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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. Jamie

    I agree that the show was not very representative of true (or more common?) muslim families, but the fact of the matter is that a normal religious family is not going to be very interesting to watch.Let's face it, anything on tv nowadays is about getting views and considering that this show is not particularly aimed towards muslims, they need content that will be appealing to nonmuslims. We, as muslims, are quick to judge the others on the show because we "know" whats permitted/not permitted in islam, but i can bet most of us doing the judging are just as likely to be doing wrong. And another general point, it seems that they are just trying to show that muslims are a functional part of society and "normal" just like everyone else.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:29 am |
  2. A

    Aman – Don't take this the wrong way, but a show like this will actually make me more interested in knowing about the Muslim way of life. I really don't know much about Islam and being a Muslim. But when I saw a repeat of this series premiere last night, the difference in each family made me think.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Happy Hanukkah

      Cut holes in a paper bag and walk around with your head down to not even body Eye contact with another man

      November 16, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  3. Loulou

    Great article! Well written, interesting, and spot on...

    November 16, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  4. Happy Hanukkah

    Muckamad the impaler shall live on forever in the tiny brains of Arabs

    November 16, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  5. Happy Hanukkah

    Why did muckmad Go into the gave.............................To create his own religion and convert Rag Heads

    November 16, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  6. High IQ'er

    Actually, the word "midget" may be okay with some of you, but it is NOT okay with little people. GROW UP.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Not_Little_Person

      I agree with you! I found his 'midget' remark offensive. I have not seen the TLC program to which he refers, but his remark does not speak well of his intelligence or sense of diversity. I am sure he would be irrate if someone refered to him by the 'N' word. The TLC program "The Little Couple" is well done and represents little people as diverse and respectable members of our communities. The TLC program that I find offensive and a waste of air-time is 'Sister Wives'; I really feel bad for the children in that situation (and wish the 'wives' had sense enough to know that, as women, they deserve better).

      November 16, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Jon

      Haha, "grow up". I see what you did there. Short jokes are always funny.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:59 am |
    • Therewolf

      Actually, the show was called "Half-Pint Brawlers" and they bill themselves as a "midget wrestling show". Get over yourself.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  7. Therewolf

    It's ridiculous, petty, and self-serving to expect a show about one community or one family to represent all facets of any culture, particularly your own. You could cast a hundred people who practice varying forms of a single religion and still end up with people whining that they are not "represented" in this group.

    I close with two remarks: 1. Dave Chapelle already had a show and it was great. 2. All reality shows "suck."

    November 16, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  8. SPQR

    Evil is not unique to just one race, one religion or one person.

    November 16, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  9. timawima

    They are not midgets. They are little people! And you call yourself Muslim?!

    November 16, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • CHUCK

      Nice, CNN, you have a muslim writer complaining his religion isn't properly represented on TV, yet he has the nerve to call Jen and Bill "midgets"? I want to say to the ignorant muslim writer, "wake up and pay attention to your own ugliness and ignorance!" Shut up!

      November 16, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Therewolf

      See above. "Half-Pint Brawlers" was the show and the troupe itself dubbed it "midget wrestling." Righteous outrage not necessary.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • Therewolf

      Wait... hold the phone... "Pint-Size Brawlers" was on Spike. Please continue with indignation.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:11 am |
  10. phace_plant

    Aman, it's the moderate Muslim's like yourself that antagonize moderate christians who would consider this article to be anti-christian. You are no better than those christians because you pick and choose portions of the quran that you consider worthy of following. As a moderate muslim, you are worthy of death, as its written in the quran, just as moderate christians are destined for the same fate.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  11. bigothater

    I remember Timothy Mcveigh he bombed Oklahoma City. He is white so am I supposed to hate all white people? I am white, so who do I hate now? Im confused I have to hate somebody, somewhere, don't I ? Thats right I don't see color, I just see hatred in peoples hearts, people who have hatred in hearts know who they are. And the bible says not to judge anyone, thats Gods job not mine. I love all people who have love and kindness in their hearts and thats what God has asked me to do.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • omar1

      thank you! what I hate the most is that even though there is much evidence 9/11 was not a terrorist attck, but planned by the United Stated government, people still call Muslims terrorists.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • Ruspanic

      omar1 – that's not the point at all. Nearly all evidence suggests 9/11 WAS planned and carried out by Muslims, and there is little reason to believe otherwise. The point is that all Muslims should not be judged by the actions of al-Qaeda and other such groups.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:09 am |
    • CHUCK

      Omar, are you going to claim, as I heard a group of muslims do after 9/11, that"the Jews blew up the Towers"? No real proof exists anywhere except your imagination, that muslim terrorists did not fly into the towers and the Pentagon, and you need to honestly look at what your people are doing. There is no excuse for such ignorance on your part, period.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • scott

