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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. Winston Smith

    ALL religions are insane when you take them literally. And with that said, religion is a natural creation of self-aware beings, certainly humans. So it's here to stay. What we should do is a) stop pitting religions against religions (if you're a Christian who hates Islam, then you are 10000% a hypocrite and a fool and you're not even a Christian because you clearly missed the message of Jesus), and b) we need to stop taking religious text as literal truth. That's not the point, and that's where the real problems start.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Reality

      Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

      Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • Joe Blow

      Thank You! It's nice to see there is another sane person out there. Religions are MAN MADE, people.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Jon

      "Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money."~ George Carlin

      November 16, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  2. VivaLaKelsey

    This guy is dumb. Obviously you can't cover every type of Muslim, just like how christian tv shows don't represent every christian. I give the show credit for even trying.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  3. Tom

    I just wish these so-called African-American 'Muslims' would spend some time in the 'homeland' of Saudi Arabia and see how much they like their 'adopted' religion and 'culture' of which they know virtually nothing! Of course the men probably love it as it totally subjugates women. But let's not forget about lack of basic human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, etc. Allah Akbar....Allah Kareem....BS! Wake up idiots. Frankly, no religions supposedly advocate intolerance and hatred, yet most wars and mass murders have been waged in the name of Allah, Jesus Christ, etc. who each 'side' says is on their 'side'.... Study history folks and quit using any of these religions as a blind 'crutch' to kill and wage war in the name of...

    November 16, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • vmprophet

      A couple of things, Im pretty sure You dont have to go to a "Muslim" country to find lack of freedom of the press or religion or basic human rights. 1- North Korea 2) China 3) Eritrea (which happens to be my homeland, ruled by a Christian dictator), etc. Just saying, If your going to blame anyone for anything, Blame the Person because a religion is developed by humans, so you cant blame the idea blame the creator of the idea

      November 16, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  4. CrushIslam

    now they're blaming the Jews for them being terrorists

    November 16, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  5. CrushIslam

    Don't be surprised if one day not too far into the future you see that muslim guy in the picture dessed in our police uniform go the way the guy in Texas who killed a lot of our soldiers went. It is in their blod.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • IR

      It is people like you that spread intolerance and hate. What kind of person are you? You have serious mental issues. Get some help soon.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      It always seems that when these things are investigated, the loser with the gun is some jerk like you with an overblown sense of self-importance. I think YOU are more likely to be a killer than a man who upholds the law in the community in which his family lives.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  6. shagpal

    because media is dominated by muslim-hating jews

    November 16, 2011 at 12:24 am |
    • cowflop

      Shagapig....I am not a Jew, and I hate muslimes. Next excuse please.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • tallulah13

      At least you chose a proper name, cowsh!t. That is exactly the sort of name you deserve.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  7. vegan

    Do you know how long it would take to cover every single possible race / color / creed / etc version of muslim? The author is an idiot.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  8. TheRationale

    Why are people demanding blander and blander television?

    What happened to freaking Batman?!

    November 16, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  9. CrushIslam

    Not all is bad about this guy's article which includes his picture. If he wanted us to learn anything about Muslims, he did accomplish that in my view. and that is, all muslims are bold and the reason they wear a nest on their heads.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  10. errca

    ahaha i enjoyed this article. TLC sucks nice attempt to "educate us"

    November 16, 2011 at 12:19 am |
  11. cowflop

    I not only hate them for their actions, I hate them for their inaction. "Moderate muslime", bah!
    There is no such thing!

    November 16, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • tallulah13

      I think you just hate because you really like to hate.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  12. Tony

    Dude, the show you want them to make would be wicked boring. Have you ever seen American TV?

    November 16, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  13. lapedro

    how much time does the author spend on his fancy little beard everyday, it tells me everything i need to know about this guy and his opinions on anything

    November 16, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  14. harry

    since when are any of the "reality" shows on tv actually reality.
    and likewise, why should this one be any different.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  15. Marc Boudreau

    so...you want a show that just shows everyday people doing everyday things...that doesnt make for good tv, sorry buddy

    November 16, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  16. rrofshi qofshi

    What if we do a show in the middle East called All Arab Christians? Do you think that would fly over there?

    November 16, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  17. Rhonda

    Your just another hypocrite.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  18. YouAreIgnorant

    The comment in the article about the show only showing Arabs is correct. The comment about Shia though is somewhat incorrect. First off, this family is NOT Shia (they are secular "muslims") and I am sure SUNNIS have lots of those as well. Secondly even if they were true Shia why would it matter. If it was sunni, you'd suddenly feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Of course this kind of hate is expected from ignorant Sunnis like this author.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Colin Nelson

      Yeah this guy is a moron:

      "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."

      Percent of Arabs in NYC: 1%
      Percent of Arabs in Dearborn: 29%

      Can someone explain to Ali what per capita means? Also, even if TLC WERE wrong, I don't think this would be considered 'Stereotyping.' It's too bad that CNN allows people to write like this without having a professional read it over.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  19. tcaros

    Why not do a show on how they stink around Ramadan? They should think about their coworkers and what they put everyone through when they stink up things.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:01 am |
    • HarshReality

      Good, valid point. Also, the way they "push" the holiday on us. . . . As if we care about it at all. . .

      November 16, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  20. Jim

    It is micromanagement to say the show should present a teen struggling to ask a girl out while the article simultaneously slams the show for presenting a police officer blending in with the rest of society. Humanity is shown in many ways, and the show does this – and helps soothe the tensions that have risen in recent years. If you want to pick on characters, try watching that hideous Canadian attempt ("Little Mosque on the Prairie"). Yeah, we get it – TLC chose all the wrong stereotypes, and should have selected your stereotypes instead (New York, Asians, and Sunnis).

    November 15, 2011 at 11:59 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.