TLC’s All-American Muslim comes under attack
Originally we were opposed to the premise of All-American Muslim, TLC’s new reality series which follows five Muslim families living in Dearborn, Michigan. We thought this show unjustly put Muslim American’s on the defensive, in a position where they had to defend their commitment to this country and its values.
Even the name, All-American Muslim, seemed to create an implication. An implication that some Muslim citizens were not in fact, “All-American.” We thought it was unjust for some Americans to be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny than others. We didn’t think citizens who practiced Islam in this country needed to prove they were “All-American” in the first place.
We tuned into All-American Muslim for entertainment value, the series follows some interesting people and presents compelling drama week after week, and we enjoyed it. However we were worried All-American Muslim placated to ignorant bigots in this country who decided to use the events which occurred on 9/11 as a vehicle to attack their fellow Americans.
We were ignorant. After All-American Muslim’s controversy with Lowe’s we realize a group of ignorant citizens, not the series itself, put Muslim Americans on the defensive. There are citizens in this country who think they have the right to question, interrogate and attack other citizens because of their religious beliefs. Those citizens, whose conduct is not “All-American,” created the need for this series in the first place.
See Suehaila, one of the stars of All-American Muslim, discuss the discrimination she faces while travelling here:
TLC’s “Agenda” for All-American Muslim
When TLC announced it’s plans to develop the series, All-American Muslim, it expressed a clear intent about the direction of the series. TLC wanted All-American Muslim to be a show which illustrates “how these individuals negotiate universal family issues while remaining loyal to the traditions and beliefs of their religious faith — and how they simultaneously defy the assumptions and stereotypes prevalent in today’s society.”
When discussing All-American Muslim TLC’s General Manager said, “we wanted to show there was diversity even within the Muslim community. These are families that might have beliefs that are different than yours, but we are all living similar daily lives and hopefully we will bring that to light.”
All-American Muslim “controversy”
Since airing the show All-American Muslim faced some backlash from a radical group who opposes the series (if you would like to read more about the group and their arguments read them here, we’re not going to give the group anymore publicity).
In response to this group’s radical claims against the show and “dozens” of emails from “concerned citizens” Lowe’s decided to pull all of it’s ad support from the series. Since then Lowe’s has received a firestorm of backlash but decided to stand by and even justify it’s decision to pull ad support from the series.
TLC’s All-American Muslim shines light on bigotry
Lowe’s is the symptom (a very nasty symptom), however; not the problem. The problem is that we live in a country where some citizens believe Muslim Americans should be subjected to discrimination based on their religion. The problem is we live in a country where a radical group of citizens decided Muslim Americans, must prove their loyalty and commitment. Since 9/11 Muslim Americans have been subjected to and forced to defend themselves against claims that they are not in fact “American.”
In writing about the experience of watching All-American Muslim, The Hollywood Reporter said ”watching their lives will teach us a lot about the culture of Americans who practice Islam and how they’re both similar and unique from us.” The series gives it’s viewers, many of whom are ignorant about Muslim Americans, an opportunity to learn more about some members of the Muslim American community and Islam in general.
What The Hollywood Reporter and others who have praised the series failed to anticipate was the fact that the series would also present Americans with the opportunity to learn more about American culture itself and the way we treat citizens who practice Islam in this country.
All-American Muslim exposes the fact that, as Souheila Al-Jadda wrote, “Muslims hear [the] drumbeat of suspicion even a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks” and live in a country where they are surrounded by “anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
Bigotry unjustly reshapes the discussion about All-American Muslim
Unfortunately, what All-American Muslim taught us is that there is a radical group in this country attacking American citizens and undercutting the values American’s hold dear.The group which influenced Lowe’s and it’s supporters employed “anti-Muslim rhetoric” to reshape the discourse about this series.
They’ve transform All-American Muslim, which is in our opinion just another entertaining reality series, into a “controversial” series. Instead of discussing whether All-American Muslim is entertaining, Americans are now subjected to an unfair and unnecessary discussion of whether the show does in fact have an “agenda.”
TLC’s All-American Muslim opens up dialogue
TLC gave a small segment of the Muslim American community a platform to express themselves openly and honestly when they created All-American Muslim. TLC opened up a dialogue. A dialogue which we now realize is necessary to combat the anti-muslim rhetoric that some citizens employ to justify discrimination against Americans who practice Islam.
Will that dialogue create a new climate? A climate where American citizens are not subjected to scrutiny just because they happen to practice a religion? We hope so.
TLC’s intent with All-American Muslim may have been to “shine a light” on the lives of Muslim Americans, but it also shone a light on the bigotry, hatred and discrimination Muslim Americans face in this country.
Hopefully, All-American Muslim will do more than shine a light. Hopefully this series will be a change Islam. We hope to live in a country where bigots don’t influence our culture and we also hope to live in a world where citizens don’t have to justify their presence in this country by proving they are in fact, ”All-American.”