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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. Jason

    Wow this article contains a whole lot of hate from someone who probably considers himself tolerant. Maybe TLC simply did not want to expose idiots like the author so they went with more likable people.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  2. Achoo

    Seems like his biggest beef was the black muslim NOT being profiled here along with the others. Guess you're damned if you do and if you dont...

    November 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  3. jacy houston

    Ok, got it, but at least is a start. TLC is just trying to get ratings, that's it... they don't care about getting things right. They are owned by the Koch brothers remember? Why don't other channels put up pieces of their own? Or better yet, Aman, just teach us yourself. Nobody is trying to educate the public on tv about Muslims in America. Please do so.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  4. hausinbodieaudersauder

    heck i don't care who or what you are just don't tell me i have too accept it,that's the big thing with anything,if you treat me right i will return the favor, even if you don't ill try my hardest,but if it do sent work, than that's that.OK?

    November 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      Huh?

      November 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  5. David

    Many, maybe even most, of your criticisms of the show are probably valid. But I did detect a decidedly catty tone in most of it as well. "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." Miaou!

    November 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      Do Muslims Tebow?

      November 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  6. mary

    “All-American Muslim” Is no different than Jersey Shore!

    November 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      In that it is a TV show?

      November 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  7. THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

    OF COURSE WE COULDN'T HAVE AN ARTICLE THAT DIDN'T DRAG RACE INTO THE SUBJECT. WHO CARES WHAT COLOR THE MUSLIMS ARE. WHO CARES IF THEY'RE EVEN MUSLIMS. AS LONG AS THEY AREN'T KILLING PEOPLE, WHO CARES.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      Turn off your CAPS lock dumb as s.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • THE BIBLE IS GARBAGE

      NO.

      November 15, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  8. Ray Hanania

    The show wasn't bad. But the real problem isn't that it only focused on Arab Muslims, but that it only focused on Muslims. As a Christian Arab, I am tired of being shut-out by the mainstream media. We take the abuse because we are Arab but are ignored because we are Christian ... there should be programs on Arab Christians who are the unreported victims of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hysteria in America, even when the anti-Muslim hysteria comes from Muslims who are mad when Arabs get the spotlight ...
    Ray Hanania
    http://www.hanania.com

    November 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      You are shut out Ray so such your trap.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Kat

      Do you think the media is actually playing up the "anit-Muslim" hysteria? I live in an area where we're considered "rednecks" and everyone I know could care less about a person's race or religion. We figure if they're good people – what does it matter? I have friends and family members throughout the U.S. and they feel the same way. Perhaps the media likes to focus on a small percentage of people who have views a bit more radical than the "average" American.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  9. cincykid

    How about Muslims in this country actually condemning the atrocities in the Arab world wherein the small communities of Jews and Christians are being persecuted and driven out. Yes folks, enclaves of Jews and Christians exist throughout the Muslim world across North Africa and into the Middle East and they are being targeted. Of course you don't hear a peep from Muslims in this country denouncing this....they only time you hear from Muslims in the US is when their plans for a mosque conflict with local zoning laws and they cry foul.

    Oh, and by the way – Arab Muslims think blacks, and black Muslims are inferior. Arab Muslims tried to exterminate black Christians in the Sudan. They even hired black mercenaries to kill other blacks.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      That is bad.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Paul

      Do you routinely condemn any misdeeds done by any members of your religious group anywhere in the world? Doubt it. Why do you ask Muslims to do something that no one else has to?

      What you are really doing is blaming Muslims here for actions of other people in another part of the world simply because they belong to the same general faith. In other words, you're practicing bigotry.

      Also, you don't get to say what Arab Muslims think about other groups. You have no standing, and no real knowledge. It's just more bigotry on your part.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      That is bad

      November 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  10. Occupy Belief Blog

    All American Muslim does NOT speak for this Muslim either. Well, ok I am not a Muslim, but if I were a Muslim there would be more se x and cooking that is for damn sure. Oh and drinking.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      And Bay muslim Queens in drag!

