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. teepee

    America hated me long before it hated you man...

    November 16, 2011 at 7:01 am |
    • Guru

      Sorry you are in the wrong site.......this is not alqueda.com

      November 16, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  2. britt

    It's TV! This is not reality. The Real World is not reality. The Paris Hilton, Kim K, Jersey Shore are not reality. This is entertainment. There was supposed to be a NASCAR wife reality show but it did not make it because there was not enough drama. Reality does not sell, controversy does.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:58 am |

    ISLAM is a tool of Satan to fool the entire Arab world. After the rapture of the Church and during the tribulation you will learn that Jesus is LORD.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • HIPunch

      Point taken. Go back to church now where people actually want to hear your crap.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:02 am |
    • Guru

      And God knows that you are crazy and in need of some professional help.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:02 am |
    • craig

      I dont think i've seen someone as ignorant as you in a very long time....so congrats on being the dumbest person ive seen in a long time.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:06 am |
    • DeltaFoxtrot999

      HOOYAH GOD_SEES_ALL! And those times are coming quickly as the Lord said to watch. Everyone else offensively replying to your thread are as well nothing more than mainstream politically correct tools of satan as well. Good day chaps!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:34 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Really? Are you forgetting all the crap the christians have done that is horrible? What makes you so sure you are right about your beliefs? How do you know for sure you have the right deity? What if the deity you believe in is wrong and the muslims are right or the jehovah's are right? In order to prove your god you need to use the scientific method for proving it. (Scientific Method: In thinking about nature and our place in it we are sometimes struck by deep questions about how the world and Universe works. Our curious minds have a strong urge for answers to fill that gap of ‘not knowing’. Some people are satisfied with traditional answers, or ones handed down from some ‘authority’. Scientists, on the other hand, follow a set of guidelines to attempt to discover the best possible explanation. The actual process is called the ‘scientific method’, which is a system that is carefully arranged to prevent us from fooling ourselves as we discover how the Universe really works. Features of the Scientific Method: Hypotheses; Objective evidence;Falsifiability;Peer Review;Theories).
      How this applies to religion:
      The burden of proof remains squarely on religious people to provide evidence for the existence of their deity before anything can be claimed or done in the name of this deity – and this includes moral claims! For those who say that a god started the Universe but has since left it alone, or is otherwise undetectable today, this can be dismissed using the principle of Occam’s Razor. Claims of a ‘personal’ god lack objectivity and
      falsifiability, as do claims that a god is somehow “outside” of time and space. Intelligent Design, the purportedly scientific face of creationism, has no impartially peer reviewed scientific papers to its name. It is also not a scientific theory as it makes no testable predictions. Consequently, in the absence of any sensible evidence, by default we can take it that no gods exist. There is no reason to think otherwise.
      In Summary Science has multiple checks and balances to constantly prevent and correct errors, to get closer to a comprehensive understanding of reality.
      Religions have no objective rationality checks, no evidence for a god, and completely fail as realistic explanations of the Universe and our place in it.Consequently, religions have no authority to make any truth claims whatsoever.
      I am not a believer but at least I have tolerance and acceptance for people (just b/c you are christian doesn't mean you are any different than anyone else, the same goes for muslims-jehovahs-jews-atheists-etc).

      November 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |

    ISLAM is a false religion.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:56 am |
    • Study People

      Well then, with that God like statement... We can conclude that the Christian Religion is also false. Both Religions birth place is the House of Abraham. Just curious....do you feel the same way about the Jews?

      November 16, 2011 at 7:04 am |
    • Pitch

      False religion is a redundancy.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:28 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      @GOD: Hypocrite!!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:39 am |
  5. Aussie53

    I've got to laugh at this article; another Muslim tirade full of crap!

    November 16, 2011 at 6:51 am |
  6. Troofer

    Why does the consensus media push Muslims on non-Muslims? Canada has their "Little House on the Prairies" about Muslims that is so fake because they get along with just everybody and the family's best friend is a priest.. hahahahaha – so much for reality. Now this... I fear the media doth protest too much... If you going to produce a show about Muslims, show some of them at anti-Israel rallies, show how many university kids hating Israel and not allowing pro-Israel speakers to speak. Show us how some feel victimized at all times even when they are not. Show us the truth for crying out loud!

