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. David

    Muslims are one of the few religious groups that are completely incompatible with America. America is all about freedom (well, it used to be). I see nothing in Muslim culture that shows me this is the case. It simply won't work. Muslims are not going to alter their beliefs to fit in with our society and know damn well that America isn't going to start forcing woman to cover themselves to make Muslims feel better. It's dangerous mixing these two cultures and it needs to stop before more people get hurt and/or killed. It doesn't even make any sense that they are here. You don't see Americans trying to live in North Korea. Our two peoples belief system is incompatible (plus if illegals enter our country we just ship them back (sometimes) where in Korea I believe they shoot on sight). Please just leave Muslims. You're not wanted here. You don't enjoy being here (too much free will going on). We'll both be much happier. Seriously, why do you want to live here? It boggles my mind!

    November 15, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • buxxy

      Right on. Agreed...finally somebody said something this girl from generations of Americans can relate to. How about thanking my relatives for fighting in the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Korea. They get no thanks for the country several of them died to create. All I hear from people of all religions coming here to the U.S. is 'wahhhhh, we're discriminated against'. Hey, there's the door...leave.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Your right

      Your right, well said... Canadians echo this!!!

      November 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • average american muslim

      I am a muslim living in America. I follow the rules of my religion however, i am just like any american girl. I go to the mall hang out with friends and go to parties and dream about starting my own business. the only difference is i dont walk around in short skirts and tight shirts. as an american i am free to dress however i want. i have the freedom to be a muslim. the fact that we are free to worship our religion and dress coservatively and take the freedom to do so makes us americans. I am an American because I am free to be who i am and who i want to be.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Shane

      Yes. Spot on.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Shane

      To "Average American Muslim" girl above-–You don't even see that the edicts you're following were all written by men who needed to keep women in their place and wanted them "covered up" so that they wouldn't be tempted by nasty thoughts. Of course, that never really works out, does it?! Your men attack and kill women at an astronomical rate. Your religion is violent, racist, and misogynistic, and I hope one day you will truly see that. You are here because our laws and our men treat you as en equal. If you don't appreciate that, you are truly lost.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Sakinah Latif

      Are you serious Muslims should conform and comprise there beliefs to be what america dictates we are very productive and educated members of this society get over it Muslim is the fastet growing religion in the world so get use to it.

      November 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  2. Aaron

    The writer looks like one of those phony muslims.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Vicktor

      looks like one of those 'phony muslims'....

      You Sir, and an idiot.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Shane

      You're both idiots.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  3. Little People


    November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • RushL


      November 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Passive Agressive

      Speak for yourself, I am a Midget Towelhead.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Zack

      It's midgets and always will be midget. What are you going to do? Head but my dick LOL

      November 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • msevans06

      Exactly what I was thinking. The author needs a taste of others outside his own community, apparently.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  4. CA

    The comment that "Many of the black slaves that built the foundation of this country with blood, sweat and tears were Muslim" needs to be put into perspective. Less than 1% of the Africans who suffered as slaves during colonial America were Muslim.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • RushL

      I suppose "many" of the slaves were snake handelers too...

      November 15, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • John

      Don't forget the millions of White Europeans that were enslaved by the Arab culture for many centuries

      November 15, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Lewis Skolnick

      Don't forget all the white Americans that are presently enslaved by a black president. His name rhymes with Osama.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Skolnick Grow up, whiner. Calling yourself a slave. What a dork.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  5. Bobby

    "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."

    Black people aren't real Muslims. They only convert to "stick it to The Man".

    November 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  6. Way

    Who cares, would not watch a show about muslims. They are what they are. Move on.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  7. Bob

    Why do the stupid characters surprise you? That seems to be all that cable TV has to offer anymore, head cases and drama. I give you hoarders, housewives, crazed country folk, wedding gown bit..es and self storage auctions. TV just plain sucks anymore.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • silverback

      @ Aman Ali,
      Show me a reality show that portrays any group correctly. They're all stupid and ment as entertainment, not truth, just like comedy.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  8. Aziz

    TV shows are about entertainment not about getting things right, why everyone keeps forgetting that. Plus every single Muslim organization is owned by "the South Asians" the African-American Muslims would rather seek representation within those organizations than in some TV shows.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • kat

      Pretty much.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  9. mrs D. A. Boone

    Get over yourself . . . find something better to write about.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  10. Morgan

    First of all, the population of Dearborn is over 30 percent muslim. The reason the show take place in the city instead of say, NYC, is because the concentration of Muslim-Americans in one area is higher than any other city in the US. I'm not sure if you've ever been to Dearborn, but this town needed to be seen by the entire county, even if the show does suck. Dearborn is a great example of how diverse just one city can be.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      How does that make it diverse? It seems just the opposite to me.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  11. Paul Cooper

    So the author's main complaint is that they didn't do the show with the people he would have chosen, in the style he would have chosen, and with the intent he would have preferred? Fine with me, but why is this considered worthy of publication on CNN? Isn't this supposed to be a news channel? That not all muslims follow a single given version of their faith and culture is hardly news.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  12. DualAzul

    DEAR CNN: It's a shame indeed that there are absolutely no requirements for writing opinion pieces on your website. Way back in the day, you used to have to have some ability as a writer to write. Now it's like, "Hey, I'm Muslim and I saw a show that sucked. Shouldn't the nation be subjected to my weak, rambling opinion?" This is why we should leave writing to writers; so we don't feel like we're stuck in line at the DMV overhearing some guy who thinks he can do better ripping into a show he was never going to like to begin with. There are plenty of great Muslim writers. What made you choose this guy?

