TLC’s All-American Muslim Opens the Door for Dialogue with Non-Muslims
Silver Spring, MD: TLC’s original series ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM continued to pull in viewers for the network on Sunday night at 10PM/ET, gaining a total of 2.8 million viewers since its first airing. The show has arguably begun the single most robust and intense conversation about what it means to be a Muslim in America, and major Muslim cultural players from across the board have started to join in the online discussion on the importance and timeliness of the show.
In a widely spread post on Facebook , Sami Elmansoury, an executive board member of MPAC-NYC, argues that the thought-provoking debates taking place in the Muslim community as a result of ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM are a valuable “…growing pain [that] is part of having an open and truthful community conversation – and in that regard, ‘All-American Muslim’ is a strong step in the right direction, for all American Muslims – and for all Americans.”
However, some still questioned the network’s casting choice of including more liberal Muslims amongst the more conservative ones. In his article for The Guardian , essayist and playwright Wajahat Ali writes, “The portrayal of Muslims living their daily lives is not only a welcome relief from the usual tawdry caricatures of Muslims as terrorists, extremists and taxi cab drivers, but it also helps defuse the deep-seated fears and bias that unfairly lumps 1.5 billion members of a faith in with the perverse criminal actions of a few… The best way to view ‘All-American Muslim’ is simply a show about five families doing their best to be themselves.”
ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM ’s second episode covered a wide array of issues, such as using faith to cope with infertility, fasting on a football team, making lifestyle changes as a new Muslim convert, and dealing firsthand with anti-Muslim hatred and fear – allowing viewers a more intimate look at how faith shapes life for American Muslims on a daily basis.
Among other stepping-stones for the Muslim community, the show is also providing American Muslim women a much-needed platform to finally speak for themselves. On the topic of hijab, cast member Samira says in her blog on TLC , “Many may not agree with my decision; saying they feel it’s a form of oppression while others simply speak because they do not understand my faith or reasoning to wear hijab [headscarf]. Wearing the hijab does not make me less of a woman; in fact, it empowers me, giving me strength and comfort…I embrace my faith, my country and my hijab with great honor and pride.”
Next week’s episode of ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM on Sunday at 10pm ET/PT will explore the intimate fears and hopes of the characters as they each embark on their new beginnings: Samira wears a headscarf to work for the first time, Nawal prepares to give birth, Nina decides on a location for her club, and Fouad misses football practice for the first time in 17 years in order to meet the President of the United States. This particular episode is sure to provoke new lively debates and healthy discussions as it explores the themes of gender roles and child-rearing in Arab culture, the double standard that seems to exist for converts to practice Islam perfectly, the controversy surrounding music and dancing in Islam, and the sensitive question of American Muslim patriotism.
Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR-Michigan, writes in his blog , “I surely don’t want to see sitcom of a homogenized Muslim family that fails to discuss how America is involved in two wars in Muslim countries as a reaction to 9/11 and the tensions that Muslims have faced with Islamophobia and identity issues. Those are issues [that] continue to affect American Muslims and have been topics of many families including mine…I have come to the conclusion that [All-American Muslim] is more beneficial for sparking discussion and confronting misconceptions about American Muslims than having a ‘Muslim Cosby Show’ as stated by Katie Couric.”