    November 16, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  7. Recounted votes

    I amazed that CNN would let this guy use this forum. This guy sounds like he hates a lot of people.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:48 am |
  8. jerry

    I think it was a good idea to point out that not all Muslims are Arab most actually are not the author is right there....but The comment about Muslims and slaves who built the foundation of this country is a little far fetched he kind of takes the stands a that white men were all slave holders and watched as slaves built everything that's not realistic most white people didn't have slaves they didn't have the money for them and I bet that most thought it was not right hence the civil war but back to my point he tries to hold Muslims above the rest and blacks which is not fair yes they made contributions that's undeniable but if we talk about a foundation Muslims really didn't have much to do with it I'm sorry you guys are probally gonna hate but most where Christi on and Christian idezls and before you say anything you must know I'm more of an athiest than anything but I respect Christianity and Muslims but I won't wash away the fact that are country is built on Christian values just to paint a fairer picture .and I certainly won't say Muslims helped the pave the way for America when I know that's not true what I will say that Christians values paved the way for Muslims Jews and the like to some hear and have religious freedom. Fact white people and blacks both built this country and so did Latinos but no one did it more than anyone else you can't measure that I won't try but you can't say Muslims built this country its just not true he forgets that lots of black people are Christian...I'm just saying don't say we built the foundation like know one else did its hate full a

    November 16, 2011 at 6:41 am |
    • HIPunch

      I could spend all day telling you just how wrong you are about America being founded on Christian values. It makes it pretty obvious just how little you know about the founding fathers of this country if you believe this nation was founded on Christianity. I suggest you look up the Treaty of Tripoli, which specifically states that the United States never has been and never will be a Christian nation. I wrote a fantastic college essay on this matter (which earned me an A from my conservative Christian professor) which proves that the true historical information proving America's secularism is out there, you're just too lazy to actually do the research so you spout out what you THINK is true.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • DeltaFoxtrot999

      @ HIPunch

      Just exactly is your issue with Christianity or rather the Christianity that you "know" of? Sounds like quite a bit of venom built up there.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  9. reno88

    will the show highlight the manufacture of explosive vests? will is show muslim women driving? will the show feature women learning and growing in their professional careers? i can't wait to see how muslims are contributing to american society!! perhaps that will disprove the stereotype they have of being violent cave-dwellers that prey on civilians to forward their cult.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:36 am |
    • Mr Neutron

      Do you wake up stupid or do you drink it from a cup?

      November 16, 2011 at 6:47 am |
    • Guru

      Women don't drive in Saudi......everywhere elese they do drive......time to wake up and check on Muslims across the globe and not just in the troubled areas :)......its good for your knowledge.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  10. bored already

    Wow- From Malcolm X to Lupe Fiasco to Aman Ali. Talk about a decline of a culture.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:32 am |
  11. Mendoza

    Alcohol consumption, tattoos, and interfaith marriage are far from extreme. Methinks the author would be the one to cast the first stone.

    And emphasizing failure on the field is never the intention of youth sports.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:32 am |
  12. Ray Hanania

    Another point is that the writer is being selfish ... the FACT is most TV and movie portrayals of positive Muslim images are of non-Arabs like him, so his argument attacking TLC (and all Arabs) is somewhat self-serving and tragic. Very unfortunate and selfish in a way. But again, the biggest losers in this equation that he brings up is that Arab Christians are the ones who are most ignored, absent from TV and movie portrayals yet are victimized by the same biases and racism that have targeted all Muslims and all Arabs ... and we'll talk about this on radio this morning (8 am CST) BlogTalkRadio.com/AllThingsArabs
    Ray Hanania

    November 16, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  13. MarshalRight

    He doesn't like it because it doesn't depict Muslims accurately. They should be engaging in acts of terror and butchering everybody and everything that doesn't jive with what the Koran teaches. God forbid Muslims should tone done the whole anger thing and actually try to integrate properly. That's why I've always sided with the Crusaders. Ahhhh, now THOSE were the days! Dead Muzzies everywhere!

    November 16, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  14. mommaearth

    Yawn,Just another show to make me fall asleep.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:20 am |
    • Rags

      You actually waste time watching TV? Man, there's a whole bunch of better things to do than that such as reading a book.
      TV is B-O-R-I-N-G!!