    November 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Okal

      You're doing the very thing you're complaining about.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Mahmod

      He's a comedian being comical about a very good argument. That shia arabs are minority of muslims and that a show about Muslims in America should be more representative. If you can't grasp the logic of that you're an idiot. Don't blame CNN for your failures.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  13. War Strategist

    Islam and muslims are NOT a race. All religions are based on faith. Faith means.....the belief in something that "cannot" be proven. Though many religions have some culture and sub-culture interwoven into them. I reiterate that no religion is a race.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  14. Johnny

    I live in Detroit! Here is the issue... and it isnt just in Detroit, it is in France, and anywhere else Good, Bad, or Indifferent Muslims settle... They inflict their life style, beliefs, religion onto everyone else around them. In Dearborn they have their call to prayer horns ... I think they do that in the Middle East too... This isnt the middle east... This is America. The Catholics dont force the rosary down everyone's throats, the Christians don't stand on the corners ramming bibles down people's throats... they quietly live the way they want to live without trying to change our culture. In France the Muslim community has grown so large that they now enter politics, vote in their Muslim representatives and further try to inflict their beliefs onto everyone else. The French people are afraid now. It was a slow infiltration based on preaching liberal tolerance when in reality the Muslims are everything but liberal or tolerant for that matter. Wake Up America...it will happen here if we let it. I have nothing against what you do in your bedroom, your house....but keep your culture where it belongs and dont attempt to change ours. There is one thing for certain.. Americans will only take so much before we say enough is enough... Call me a Hate Monger or anything else you want... truth is... I just dearly love the country where I was BORN! I accept people who appreciate our way of life and wish to assimilate when they come here. Is that wrong? I think NOT!

    November 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      "Christians don't stand on the corners ramming bibles down people's throats"

      They don't?? What country do you live in again?

      November 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Terb0

      You are incredibly ignorant

      November 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • harbor14

      you must be kidding.......I get approached all the time where I work Downtown with people shoving the Bible down my throat........but I teach Muslims and never once have they EVER tried to impose any of their views on me or anyone else they come into contact with.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • harbor14

      and I also was BORN here

      November 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • LKJ

      Actually, in most areas of the U.S., every place I've lived, Muslims don't make the call to prayer in public but keep it inside the mosque. This is in contrast to Thailand, a Buddhist country, where Muslims publicly can make the call to prayer without any problem. My kids traveled to Thailand this summer and were impressed by the lack of drama they faced as Muslims there. Not so in the U.S. Meanwhile, Christianity does rule–church bells, Christian holidays, politicians who love to show what pious Christians they are.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • murbani

      what I say every day and everyone, even my own family, all of whom I consider intelligent, seem to think I am being xenophobic and extremist. more people better start getting it before it's too late. Thanks for saying it.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Nathan_Brazil

      @Occupy belief blog: I live in America, and no, I have never had a Christian force anything on me in my life.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • grow up

      The guy sees neighborhoods he probably grew up in turning into something he no longer recognizes and it breaks his heart. That's not racist but a natural reaction to change. If Americans raided Pakistan and we made up 30% of any given community do you think they would learn to assimilate? Ha ha not hardly. They'd bomb us out of the country. We are not the bad guys regardless of our opinions..

      November 15, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Too bad! Christians are hot. Maybe it is because you have bad breath.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  15. John C.

    Religion = Lies to control you

    November 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  16. Occupy Belief Blog

    I have used undiscovered evidence to prove the author was just turned down on a book deal.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • SomeoneSimple

      Nice one! 🙂

      November 15, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  17. Big Jim

    durka durka durka. Mohammed jihad jihad. Next season TLC has a new show about Catholic Priests who surf and drink whiskey and go to strip clubs, and do anything BUT fantasize about little boys. It's called All American Pedophile.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  18. Progressive Sledge Hammer

    Social Propaganda and nothing less. Gee I can't wait for that state to change their name to Michiganistan. It's only a matter of time, Dearborn's conquered, now its time to plant the flag in Detroit to re settle IT since the left\'s unions and ghetto's decimated it.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  19. dbsmith

    Nation of Islam is pretty much a racist cult. Comparing their followers to true Muslims is kind of ridiculous, if not insulting. Let's be honest.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Martin

      True Dat!!

      November 15, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      All religions are cults dumb a ss.

      November 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • kat

      None of the black people he mentioned are part of the Nation of Islam, except Malcom X who renounced his membership after his hajj to Mecca. In fact, there is no mention of the Nation of Islam in this article. So why are you bringing it up?

      November 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • dbsmith

      Occupy Blog: Go occupy a seat at a library and open up a dictionary. There is a difference.

      Kat: Check the list of names again. Did you even read the article? Muhammad Ali?

      November 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Occupy Belief Blog

      Actually I have when of them there "internets" with on-line dictionaries so a trip to the library will not be necessary. Gosh, I even have an ACTUAL dictionary right here in my home. Religions are cults.

      November 16, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  20. Tony

    Wow, don't be angry cause no one has ever heard of your show and All American Muslim is getting great reviews from credible places....So even when people try to put something on the air that is positive and respectful it gets bashed. And by the way, you pass some pretty rude judgements on people you don't even know which is funny since this is in the "belief" section of CNN. So I guess your belief is to verbally bash people you don't know and spread hatred. Good job pal. Good job.

    November 15, 2011 at 7:40 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.