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Nadra Kareem Nittle

TLC Cancels “All American Muslim”

By March 12, 2012

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It's no secret that after 9/11 Americans began to view those with ties to Islam and the Arab world as suspect. But it wasn't just small-town Americans who'd never met a Muslim before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks who stereotyped all Muslims as crazed jihadists. Unfortunately, people in the news media proved guilty of similar thinking. Bill O'Reilly and Juan Williams are only a pair in a long line of news personalities who've suggested that Muslims and terrorists are one and the same.

When TLC premiered its reality show "All-American Muslim" in November, there were high hopes that negative perceptions of Muslims would change. The public would have a chance to see Muslim Americans leading normal lives. But the show faced an uphill battle from the start. A right-wing group called the Florida Family Association talked high profile companies such as Lowe's into pulling advertising from the show. This led to public outcry that focused a great deal of media attention on the program. But after less than a handful of months on the air, TLC announced last week that it would cancel "All American Muslim."

Some argue that the cancellation of this show marks a missed opportunity. Take Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald columnist. He wrote that the show "might have made it harder for Americans to sustain a blanket fear of all things Islamic. Popular culture has historically played a role in normalizing, individualizing, and humanizing that which seemed frightening and new."

He pointed out that Bill Cosby did this for blacks, Mary Tyler Moore for women, and Ellen DeGeneres for the gay community. Does the cancellation of "All American Muslim" mean that the country isn't ready to see Muslims in a new light, or does a major television network need to green light a show about Mulsim Americans? Only then will a cross section of Americans, with cable access and without it, be enocuraged to deconstruct their xenophobic fears about the Muslim community.

Comments

March 12, 2012 at 3:39 pm
(1) Don Rice says:

I haven’t seen the show, but I have seen the previews. It looked like just another “reality” show. But I was intrigued, not by the show premise, but by the question of how people would react to it.

You see, I’ve worked and dined with Muslims. I even managed a small “mom and pop” store for a Muslim family. And I found them to be just like the description of that show. They’re regular people, just like you and me. They want what most civilized people want: peace, family, a decent living, something better for their children.

But when I try to express this to others, I get called all kinds of vile names. Yes, the same general types of names I got called for being “white” and having a “black” wife. Added to that were the typical “hyperpatriot” slurs of “unAmerican”, communist, socialist, liberal scum, and all that rot.

It appears to me that people just don’t WANT to see others as their neighbors and potential friends. They’re still living in fear of “the Other”, never realizing that the fear is really of their brothers and sisters. We are all part of the Human race, and that’s all that matters. But these folks say the same things the racists say: “They’re not really human”.

All I can do is to shake my head…

March 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm
(2) Larry D. Spencer says:

Nadra,

I very much appreciate your covering the closing of the important series, “All American Muslim.” And I am sorry that the show is closing. We need all the help we can get to overcome stereotyping of all sorts–especially those dealing with Islam.

I am a retired Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor and former Executive Director of the Greater Dallas Community of Churches–which then had a membership of 300 congregations from 29 Christian denominations. