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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. Franky

    I thought this show was about why I hate all muslims, boring!!!!

    November 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  2. Dave

    While I agree, I'd rather see portrayals of Muslims in America than... not see them at all. It's TV–there has to be a catch. Americans, in general, doesn't have the guts to sit through anything *real* about cultural or religious differences.

    If it were up to me, schools would teach comparative religion from essentially day one, and the ridiculous stereotypes would never have a chance to form at all.

    It's an embarrassment, and comments like "I learned all I needed to know about Muslims on 9/11" make me ashamed of the country I was born in.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Mecca Me Crazy

      " Americans, in general, doesn't have the guts to sit through anything *real* about cultural or religious differences."
      In general? Well, ok, then. But only if it's "in general." I have some 'generalities' too. Want to hear them? Just 'in general?'

      " If it were up to me, schools would teach comparative religion..."
      Well, let's all be thankful it's not up to you.

      "... make me ashamed of the country I was born in."
      How about being ashamed of your religion instead of a country that allows it's citizens religious freedom?

      Fascist nit.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • mdamone

      Mecca – so you start off a criticism of someone using generalities...by using a generality of what YOU think Americans are "ready" for? Bad start.

      And you are against 'comparative religion' being taught? Do you even know what that term means? If you are against it, you are saying that only certain religions should be emphasized, not all taught for the students to compare for themselves.

      Not to mention that your take on Dave's "ashamed" comment is completely out of context, like you didn't even read the full sentence. Dave is ashamed of a country who would make a decision about all Muslims based only on 9/11....

      ...where would his religion play into it? Disagreeing with Dave means you support people saying that they know all they need to about Muslims based only on 9/11. So you support condemning all Muslims due to 9/11?

      Dave's comments are the complete opposite of facism. Either you need to ease up on the Red Bull long enough to comprehend what you are reading, or take some more comparative religion classes. LOL>

      November 15, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Mecca Me Crazy

      @ mdamone

      "a generality of what YOU think Americans are "ready" for? "
      Huh? Nowhere here did I suggest that, so "bad start" back atcha.

      And you are against 'comparative religion' being taught? "
      From "day one?" Damned right.

      "Not to mention that your take on Dave's "ashamed" comment is completely out of context..."
      Well, if we consider the 'context' of Dave's condemnations (generally speaking...of course) it's probably fair to say he doesn't think highly of Americans' capacities for comprehension or deductive reasoning.

      "Dave's comments are the complete opposite of facism [sic]."
      Dave wants to live in a world devoid of likes and dislikes, preferences and objections. He wants everyone treated with deference. Life doesn't work like that. There are likes and dislikes, personal agendas, predator and prey. All this breeds bigotry and bias (careful.. they're two very different things.) and to that end he'd prefer that a mandatory sensitivity be 'educated' into us, as he stated, from "'day one." Dave thinks mandatory examination of others choices will preclude (or prevent) theirs and others from pursing their personal interests and agendas. Is it really that simple? You think everyone will cooperate? Even the muslims? Bah. Go give them some of Dave's cultural sensitivity training and then get back to me.

      Dave smacks of being a typical liberal fascist who probably believes in 'pluralistic multiculturalism' as well.

      Poor kid.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  3. Coptic Girl

    This is seriously a retarded article. Of course this show is not going to represent 100% of muslims in america, just like when they film a show about asians, african americans or any other race it doesn't represent all those people in that race. And plus that's not the point of the show. You all need to get off your high horses. No one cares about the lives of "all American Muslims" just like no one cares about the lives of the kardashians or any other retarded show who's point is to show that a certain group of people are "just like you." And what is even more annoying is when people who write articles don't know history. "Black slaves brought to America were Muslim????" What history book are you reading?? And for the record one of the oldest christian churches was founded in ethiopia by St. thomas 600 years before the birth of Mohammed. So all the african americans who say OH ISLAM is the religion of my people seriously need to open a history book, because it just makes you all sound like idiots.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • mdamone

      You make some valid points, all of which are made irrelevant by using the term "retarded". Just sayin'

      November 15, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • jessica

      he didn't say the first slave brought here was Muslim. but look into your history and you will find many slaves brought to America were Muslim. Read Roots or the story of Abdul Rahman Sori a Prince from west africa brought here in the late 1700's.

      so funny when you tell them to go back to their country you didn't realize they might have been here longer than you have. 🙂

      November 15, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • plnsfrd

      Very well said Coptic Girl. It is very pleasing to come across a response that states the truth after reading comments that are filled with nonsense and false statements. The ignorance of some people simply astounds me.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  4. Isitacult.com

    Why is he criticizing the choice of a Shia family just because he is Sunni. More importantly, do you think Islam is a cult? Vote now at http://www.isitacult.com

    November 15, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Mecca Me Crazy

      " Why is he criticizing the choice of a Shia family just because he is Sunni."

      Let's just take a second and think about that.... tick... tick.

      Figure it out yet?

      November 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Eman

      How hard is it for you to figure out that Muslims don't drink? We don't choke on alcohol. Even Shias. Good response Mecca.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  5. JD

    I don't buy the stereo typing of Muslims – I'm a Christian and we are all human – Brothers and Sisters each and every one of us – it's those miss-guided fundamentalists on both sides that cause the pain .

    November 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      All you religious pigs suck.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • pfft

      and the moderates give them shade.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • PTP

      These people barely follow the religion.
      This is not really a show about Muslims. Its a show about the life of some Arab families/people who just happen to be Muslim.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  6. Rob

    All jokes aside, what is wrong with your facial hair? It seriously looks ridiculous.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Fear the beard.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • A spineless liberal

      JD, just because a fundamentalist seriously believes in something doesnt make them wrong or bad. If I truely believe in something, then I believe that everyone who believes different is wrong. If I am a Christian, which I am, then I must believe that all other religions are demonic.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • PTP

      No, the facial hair is tight.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  7. Kat

    I hate to break it out to you Aman Ali but not all Muslims look and behave like you. I actually like how the show shocks the stereotypical image in America of Muslims and perhaps will open the viewers' eyes to see that Muslims are not all the same.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      I am going to read the article now to see what we are blogging about.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  8. ralk

    More BS now it was black-african moslems that built this country huh...I have been waitinbg for that joke to show up eventually...lying moslem s c u m!

    November 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      It was the death an destruction of the Native American Indians, the demise of the buffalo, and the utter disdatin for nature and common sense by "Christians" that forged "America".

      November 15, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  9. ROCKWOOD

    hmnmmmmm

    November 15, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  10. sonnycam1

    oh no! is that a muslim carrying a gun in the picture?

    November 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  11. cowflop

    I learned everything I needed to know about muslims on 9/11/2001.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Did you win the Cow-Pie throwin' contest redneck? Don't forget to kick the dog and beat your wife now!

      November 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • Kat

      9/11 is not a lesson on Muslims, it is a lesson on how right wing fundi christian leaders and Zionazis conspire to draw America into expensive unnecessary wars to kick start Armgeddon and the coming of the Messiah.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Shayna

      What about all you needed to know about Christians after the Oklahoma city bombing?

      November 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • kyle

      and... here's a group of people just trying get a rise! whoop-de-do. a friend of mine tried to convince me today that all people really want is ignorance, that actually learning about the complexities of issues is just too difficult. i didn't want to believe him. hmm.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • JD

      What did you learn about Eric Rudolph?, the Olympics bomber who spent five years on the lam, before he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for bombing a women's clinic here in 1998? – nut jobs come in all flavors including especially yours

      November 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  12. Bob

    Ever noticed how the Quran isn't in chronological order?

    November 15, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • JD

      Ever notice must people named BOB don't know squat about the Quran

      November 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • pfft

      ever notice that the Quran and the Bible are both fiction? weird realizations come from simply reading what they have to say.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  13. jon

    hah hah..TLC exploits midgets and "I didn'y know I was pregnant?"!!! what the HELL!.....who are these networks that go after the most garbage filled themes they can put on the tube? I'm glad I don't watch TLC and maybe thats why I'm still normal.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  14. A spineless liberal

    Your beard is horrible.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  15. Lenny

    Culturally assimilated Muslims are some of the most pleasant people I've ever met.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • kyle

      culturally un-assimilated muslims are the most interesting people I've ever met 🙂 we're really just splitting hairs here, but i think we can both agree that actually meeting people, engaging with them and learning from them is what many lack on issues such as this. hate (openly displayed on this forum) is a result of ignorance. ignorance is a result of laziness. thankfully, a fine few make the effort and i think we can agree we're better off because of it.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • JD

      What are you the BORG???
      resistance is futile???

      November 15, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  16. blf2vkr

    Hi there: I just want to know why Muslims chose so called terrorism (For me it is an avenge)? You drop millions of bombs and so many innocent who die, you have well invented word COLLATERAL DAMAGE – Great idea to condone yourself from being charged as TERRORISTS. Where was Israel before 1948. Jews left Palestene 3 thousands years ago, They were gone by their own will, hence have no right to claim that land which they left. The Jews actually used all the tactics, robbing, Torturing, Terrorism, mass murder to form an illegal country called Israel. And as in case any one occupies my land, my property, or my house, I have every right to fight and regain my property, same is the case with Palestenins, they are not terrorist, they just want to regain their property. Israel is a terrorist country and by helping Israel America is also committing Terrorism.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  17. AjahDawn

    THANK YOU!!!! I couldn't agree more with your post. I am Muslim, Africa (from Senegal) and this show does not speak for me. I CANNOT relate to any of the characters or their stories. There are many kinds of Muslims because we are such a diverse group racially and culturaly. I guess the show should be called The all American Arabs who happen to be Muslim.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  18. joey

    well, put on your vest and go get em

    November 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  19. THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

    THE TRUTH IS, I HATE TLC BECAUSE I DON'T LEARN ANYTHING FROM IT. I PREFER THE SCIENCE CHANNEL, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, DISCOVERY OR THE HISTORY CHANNEL. TLC IS TRASH FOR MID-LIFE CRISIS AND MENOPAUSAL WHITE WOMEN.

    November 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Can't disagree but turn off your stupid Caps Lock.

      November 15, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  20. Amanda

    Well reality tv makes everyone look like idiots, Why should Muslims be exempt? lol

    November 15, 2011 at 10:29 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.