‘All-American Muslim’ divides viewers
By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
The new TV show “All-American Muslim” has sparked an intense debate among Muslims and others about Islam and how the religion should be depicted.
From social media sites like Twitter to CNN to Al-Jazeera, the reality show from TLC that focuses on five Muslim families in Dearborn has drawn both praise and criticism. In general, people on the far right — whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim — tend to disapprove of the show while those with more liberal views tend to like it, seeing it as a step forward for its realistic portrayals of Muslim-Americans.
“It sure does expel the radical image of American Muslims,” said Hassan Shakr, 20, of Dearborn. “We know who we are, but this can help for somebody who’s never met a Muslim and thinks about Dearborn from what they’ve seen on Fox News.”
Some conservative Muslims were outraged by the weekly show that debuted Sunday, expressing displeasure on Twitter over Shadia Amen’s tattoos or Nadia Bazzi’s short skirts. Both are Muslim women featured on the show. Anti-Muslim bloggers and activists also disliked the show, but for a different reason: To them, Islam is about terrorism and so the show whitewashes what they say is a radical faith.
On Facebook, a woman has created a page calling for a boycott of the show, calling it “an attempt to make America accept Islam without showing the truth about what Islam is really about … beheadings, stonings, amputations, hangings, oppression of women, minorities and global jihad.”
Terry Jones, the Quran-burning pastor, told the Free Press last week the show was “a propaganda tool.”
Some Muslims, too, don’t like the show because it doesn’t present a pious enough picture of Muslims. Others complained that it didn’t feature non-Arab Muslims; the five families featured in the show are Lebanese-American.
And some Sunni Muslims with anti-Shia bigotry were upset because the show focuses on Shia Muslims.
“Why are Shia’a in this show? Shia’a aren’t even Muslim!” wrote one man on Twitter who didn’t like the show.
But in metro Detroit, many Muslims liked it.
“I thought it was a good show,” said Ahmed Ghamlouche, 33, of Dearborn. “I liked how it showed the diversity of this community. It breaks the stereotypes Americans have, that we’re like terrorists. It breaks the mind-set.”
Dawud Walid, head of the Council of American Islamic Relations, also likes the show, in general.
“The show is humanizing Muslims,” Walid said. It “will do more positive than negative for American Muslims both externally and internally.”
Walid said while there were concerns about a lack of non-Arabs on the show, he understands the need for the show to focus on a small number of families for logistical and story reasons. Walid added that the TV series can help dispel accusations from the far right that Dearborn is a hotbed of extremism governed by sharia.
The debate over the show will probably continue after the second episode plays Sunday night; it shows Samria Amen-Fawaz of Dearborn putting on an Islamic headscarf, known as hijab, for the first time in years after listening to the advice of a Muslim cleric.
Bilal Amen, 29, one of the Dearborn residents featured in the show, doesn’t mind the criticism from some Muslims.
“My goal in life is to be as ‘perfect’ as those ‘amazing’ Muslims who make … comments,” he jokingly tweeted this week. “I love haters!”
Shadia Amen stressed that she is not representing all Muslims.
“I’m here as a Muslim,” Amen told the Free Press before the show debuted. “But I’m not here to represent Islam. Nobody on the show is running for the Muslim of the Year award. No one is trying to represent the religion as a whole.”