? Well, go make a forum post – there, you're doing it. See? Free grammar lesson. I sure don't want to see any complaints!

    November 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      My fave show, "I didn't know I was a Top I didn't know I was a Pregnant Muslim Chef"

      November 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  11. TEE HEE HEE

    Too Funny!!

    November 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      What is too funny?

      November 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  12. Andre

    Seriously! YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! I don't like to malign the motivations of a person but I don't know what in GOD'S name you are complaining about in this piece. First, your really upset about the fact that the show highlights arabs-only. I totally agree. I am black myself, and couldn't understand how TLC possibly conceived of a show about Muslims and excluded blacks. But lets face reality this is a FIRST SHOW, in its FIRST SEASON. Give them room to grow. Secondly, your enraged that they dare to show SHIA MUSLIMS. How Dare They! I understand you feel that they should have highlighted sunni's but honestly the people that this show is designed to combat- The Pam Gellar's of the World-they don't teach people to hate shia or sunni; they teach them to hate Muslims. ALL OF YOU! Your insistence that they only show your sect is the same myopia that is destroying the middle east today. A show that displays the relative normalcy of any group of muslims should be heralded. And quite frankly the only way you would know they were shia is if you are a muslim already, or you know what a shia imam looks like. I'm sure the Ahmaddiyaa Muslim community would like to be shown as well, but again, maybe next season. Your comments about the boozing bride were ignorant in the extreme, as is much of this whiny review. The show displayed that muslims range in their fidelity to the letter of islamic laws. It showed that you have your fully integrated, westernize muslims, and your more traditional ones. That is a good image to show, because Pam Gellar and others have convinced much of the nation that there is no such thing as a moderate muslim. Personally, I think you just wanted to plug your own project. As a black american Ive seen what the crabs in the barrel mentality looks like and what it does. Don't be jealous that TLC beat you to the punch or that they are getting the attention you think your project deserved. This was a good first show. It doesn't deserve to be bashed by someone who doesn't want muslim women show drinking, or in scantly dresses. I have known many muslims and quite frankly-the show did a good job of displaying RANGE....unlike yourself.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      "scantly dresses"
      Definition? That might make want to tune in....

      November 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • John Richardson

      a-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e It's been bugging me all afternoon!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Mecca Me Crazy

      @ Andre

      Shias and Sunnis? Already you're bringing your little ancient feuds to America. Stop it. Secondly, the Pam Gellars of the world are helping to save the world from it's own ignorance and political correctness.

      But "the crabs in the barrel mentality?" You've got me on that one. They're crabs. In a barrel. Someone needs to eat them.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      John, sometimes I get it right. Why so agressive?

      November 15, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • Andre

      @ MEcca Me Crazy

      Did you even read my post. "Stop Bringing Ancient Feuds".....I wasn't. In fact that was precisely my point. The author of this piece is being myopic in insisting that only his sect of islam....presumably sunni (as he was upset about the shia presence on the show and noted who he felt is the majority). Now as for Gellar...you have told me all I want to know about your beliefs on this country. Sorry, but hatred will not save this country. I don't understand those of us who can't let people live and let live. Why you inisit on making an enemy of anyone that is different from you. Radical Islam is certainly problematic...all muslims are not (despite what Gellar teaches)

      November 15, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  13. Brendan

    "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)."
    Apparently you missed the point of the series. It's not supposed to give an accurate representation of what is real. The message of the show is, essentially, "Look! Most Muslims aren't terrorists!" They're not concerned with black Muslims because they aren't discriminated against.

    At least in the eyes of TLC, Arab Muslims are discriminated against nonstop, therefore they have to combat this withe Harley-driving, swearing, Americanized Muslims who really don't care about their religion very much. It's the only way to have the show NOT reinforce the stereotype of dogmatic, angry, anti-American Muslims.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      I will have a black and tan and for my friend here....I don't know, what to muslims drink?

      November 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • pct

      Exactly.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  14. Nala

    Thank you for your very open and honest view of the show. It is a shame that American media only depicts one side or I should say a small minority that will most likely fit into a mold to make the most money. I wanted to watch the show so I could have a a better idea of the myriad of culture in the Muslim world. But if I am going to be steered and misinformed about a religion that is already been given a bad rap then I am not interested.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Nala, you are welcome.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  15. Shawn

    Well, I am a Christian African American and I really like the show. I am very much into learning about other religions. I think he has a point but I don't think the show is based on race. It's based on being a Muslim. It's almost like saying why doesn't the show Sister Wives show a black polygamist family? It doesn't mean that there are no polygamist black families out there. We know that there are.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • pfft

      learning about other cultures and customs is quite enjoyable! yet, it's so weird to think that there are african-american christians. i mean, you realize that you're following the exact same religion that justified bringing and keeping your enslaved ancestors in America? the book you follow clearly gives specific details on how to treat them.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      (thanks John)
      I know exactlly. If Christianity wasn't already bad enough, the people persecuted by it adopt it? WT F?

