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The Real Muslims of Dearborn: TLC Announces Islam Reality Show

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For a while now, people have batted around the idea of whether and when TV would give us a Muslim Cosby Show: that is, a TV series that would take a mass audience inside the family life of this cultural group for the first time, the way that the Huxtables were the first black family that millions of white viewers tuned to on a regular basis. TLC’s All-American Muslim, debuting in November, is not a sitcom, but it’s something: a reality show about the lives of five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. (The city, just outside Detroit, has one of the highest concentrations of Muslim citizens in the U.S.)

As with any reality project, this will all be about the execution; it could be done very well or very poorly, but I wouldn’t assume one or the other just because it’s a TLC reality show. But the premise is encouraging for a simple reason. If there a particular cultural group that has been the focus of intense discussion and sometimes hysteria—from 9/11 to the Ground Zero controversy to Herman Cain’s campaign—it should get to be a subject as well as an object. This can’t be as bad as Toddlers and Tiaras, can it?

TLC announcement, after the jump:

What’s it like to be Muslim in America? TLC answers that question with ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM, a powerful new series premiering in November 2011 that delves deep inside the rarely seen world of Muslim Americans to uncover unique insight into this little known—and often misunderstood—community. ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM brings audiences inside Dearborn, Michigan, a mid-sized industrial city that is also home to the largest mosque in the United States. Following the daily lives of five Muslim American families, each episode offers an intimate look at their customs and celebrations, as well as the misconceptions, conflicts and differences they face outside—and within—their own community.“ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM is a perfect fit for TLC, inviting viewers into a world they might not otherwise experience,” said Amy Winter, GM, TLC. “Through these families and their diverse experiences, we will explore how they blend their values and traditions with everyday life in America, providing insight into their culture with care and compassion.”ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM continues TLC’s focus on compelling storytelling and authentic real-life characters. The families on the series are sharing their biggest celebrations and their unexpected challenges, giving our viewers unprecedented access into the American Muslim community.

The families featured in the series share the same religion, but lead very distinct lives that often times challenge the Muslim stereotype. Among the handful of subjects profiled are Shadia and Suehaila, who are tight-knit sisters, but while Suehaila wears the traditional head scarf, is active in the Muslim community and prays five times a day, Shadia is outspoken, has piercings and tattoos and recently married an Irish Catholic who is converting to Islam. Also recently married, Nadar and Nawal are having their first baby and trying to find the balance between their traditional Muslim roots and American culture. Mike, Deputy Chief for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Dept., works tirelessly to educate the department about the Muslim religion in an effort to reduce discrimination and ignorance while his wife, an executive who works as a consultant to a major auto manufacturer, struggles to find the balance between work and raising a modern Muslim family.

Throughout the series, viewers will see these families through some of life’s biggest events and challenges—from getting married and the birth of a first baby, to juggling busy careers while raising a family, to managing sibling dynamics and finding “Mr. or Ms. Right”. ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM shows 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.

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