Tuned In

TV Weekend: Islam, for Real, on All-American Muslim

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TLC

Coach Fouad Zaban leads the Dearborn Fordson Tractors, who practice overnight during the fasting month of Ramadan.

In last week’s TIME, I took an early look at TLC’s new reality series, All-American Muslim, debuting Sunday night; I also blogged about it earlier here at Tuned In. Here’s one more reminder to catch this deeply intriguing, uncharacteristically thoughtful reality series about five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. Over at TheAtlantic.com, Alyssa Rosenberg has a feature on the show:

The producers and stars of TLC’s All-American Muslim, which premieres this Sunday at 10, are taking great pains to insist that their show is nothing unusual. “It’s just a natural fit for us,” says Alon Ornstein, TLC’s vice president of production and development. “We’re always all about telling compelling stories about real families.” Nawal Auode, one of the cast members insists that the show is more about what Muslims and non-Muslims have in common with each other than what they don’t: “You’ll relate to me being a new mom and dealing with post-partum, and you’ll relate to [her husband] Nader being a loving husband.” All-American Muslim certainly follows in the tradition of programs like The Cosby Show and The George Lopez Show in debunking myths about minority families. But there’s nothing ordinary about how excellent All-American Muslim is, or how skillfully and sensitively it builds drama out of questions of faith and religious practice.

Rosenberg raises a good point. Leaving aside geopolitics, America’s culture wars or simply curiosity about Islam in America, there’s another reason that All-American Muslim is a distinctive show worth watching: it’s a rare reality show that features a group of ordinary people without portraying them as explosive drama queens, or deliberately setting them up in powder-keg situations to create conflict.

In fact, you could make the argument that we will only know that Muslim-Americans have truly been mainstreamed when they are as freely, grossly caricatured in reality shows as are Italian-American Jersey kids, cake bakers or rich ladies in Beverly Hills. In the meantime, whatever All-American Muslim does for awareness of Islam in this country, maybe it will at least convince a reality producer or two to treat everyone else a little better.

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