November 8, 2011

Is the U.S. ready for Muslims on reality TV?

A new programme on Muslim-Americans in Michigan takes a swing at stereotypes.

On November 13, the U.S. network TLC is scheduled to premiere the first reality television show exclusively featuring a Muslim-American community. The eight-part series, “All-American Muslim,” was filmed in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest population of Arab-Americans in the U.S. While about a third of Dearborn residents are of Arab descent, Arab-Americans are less than one per cent of the total U.S. population.

The programme follows five different Arab-American Muslim families and will portray the community “struggling to balance faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world” while challenging stereotypes about Muslims in the U.S.

Among the cast members are the head coach of the local football team, a businesswoman, deputy chief sheriff, and a Muslim woman planning her wedding to an Irish-American convert.

The show describes Dearborn as “another world,” and one media observer points out that Arab Muslims from Dearborn aren’t necessarily representative of the broader U.S. Muslim population. But others say “All-American Muslim” offers a different angle on the community.

“People fear what they don’t know,” says one cast member, saying he hopes the show will shed light on how Muslims are dealing with Islamophobia in the post-9/11 decade.

In one such case, New York City police reportedly teamed up with the CIA for surveillance operations on Muslim-Americans in the area. One of the targets was believed to be Brooklyn College – the alleged base of a nascent “Muslim terrorist cell” according to security officials. But many have spoken out against what they say is a violation of their rights to privacy, pointing out that domestic surveillance on citizens by the CIA remains illegal.

Joining the show are Suehaila Amen, cast member of “All-American Muslim,” and Azhar Usman, Muslim-American comedian and co-founder of the popular comedy tour “Allah Made Me Funny.”

What do you think of the current portrayal and treatment of Muslims in America? Send us your thoughts and comments on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #AJStream.

These are some of the social media elements featured in this episode of The Stream: