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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. I'm Right....Get Used to It.

    Um..........well......................................YAWN. (Stretch slowly)..........................YAWN. Whatever.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  2. Jt_flyer

    All American muslim not working for you? That's because this country is, and has always been, the melting pot. We could change the entire fabric of our being or perhaps you're looking for another country?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  3. Lindalou

    Yeah, I guess I should have complained when the "Housewives" show came on. I don't know of anyone in my circle that even comes close to the show's subject. Wouldn't make much of a show to watch us carpool, clean house, make dinner, or fold laundry. They're there to entertain you. As someone who gets on a stage to entertain people, I would have thought you got that.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  4. Micky Pinto

    How can a show speak for everyone? My guess is he simply did not find the show entertaining- fair enough; but to expect a show to speak for millions of Muslim Americans is impossible. As far a not having South Asians and African-Americans it is the Arab Muslims most Americans are curious about. In addition even go to Saudi Arabia- those two groups are treated terribly like second class citizens. So how can they be 'representative' of world Muslims?

    November 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  5. Granger

    Another whitewash attempt by the liberal media to convince the country to accept something that's "anti-American."

    November 16, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • SlowGun

      anti American?
      what are you talking about?

      November 16, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Brett Scott

      ding ding ding!! Exactly....

      November 16, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • Luke

      He's talking about anyone who isn't a white, church-going, bigot is "anti-American." Don't worry. His kind is a dying breed. Even my adolescent kids - whose best friends include an Indian (dot, not feather), a bunch of AfAms and even a couple serious rednecks - roll their eyes at comments like that.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • Pradip (dot, not feather)

      " Indian (dot, not feather), a bunch of AfAms and even a couple serious rednecks"

      Equal opportunity insults. And you have kids? Good luck (to them, cause they have an ass hole for a father).

      November 16, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  6. shoos

    You forget author that TLC is just trying to have another reality show that will sell some advertising. You don't think people see this? Like we believe everyone from New Jersey is spray tanned, loud mouthed and drunk all the time. I bet there are people from New Jersey that DON'T appreciate some of the the reality shows they see as well. What a whiner.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  7. Mike

    Where is the Christian show? We don't need to learn about a religion that promotes terrorism.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Jeff

      You're an idiot.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • SlowGun

      Clearly you learned about Islam from Fox news...you are a moron!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Joe

      I think they should cancel the show. Why should I trust Muslims when I'm constantly hearing how are killing people. Sorry you can try to make it ok with the shows and whatever you want, but the truth is America does not like Muslims and never will. They kill thousands of people and then want to build a victory mosque beside it. And it’s not the people that is not liked it’s the religion.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:09 am |
    • SlowGun

      Does anyone else beside Joe and Mike want to show how ignorant they are?

      November 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Sakinah

      You are such a uninformed person,you know nothing about Islam please become eduacted before making such a harsh commit.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  8. SSampson

    Fact is – reality shows re never about reality.....Housewives of Beverly Hills?? A show about families with 20 kids??/ (lots of those) – A bunch of kids living in a loft on MTV??? – How about that show about $100K birthday parties for 16 year olds...??? Jersey Shore??? – huh???

    OK – I definately get the fact that MOST Americans have no clue about what happens outside this country; NO clue about other cultures. I get it that too many people think all Muslims are Arabs (and all Arabs are Mulsims).... We sticj our head in the sand and then wonder why people get mad at us – HECK, we don't even know what are government is doing half the time in these far away places..... (many STILL don't beleive we supplied Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan with the same weapons they are now shooting at us with....)
    I spent many years overseas – I have seen fellow Americans ask if local shops take 'real money' whilst flashing US currency... I've heard complaints about the food not being as good as Denny's – I've been asked if there was an IHOP in the area.... and even how long it took to drive to this place from Miami (ummm.... there was an Ocean in the way)

    But – c'mon – NO reality show is actually reality – Even Survivor is a staged event – no true risk involved....

    So – if you want to complain about reality shows not showing true reality.... get in line.... your real concern should be that people – ANY person – actually believes these shows depict reality –
    those that believe in them aren't going to accept any real impression of Islam no matter what you put on – Their opinions are generated by Rush, Beck, Coultard and their ilk.....bigots that lead the ignorant....

    November 16, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • Richp

      Was right with you till your lefty socialist communist side reared it's ugly head in the last sentence, shame to blow it like that.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Remember...

      Excellent observations until the last sentence when you started the blame game (which both left and right anti-progressive anchors keep throwing out in order to not fix what's wrong with this country).

      November 16, 2011 at 9:19 am |
  9. Kim

    I was with him up until the last paragraph. It looks like he just googled some other shows on TLC and decided they were worth baching as well.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Kim

      *bashing

      November 16, 2011 at 7:54 am |
  10. Buddhist

    MUSLIIMS WHINE TOO MUCH!