      November 15, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
  16. Iqbal Khan

    Please increase your knowledge about islam learn from those who have more knowledge, to start:
    check on youtube.com the following names and listen what they have to say
    Khalid Yaseen–Siraj Wahaj–Dr.Jerald Dirks-Gary Miller–Abdul Raheem Green–Suhaib Webb-Yashua Evans-
    Yusuf Estes-–Yusuf Hamza-–Yusuf Islam-–Jeffry Lang-Yvonne Ridley-and so many others by the way Yvonne Ridley was captured in Afghanistan a must watch and all of the above were not muslims, also read the Quran with Tashreeh (explaination)

    November 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Please decrease your knowledge of all religions and take back sanity. Thank you.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  17. Goober

    So you're upset they're not REAL Americans?

    November 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Shawn

      shut up goober, they are real Americans.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      What is a real American? If we only knew.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • torredchally

      OMG GOOBER FROM MOTORTREND? hello!

      November 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  18. arfe

    Muslims aren't bad people. But they are bad comedians.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      What? I loves me some good Islamic humor....

      A Pakistani comes to America and begins working for the ACLU but is unfamiliar with American advances in toiletry. On his first day on the job he comes back from the men's room saying he can't find any hole in the ground. His boss explains how American plumbing works and sends the Pakistani back.
      A few minutes later, a loud, blood-curdling scream is heard from the bathroom. A few minutes after that, another loud scream shakes the office walls. His boss runs into the bathroom to investigate why he's screaming.

      The Pakistani replies, "I am just sitting here on the toilet like you instructed to do and every time I am making to flush, something comes up and squeezes dearly on my poor testicles."

      His boss looks at what he's sitting on and says, "You idiot. You're sitting on the mop bucket!"

      OK, you are right. Not funny.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  19. Iqbal Khan

    Your knowledge about Islam and Quran is very shallow please get more knowledge about islam check out some of the following websites:
    http://www.Islamhouse.com–www.911bible.com-–www.sultan.org–www.whyislam.com-–www.thedeenshow.com

    And as far as 911 there is no solid proof that muslims were behind those attacks, please do some research in this regard start google search or go on youtube.com check out these names and some of these sites...
    Alan Sabrosky–Dov Zakheim-John Philger.
    http://patriotsquestion911.com/-–http://www.realzionistnews.com/?p=238

    November 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • pfft

      If you honestly believe the attacks of 9/11 were not motivated by religion, specifically Islam, well....well I guess you're deluded in the first place for being religious.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • JLP

      You are attempting to deny that Muslims flew the Planes into the buildings on 9/11? You have got to be kidding. I suppose you think the Jews made up the Holocaust too.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Terry Jones

      the deen show? Really? Wow. I've been watching the wrong youtube vids. I've seen a ton by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, Pat Condell, and Richard Dawkins.

      Tell you what, for information I like mine better than yours. But for entertainment 'the deen show' is hard to beat. I couldn't stop laughing – I thought it was a Python skit !

      November 15, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Terry Jones

      @ JLP

      What Holocaust? There was a Holocaust?

      Anyone who maintains that 9/11 was "an inside job" is either ignorant or a propagandist. Watch the "9/11 Debunked" series on youtube.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  20. HSFOOTBALLSCOUT

    Aman,

    I'm not going to go on the record and say I know much about Muslim society & culture. I watched the TLC show and I'll take your word because you know more about it than I do. (Personally I thought it was slightly boring) However, there is something I know more about than you do: Football. You have no authority writing about a football program that you have no idea about. Great job Aman, you can get on the internet and write down a record. Contrary to your belief, Fordson did a good job of scoring touchdowns throughout the season. The first game loss was to perennial power Detroit Catholic Central.(Who is predicted to win the D1 state championship) All of Fordson's losses were to playoff teams. Two of the teams Fordson lost to are in the Michigan D1 Semi-Finals. This is a better team than their record indicates, they played very good football programs down the stretch. Records don't tell the whole story. TLC's show isn't about the football teams record but more of the challenges they face and overcome throughout the season.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • pfft

      sorry bro, just put you on the record 😦

      November 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Terry Jones

      I watched the interview of the Fordson coach. Interesting. Especially the part where he said:

      ".. we took them on and beat them at their own game..."

      November 15, 2011 at 9:49 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.