My Take: Defending TLC’s ‘All-American Muslim’ against Muslim complaints
Samira Amen, who's featured in "All-American Muslim."
November 28th, 2011
02:38 PM ET

My Take: Defending TLC’s ‘All-American Muslim’ against Muslim complaints

Editor's Note: Khurram Dara is the author of "The Crescent Directive: An essay on improving the image of Islam in America," coming this winter (Tensile). He tweets @KhurramDara.

By Khurram Dara, Special to CNN.com

For the last decade, Islam has been under a lot of scrutiny, and understandably so. When you’ve got terrorists all over the world declaring war on America and the West in the name of Islam, it’s only natural that people will have questions.

But this reasonable concern has rapidly turned into irrational suspicion, with anti-Muslim groups seizing on the opportunity to paint all Muslims in America as radical-loving, violence-approving foreigners.

The problem is that the response from American Muslims has been about as effective as Herman Cain’s PR strategy in the face of sexual harassment allegations. Instead of pooling our resources to combat radicalism, or taking a more active role in our communities so that other Americans better understand us, we’ve resorted to defense tactics.

We tell people that the Quran is being taken out of context. We focus on efforts to try to “educate” the American public. And we desperately cling to the idea that if people just had a better grasp of the facts on Islam, they wouldn’t buy into anti-Muslim propaganda.

Unsurprisingly, none of that has changed Americans' view of Islam.

So when I heard that TLC was doing a reality show about several American Muslim families, I was intrigued. The show wasn’t going to feature scholars refuting the (ridiculous) claims made about Islam. It was going to show regular Muslim families living in America. It was going to show, rather than simply tell, people about Muslims and Islam.

After three weeks of airing, “All-American Muslim” has done just that. Whether it was Mr. Aoude prepping his pregnant wife for that hectic hospital trip, or newlyweds Jeff and Shadia worrying about how their families will get along, it has shown viewers the single most important truth that will change the perceptions of Muslims: We are just like everyone else.

There has been widespread praise from TV critics, calling the show "intimate and heartfelt" and "as good as it gets" and praising TLC for how it has "upended the conventions of reality television."

The show’s premiere had 1.7 million viewers, making it the No. 2 program in its time slot among key demographics and scoring TLC's best Sunday prime time performance in more than a year.

Predictably, the show was also met with harsh and unfair criticism. Anti-Muslim groups wasted no time citing this as another example of Muslims trying to “take over” America.

This was expected. What wasn’t expected was the reaction from some other American Muslims.

“The families aren’t Muslim enough.”

“They aren’t good role models.”

"They don't represent all American Muslims."

Is the show a perfect cross-section of the American Muslim demographic? Are they the most religious families? Is it full of people you aspire to be one day?

No, of course not. It’s reality TV. It’s entertainment. We American Muslims ought to look at it in the grand scheme of things instead of just criticizing the show by saying it “doesn’t represent me.”

You’re right. It doesn’t represent you.

That’s because no TV show, no organization, no movement is ever going to represent you better than you can represent yourself.

“All-American Muslim” is not going to change the image of Muslims on its own. But it’s got the right idea. It’s premised on the fact that people judge a group not just on its beliefs, but also on their interactions with members of that group.

So if you don’t think “All-American Muslim” represents you, then go out into your community and show people what being Muslim is all about, from your perspective. Whether it’s a book club or a basketball league, we can all have our own “All-American Muslim” moments.

The most important take-away from a show like “All-American Muslim” is that we Muslims should focus our efforts on showing average Americans that we share far more in common with them than some would like them to believe.

And you don’t need a TV show to do that, you just have to have the courage to break out of your shell and share in those experiences with your American brethren.

Don’t treat TLC’s reality show as the only hope for changing our image, or as our one shot at showing America what Islam is all about. Don’t treat it as needing to be a flawless, immaculate portrayal of Muslims in America.

Treat it as a first step. Consider it a new approach. Look at it as the beginning of the long journey we have ahead, in changing the negative stereotypes about Muslims in America.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khurram Dara.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Opinion • TV

soundoff (2,050 Responses)
  1. Marine5484

    “The families aren’t Muslim enough.”.....classic. This is why I don't become a part of an organized religious group...no matter which ones they all have the holier then thou mentality.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  2. 1954Nana

    Cool – so we can be expecting:

    All Amercan Catholic
    All American Jew
    All American Lutheran
    All American Mehodist
    All American Lutheran
    All American Buddhist
    All American Mormon
    All American Baptisit
    All American ...........................

    This is ridiculous programming

    November 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  3. Z. M.

    Just looking at the comments here completely reinforces Dara's work with the Crescent Directive. Clearly you cannot argue with the people here or have meaningful discourse

    November 28, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Kali Politeis

      Islam's image is beyond repair, and it is not we non-Muslims who have a damaged it. Islam has always been a violent, supremacist cult of women-haters. Get over it and grow up already. No amount of makeup on that pig is going to make it beautiful.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  4. Mike Smith

    The real Islam ...


    November 28, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Kat

      the real islam: http://www.gainpeace.com/

      November 28, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Kali Politeis

      Mark is correct, and Kat is wrong. Kat is trying to fool everyone with that site full of falsehoods. Fortunately, many of us are becoming too educated to fall for such baloney.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Kali Politeis

      I meant "Mike is correct."

      November 29, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Francis Balliardo

      Kat is an al queso sympathizer.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:31 am |

    @Garthe I think Allah was talking about you in those verses , you post them everywhere , you are Boring !

    November 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  6. AGuest9

    Osama's boys have a new PR department. They are the "kinder, gentler" Taliban.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Ironicus

      ha ha good one

      November 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  7. Abe

    Everyone we should all pray for Kat. May God fill his/her mind with peace and forgiving. God Bless you all!!

    November 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  8. Eye_Opener

    The author discredits himself early in the article, by claiming "anti-Muslim groups seizing on the opportunity to paint all Muslims in America as radical-loving, violence-approving foreigners".

    Nothing could be further from the truth. There is clearly a strong concern with not only the teachings in islamic scripture, but also the written record regarding the founder of islam. That is the issue, not muslims themselves. There is a difference. Learn about it.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • Samaha

      Perhaps the author spends too much time reading comments sections of articles like his own, jihadwatch, michelle malkin, etc.

      Maybe he should invest in a pair of rose colored glasses.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm |

    @Judy Judy you must be really uneducated and have NO idea about the middle east , about 20% ( not sure) from the Palestinians are Christians and churches everywhere and respected , Lebanon half of the population are Christians and churches everywhere , Syria Egypt Jordan all over the Arab world , what are you talking about ? you just have NO idea at All.
    my god how can a person be so uneducated , before you write something make sure it is correct , in this case you failed terribly –

    November 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  10. jj

    There are more Buddists in America than there are Muslims. Somehow the Buddists get into a lot less trouble in the world than the Muslims.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Kali Politeis

      Muslims complain, complain, complain. They whine, weep and wail, blame others, throw tantrums, and the world revolves around them. They are in a perpetual state of infantilism.

      It seems millions of people are sick to death of Islam and its incessant demands. Why are Muslims in everyone's face all the time? Where are all the Buddhists and Hindus constantly fussing, fretting and forcing everyone to look at them? Why did TLC even need to coddle Muslims by making this program? Where is the "All-American Buddhist" or "All-American Hindu" show? There's no need for such a show, because Buddhists and Hindus aren't acting like violent imbeciles in constant need of positive PR.

      Many Muslims are frankly repulsive exhibitionists and arrogant sociopaths. And THAT'S why we are all objecting.

      Time to look at YOURSELVES for a change, instead of the constant whining and blaming of others. We non-Muslims are NOT the problem. Islam is – Islam programs you to behave badly. That's all there is to it.

      Time to grow up and face that you've been conned.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  11. labandme

    Muslim propanganda. Just ask Europe how they like this intolerant cult. Let them stay in the stoneage they were born to.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
  12. Courtney

    Muslims are EVIL. They kill Hindus in India, Christians, Jews, Animists in Nigeria, Buddhists in S.E. Asia. and anyone else who gets in their way.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Kat

      you watch too much the 700 club. Switch the channel

      November 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Wilson Baird

      Kat are blind or blunt: Is not the 700 club, but the cnn are covering the pastor on death row in Iran JUST BECAUSE HE IS NOT MUSLIM ANYMORE! And those pacific American Muslims are lip sealed about it.... SHAME ON THEM!!!!! And you know hwy? Just because the American Muslims agree with those barbarism, they don't say nothing because they teach they can lie to advance the Muslim cause! New Greengrich was right about them!

      November 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Kat

      Wilson, haha yea Newt G. the guy who cheated on and divorced his wife while she was dying from cancer is someone to take seriously in the department of morality. The fact that people admire and believe him say much about you.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  13. ADAM

    When people say, " muslims should go back to where they came from" its funny because many muslims came on slave ships, and were sold here in america now, people say go back to where u came from. There are many good and bad muslims just like there are jews and christians. There are 8 million muslims in American, from the days of my grandfather 1965 we have paid in the millions in taxes were staying right here, at our home in our country AMERICA...


    November 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Courtney

      Not true. Slaves came from West Africa. – But I guess that would require you to read a history book to know that.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • Brandon

      Courtney nailed it. Is this the crap they feed you guys at the Mosque? You were not the oppressed people, you were the oppressors.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • America is for Americans

      Then why is it the so called "good muslims" in this country don't find and turn in the bad muslims??????

      November 28, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Dr. John

      Courtney & Brandon, West African nations had huge Muslim populations and happened to be one of the major centers of education, trade, etc.
      The sad truth is that people still refuse to educate themselves about Islam, or any other religion from the actual scholars of that particular religion and, base their so call knowledge from organisation twisting the truth and promoting hatred. Its like learning about Judaism from neo-Nazis and never asking a Rabii about the religion.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • Andrew

      You do realize during the period of the slave trade West Africa was largely Muslim right? The Moors had taken over much of Northern Africa long before then, including much of the land in the North/West that slaves were taken from.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Brandon

      Everything I need to know about Islam I learned in Iraq.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:18 am |
  14. jon

    Trying to make Muslims out to be mainstream "all Americans" is a complete joke. The last thing Muslims attempt to do is fit in.

    November 28, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Kat

      your little brainwashed mind is the complete joke.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  15. Giavur

    Ask the Assyrians, the Armenians, the Greeks. They will tell you what is Islam. They have seen the sword of Islam first hand from the Turks. Take a look at Asia Minor and the Middle East. See how many Christians and Churches have been left there. Islam is a deadly cancer that spreads. Wake up America!!!

    November 28, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Kat

      The Greek minority in Turkey is better off than the greek majority in bankrupt Greece. Muslims never threw millions of people from a minority into ovens. Christians have. I asked Jews, Muslim minorities in Bosnia, Albania, Russia, Spain, and others about their treatement on the hands of fanatic christians.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Courtney

      @Kat – Read your history books. During WWI your beloved Muslim Turks practiced genocide against the Armenians. Stop your feel good history and live in the real world.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • youaredumb

      Hahaha, your going to compare genocides. The all time world champions of genocides are christians. Regardless, Islam bashing has been going on since the religion was founded and the religion is still growing.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Judy

      I agree with you 100%. Do you see a Christian Church in the middle east? No!! They will not allow it. But our liberals allow them to build their mosques in our cities. Look what has happened in France and England too. They are taking over! Like you said...WAKE UP AMERICA – BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!!!

      November 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • THE POPE

      Well , if you are already talking about Islam , tell me this , how many Muslims were slaughtered by the Crusaders ? have you heard of Richard The Lion Heart ? he slaughtered everyone when he took Jerusalem , men women and children .
      have you heard of Salah Aldeen ( or Saladin as known by us ) when he took Jerusalem from Richard the Lion Heart , his first order was NOT to touch any christian or a Jew , and his order was kept and saved all of them .
      So if you want to mention History , say all and not only what one side did .
      Thank You

      November 28, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Kat

      Judy, hahaha, the churches in the Middle East are older than the ones in the vatican and they are still well and functionining, except the ones in Palestine due to Israel's brutal occupation. There were 30,000 Christians in Jerusalem before Israel invaded it now there are only 2000 following Israel's policies of impovershing the Palestinians and bulldozing their homes and stealing their lands.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Pope, let me answer.

      1) not many,

      2) the occupation of Jerusalem was negotiated, Richard was so ticked off and never entered the city

      3) Saladin was a Turk. He first took over the Egytian Calaphate by treason...and then massacred the Christians in his effort to take over all of Islam. It was Richard the Lionhearted that defeated Saladin and his army at Arsuf.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  16. WDinDallas

    Two words. Sharia Law. That stigma is hard to refute or ignore. Good luck with it.

    November 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Kat

      what do you know about Sharia law? and who in America is calling for Sharia law, other than hate mongers who allege that muslims are secretly working to impose Sharia through their undercover Muslims president and their delusional control of the congress, media, banks, the fed, the military, and universities? hahaha it's so funny if it were not for the many ignorant folks who actually believe these lies because it makes them feel better about their egos and their filthy bibles.

      November 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Kat, you seem to be an angry Muslim woman. Your are not a good apologist. You are full of hate and anger. May God bless you with control and compassion. Something your brothers in the Middle East seem to need also.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • Kat

      WD, and you're full of ignorance and hate. May Allah bless your soul with His light and guidance. Something your brothers in the West need also.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      I am truly blessed ;o)

      November 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Jon

      Kat, as much as I love a person with spunk don't bring Allah into the argument. Islam is already doing their best these days to make look like the worst God in all mankind.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Ironicus

      Kat, we already have a great many highly illegal and unconstltutional religious legal systems operating within the United States.
      In tightly-knit religious communities, many of them use their religion to violate federal and state law as a matter of course.
      Not just Sharia Law is being committed, but Christian-based religious tribunals are dealing with "internal" matters and making "rulings" that violate state and federal law.
      For example, the Catholic Church routinely covers up child molestation and calls it "an internal matter" and uses that as a pretext to conceal their crimes from the eyes of state and federal law enforcement.
      In some Muslim communities, or simply within a single household, Sharia law is dealt out by using felony assault in some cases. They are not reported to the police. It is an "internal" matter "internal" to the religious community involved.
      The Constltution is the Supreme Law of these United States of America.
      NO other law or legal system is allowed to trump the Constltution.
      But it has been happening since before the Revolutionary War. There were even small religious wars fought between different religious communities in the Colonies before and after the Constltution was written.
      Felony assaults being committed by religious people for religious reasons, yet the First Amendment does not properly address the limitations of government and religious followers and so we still get these illegal religious systems that violate the law.
      Those victims have no recourse to seek help because of the oppressive nature of some religious sects. This is a problem for all religions being "expressed" here in the USA. When the law is violated and the crime hidden due to religious expression, that expression is not legal.
      Ironic, isn't it? We have the Constltution that is the Supreme Law, yet all these religious followers are all too willing to burn it into ash if they thought their god wanted it that way.
      People turn a blind eye to some of the most egregious crimes when religion is involved. They do it every day.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • arj

      @Kat Dont pretend. A honest effort to fill the gaps and admit mistakes would be better than bluffing. You know that if muslims are majority, first election issue would be shariat law. for proof look for countries where muslims are in minority.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • arj

      read it as majority. sorry for typo.

      November 29, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  17. Giavur

    Round them up and send them to where they came from. Do not let the cancer spread in America.

    November 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Kat

      the cancer has spread in your little brain

      November 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Khurram

      I was born in Houston, Texas. I grew up here. America is my country. Always has been and always will be.

      So if you want, I can go back to Texas...

      November 28, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Pipy

      Do you know how many times ignoramuses like you have said this over the course of American history? Many times, and every time it sounds worse.

      November 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • youaredumb

      same to all Americans living in foreign countries. when they all come back to the US than you can make those statements, until that day keep you ignorant mouth shut.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Truth.com

      Ameirca isn't your Dads backyard, sorry... you get lost. This is land of the free. please get some lessons on the different cultures and races that live here. Infact all are immigrants from one time or the other .. ask your grandpa.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  18. Bob

    Now, fred, you still haven't escaped the question, after all your dodging. Here we go again. We're on to you:

    fred, buck up and answer: do you condemn the eternal torture that your god metes out for even minor transgressions during a short mortal life?

    Answer up. It's smack down time on your sicko Christian beliefs.

    November 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm |

    If America turns Islamic it will look more like pakistan that todays USA. Culture makes a country not the land.

    November 28, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Kat

      right, you must come form the Pat Robertson and the 700 club hate sub-culture in America.

      November 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Truth.com

      WHY ? WHY ? WHY ? the heck..... muslims are just 3 to 5% of the pop.... You should be more worried about the 2% of Jews that are bossing you all.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • Wilson Baird

      Zacaria Botros. He is the man!

      November 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  20. Caesar19

    Excuse me, that was (5:50); nonetheless, having the two verses in somewhat of a context makes it evident that the Quran is referring to hypocrisy...

    November 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Xairesephos

      Truth.com – How ironic for a name since you're a lying, Jew-hating bigot who is using an unrelated topic to promulgate the tired canard that a cabal of Jews runs the United States of America. You really suck. As for this show, I've got no problem with Muslims living in America, with any minority emigre culture, so long as they allow their culture to become part of our broader national mosaic while respecting the pre-existing society which they have chosen to join. Assimilation, people, it's the American way.

      November 28, 2011 at 11:27 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.