    November 16, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • Lafunda

      The author seems to be upset that there aren't enough burqas or suicide bombers. Go figure.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • L

      everyone whines too much. what's your point?

      November 16, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • SlowGun

      Catholics molest kids too much.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  11. David

    Islam is wrong and one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • SlowGun

      I tend to think that one-day people will realize that all religion is BS. Created years ago by man to answer questions science has not yet determined answers for...since then religion has been used as justification for wars and as a means for it leaders to gain power and wealth.

      Why does the Catholic Pope need to live in the richest country in the world? Where buildings have walls made of solid gold with priceless artwork hanging on them? – Jesus lived and died a pauper

      November 16, 2011 at 8:29 am |
  12. Kal

    Where did this phrase come from, "Or girls that blabber about another girl they see talking to a guy for more than 11 seconds?" Is the author still stinging from some adolescent rejection? Too bad the author isn't a better writer. He has some good throughts, but his rambling and unfocused writing buries them.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  13. Bill the Cat

    It's a REALITY show. of course it does not represent "real" Muslims. Name one reality show that represents actual humans, and I'll be shocked.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  14. John

    Is anyone really surprised? Nothing on TV accurately represents the people portrayed. Think about any of the current sitcoms on television and try to find one that accurately portrays any group of people at all. Almost no one lives like people on TV.
    The people behind these shows aren't trying to misrepresent real life. They are just idiots who don't bother trying to find real information to back up their source material.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  15. Fin

    Another piece of crap reality TV show.... nothing more.... yawn.. and yawn again..

    November 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  16. Reality

    The real Islam is on the TV news everyday:

    Some examples:

    1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

    1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

    2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

    3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

    4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

    5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

    6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

    7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

    8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

    9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

    10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

    11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

    12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

    13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

    14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

    15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

    16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

    17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

    18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

    19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

    20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

    21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

    22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

    23) "October 4, 2011, 100 die as a truck loaded with drums of fuel exploded Tuesday at the gate of compound housing several government ministries on a busy Mogadishu street. It was the deadliest single bombing carried out by the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia since their insurgency began. "

    November 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • SlowGun

      Wow...so that is the real Islam? Actions taken by extremist?
      So does that mean the Ku Klux Klan represents real Christianity?

      Here is a link to one of their web sites.

      http://www.kkk.com/

      They claim to be a Christian organization promoting Christianity.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Reality

      What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon? And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror? The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means. Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed. Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein. Until then, no male Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

      From the koran:

      o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)

      "Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)

      "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)

      "...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)

      "Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:27-)

      "It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)

      "If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)

      "Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)

      "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)

      "Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)

      "'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)

      "Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)
      "Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)

      "Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)

      "Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)

      November 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  17. UnfrickingBelievable

    I can't believe all of the uneducated comments here. First, this is an opinion piece, not a news story. Can't you morons tell the difference. Whether you agree or not, it doesn't matter: its his opinion. And last I heard it was still legal to do that in this country. Doesn't mean that you can't post attacking his opinion but at least learn the difference between news and opinion (after all this is CNN, not Fox where opinion is the news).
    Second, to the author, TLC caters to the lowest common denominator when it comes to programming. This is what TV has come to. Anyone expecting deep insightful commentary or investigative reporting on TLC needs to be committed ASAP. They are going to do whatever they can to pull in ratings for the dollars.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • Person

      Finally someone with half a brain posts on here. Sometimes I wonder if half the population who reads on CNN are even literate ...

      November 16, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • boarddog

      You nailed it on both subjects!

      November 16, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  18. Diane from Ohio

    Stop bashing this piece.... as an American Muslim (convert) I understand and agree with much of what this writer said! Bottom line is there must be a comprehensive level of research done by the producers to adequately reflect ALL of us Muslims here. Not just entertainment for the ratings. And I fully agree with "Most Muslim women in this country don’t fit neatly into the ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal categories. They’re in the gray area." Peace to all : )

    November 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • religionofviolence

      You lost me @ "as an American Muslim (convert)...." Screw Allah and his terrorists.

      November 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • John D

      Show me an American woman who converted to Islam and I'll show you and unattractive, lonely female with a poor self-image.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  19. DLC

    Now you know how I feel everytime there is a "Mormon" show on TV....

    November 16, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  20. Kevin

    This article is ridiculous. The show knows all the statistics behind what percentage of the population is muslim and what race and where they are from. But what do most Americans think when they think Muslim? Terrorists from the middle east. It sucks to say that but it is true. This show is just showing people that Middle Eastern Muslims are not like that and they are just like the "typical American". I agree with a few other posts. Get the hell over the race card.

    November 16, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Pradip

      Once again someone thinks that Muslim is a race. And no, Kevin, this show isn't representative of middle eastern Muslims, or any others, for that matter. It only shows a singular Muslim family (who are a bit whacky it would appear.) Hardly a valid sample size for an example.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:35 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.