      November 16, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  15. abacab

    So this kid gets to spew whatever he wants about his culture being slighted? And he gets a platform on CNN why, exactly? Sounds as though this gaggle of "reality stars" has been given a bit of the "Jersey Shore" treatment (at least with the boozing, tattoo-laden rebel child portrayal). I wonder if Aman has the same problem with all ethnicities being portrayed like boobs, or just his own? And in fairness, do "authors" of all ethnicities get a crack at debunking stereotypical portrayals courtesy of CNN's prime web real estate?

    November 16, 2011 at 6:17 am |
  16. Steve

    Did it ever occur to you that demeaning Islam is the purpose behind the show? I think it's outrageous they have a show depicting any specific religion. I think you have a case for a hate crime.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  17. Danno

    Oh wait... we're still supposed to fear/hate Muslims? Sorry, I was busy worrying about keeping my house and making a living.

    Seriously, get over yourselves, Muslims.

    November 16, 2011 at 6:11 am |
  18. Bobby G.

    TLC has a show about Muslims!?

    November 16, 2011 at 6:09 am |
    • Gerry

      Yeah, it airs between Biggest Loser reruns and Modern Weapons – History's Biggest Wartime Routs.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  19. NooYawkah

    Nobody gives a rat's @ss about the diversity and multiculturalism of Islam anyway. But yeah, they should have included the terrorist faction, the largest of the diverse groups.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:57 am |
    • Danno

      Sadly, you do have a point. Cmon TLC, let's see how Muslim terror cells in the US live.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:13 am |
  20. Hutch462

    I find this whole discussion interesting as there seems to be more outrage with the portrayal of Muslims then there was in the days and weeks after September 11, 2001. Where was the outrage then? If my religion had just been hijacked by radicals I would have sounded off. Maybe it's easier to sit on the fence and see which side wins and then claim victory with the winning side. Moderate Muslims would do themselves a world of good by simple standing up and denouncing the radicals, and better yet ferret them out turn them in. Bottom line Muslim or not your either with us or against us.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • M551

      Well said Hutch

      November 16, 2011 at 6:11 am |
    • Study People

      "Moderate Muslims would do themselves a world of good by simple standing up and denouncing the radicals, and better yet ferret them out turn them in. Bottom line Muslim or not your either with us or against us." Great point. Tell ya what. Why don't the Christians take the lead and turn in all their Radicals???? You know the ones that hate Gays, Abortion Doctors, or basically anyone not following their book. By the way.......I'm Agnostic Someone that both the Radical Muslims and the Radical Christians hate.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:22 am |
    • DeltaFoxtrot999

      Rt on Hutch! I've been wondering for a while why the Muslims the majority thereof that are not radicals never stood up (being I believe the 2nd largest religion on the planet, correct me if I am wrong) about the horrors of suppossed "radicals" hijacking their religion & bringing the hell that was 9/11? Oh but now you want American rights huh? @ Study People, practice what you preach bub! I'm a Chrisitian & I don't hate agnostics such as your self laddy! Don't clump everyone together un less you actuall yKNOW everyone in that group which I know you do not! What I do hate is the weak selfish, greedy, sadistic human nature & tendency to fall to that that WE all have! Beyond that yes I do hate suppossed Muslims or any religious zealot that believes blowing themselves up & killing as many innocent men, women, & children up, whether Christian, Muslim etc. And FYI true Chrisitians more than likely aregoing to be praying about an issue rather than doing something radical & violent. Ones faith is not revealed by words but by actions. God knows those that vainly & pompously proclaim their loyalty to Him & those that are true disciples;even then true Christians are still human & subjest to the sinful nature & do fall; we are not perfect but forgiven & being perrfected. If your agnostic yay for you carry on. You're not even sure if there's anything so you sit on the fence waiting taking no action nor any side much as Hutch462 states "
      Maybe it's easier to sit on the fence and see which side wins and then claim victory with the winning side." If your not sure & you take no side in this war your are neither for us nor against us & deserve no say in the matter otherwise. Because in the war of belief & unbelief you have neither & thus are cast out into outer darkness.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:23 am |
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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.