      November 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      *Gay* I am an idiot. Don't forget to take your towel.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  11. Marlon

    The thing about "average Americans" is that there's no such thing. America is a huge country. If you're trying to portray Muslims as "average Americans," the characters on the TLC show would be just as indicative as the characters you describe. They're all just people, and if you don't like them, you don't like them. I think the

    November 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  12. riiight

    Haven't you seen all the good the muslim organizations do around the world!?...Which religeon say its ok to kill infedels...which religeon will put a hit on you if you slam moham...you wanna see the biggest black muslim group...pick the prison on your choice.We don't want their BS shoved down our throat.You cannot perfume the pig!!sorry

    November 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Detroitee

      If only you knew how to spell the word religion, people might take your comments seriously.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Paul

      No, Detroitee, no one's ever going to take this ignorant bigot seriously.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • riiight

      religion..there.. sorry....take it serious..all true!

      November 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  13. WakeUp

    The commercials for this show have a Muslim woman talking about how another woman showed obvious discomfort at seeing the Muslim woman there. The Muslim woman's comments were how she needed to tavel to "educate" people like that woman. Here's the thing – why is the Muslim community unwilling to accept the 3,000 homicides of 9/11 (and all the others in numerous other "martyrdom" operations across the world). Rather than acknowledge the MASSIVE damage her "faith's" holy-warriors, the Mujahadeen have caused on her faith's behalf (whether she wanted it or not) – she chose to lash out at someone who may very well have lost friends or family in the attacks of 9/11, or in Beslan Russia, or in London or Mardrid or in all the places in the world where Islam has waged its unending war of "peace."

    November 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Paul

      Where do you get the idea that the Muslim community is "unwilling to accept the 3,000 homicides of 9/11"? They are Americans - they have the same general view as other Americans do.

      It is also not her faith that is doing the killing - it is terrorists, just as it was terrorists on both sides that did so much killing in Northern Ireland. You look at the wrong thing and simplify a complex situation because you a re a bigot and a lazy thinker.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  14. Benz

    "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"
    Now, I thought Islam was a religion, not a culture? Honestly, why combine culture in this? I understand that Islam is like a walking paradox that cant tell the difference between its own religion and culture....soooo, whats the point in writing this article if you cant tell the difference also? I'm just saying.......

    November 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  15. Ken

    Looks like the All American Muslim is a sleeper cell ready explode.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Sticky Socks

      Hopefully you are in the vicinity.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  16. Joyce Cavin

    At least some Muslim Americans are willing to have a go at giving the rest of us a glimpse into the lifestyle and culture. The world has been waiting for the Moderate Muslim community to stand up and take some form of denouncement on jihad, sharia law, fundamentalist interpretations of the religion. Good for these Americans! And the brilliant part of the entire situation is that these folks have the right to write their own rules because they ARE AMERICANS. How we feel about it one way or the other really doesn't pertain. Closed communities are the breeding ground for all that is evil and unspeakable.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Paul

      Actually moderate Muslims have been doing it all along. You just weren't paying attention.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  17. Dan

    Franz Boas used to shout at the top of his lungs in the early part of the 20th century that the concept of "race" was fallacious (i.e. is is a modern construct to justify ethnic divisions). We all saw the level where Hitler took it with his Aryan race. It's too bad that too many people nowadays still perpetuate this fallacy that stuck embodied in a single term "race." Also read Ashley Montagu's "Mans' Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race" to educate yourselves.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  18. Paula

    I liked the show and think it was informative. I believe it was a bit rude to say some of the things the reporter said. He should be more supportive, even if there were things he didn't like in the show. He was nit-picking bad and that is just wrong. My gosh, this was their first episode. I would like to learn more about these people. They seem nice to me.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • riiight

      "they seem nice to me" really really..you wanna learn more...go to a muslim country then!Are you like twelve years old? just wonderin!Educate yourself....not on this show..checkem out gooooood..just for fun..for you..study them...i already did! There is them ..and us..if they organize a movement..please don't oppose them...they will kill as quick as look at you.You think I'm blowin this out of proportion don't ya? really!..ok..you probably say "whatever" alot as well!

      November 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Paul

      I'm positive your "studying" consisted only of looking for more reasons to hate Muslims, riiight. You're not educated in anything but bigotry.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  19. Ann Marie

    Just because this clown hates it, makes me want to watch the show.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Kanoodle

      you are a pathetic loser

      November 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Joyce Cavin

      Uh hu! I agree!

      November 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  20. shelly

    This writer is irritated because the show portrays muslims with American values. This is this writer's real issue. Deal with it.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:01 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.