      Omar 1 you are a goof. Yea 9/11 was done by Muslim terrorist. Where do u get your news from? A kellogs cereal box. Wake up and listen to the news. Or better yet our your head back in the sand and just keep it there. Your like a mushroom your kind are always in the dark. Scottyo10@gmail.com is my email if ya have any questions

      November 16, 2011 at 1:27 am |
  12. Kilovesjo

    Why do you people hate the Muslims? I have read that the muslims hate the west (from bloggers in different forums). I always wanted to ask the people who hate muslims, why do you think they hate us? Because we have freedom and democracy? Because of our fast cars and high tech life? I don't think aso. It is simply because (believe it or not) the western corporations (private, govt and christian groups) go behind our backs and 'invests' in their nations. Now most of you know that invest is another name that all corporations use to systematically plunder resources without properly benefiting the people affected. This plundering slowly and slowly destroys their homeland. Its kind of like termites entering our houses and eating away at it untill we decide to use poison to kill them. So the next time someone say something bad about muslims be wise enough to say thats not true. Thanks for reading.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • cowflop

      Kilo....Muslimes hate anyone who is not muslime. They hate infidels. They are taught by the Quran that if they cannot convert you then they must kill you. Simple.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • omar1

      get your facts straight Mr. Cow... the Qur'an says no such thing. Stop talking out of your ass

      November 16, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Daniel

      The reality is more of a mix between the two things stated above. The Qua'ran does in fact say these things, however they are not widely practiced in Muslim culture (much as there are parts of the bible that are ignored). It is right to say that the anti-western hatred largely grew around the time of colonization by Western Imperial powers, but this is not their vocal reason to hate America. Rather they use religion as a means to rally support against America. Slowly over time however, the original reasons for detesting America are forgotten, and the religious argument prevails.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  13. Peter Kelly

    The author strikes me as a Muslim Pharisee; someone who looks at the appearance of a person and judges them. I've been there and done that and it's just not fair. If I was going to heaven based on the author's standard of righteousness, I'd be in huge trouble, because I don't always act right or speak right. That's why I'm thankful for Jesus.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • Happy Hanukkah

      Muslims are the slimiest dirtiest Most Lying Band of carpet riding Murders. With Their Fake azz prophet Muckmad The Great Impaler.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  14. Omar

    Get you facts right buddy... Shia Sect make up about 30 percent of muslim population... and STOP with this FITNA nonsense we are all muslim and god clearly said in the quran, ina alfitna ashadu mina alqatl... Translation: secession is worse than the killing of another human being... DON'T STOP CATEGORIZING... I'm in no doubt that I'm speaking on behalf of all the TRUE sunni muslims..

    November 16, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • omar1

      to the cow: it is spelled "Muslim" you idiot.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • cowflop

      OH! So sorry omar!
      Mudslime. Is that it?

      November 16, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Katy

      I know, he came off as pretty judgemental and hostile in this article. Obviously a television show is not going to represent every single culture or ethnic group. I personally loved it, I thought it was very informative. The intent was to show their human side more so than their religious practices and I think that was well done.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • Joe Blow

      Omar is a retard.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • cowflop

      Katy.....Mudslimes do not have a "human" side. ALL of these "American" mudslimes are sleeper cells waiting for the call.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  15. RikGuido

    I just read only one page of the comments section for this article (well written, I've noticed the same thing about all those "educational" networks (don't get me started on the History Channel, formerly known as all Hitler all the Time). Having said that, with little exception, all the comment I've read...wow....how often were some of you dropped in your infancy? CrushIslam, just curious; did your mother have any children that lived? Also, get a dictionary...the rest of the world spells it BLOOD...

    November 16, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  16. Lenny Pincus

    I don't know. There's never been a show about a person like me either, but there have been shows about people of my general background. I found the show kind of interesting.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  17. Perverted Jew

    Yeah that's right! show me That Arabic skin. .........oohh Yes! Defy Sharia Law And Walk amongst the male Population Unveiled.

    November 16, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Eviscerated

      The Islamic faith is just as fragmented as Christianity (Catholics, Baptists, Lutheran, and yes, even Mormons). Not all the Islamic sects require the women to cover their faces.

      A quote I once heard, that is absolutely true "Islamic fundamentalists are to Islam, with the KKK is to Christianity".

      November 16, 2011 at 12:46 am |
  18. J P Samm

    Thank you... I know no one who could write/say it better.... TY again..

    November 16, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  19. hemo

    this guy is a moron

    November 16, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Joe Blow

      Yes he is.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  20. Reality

    Dear Aman:

    A quick solution to your issues with various TV shows:

    Saving Muslims is quite easy!!! (developed by yours truly based on the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi)

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    November 16, 2011 at 12:31 am |
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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.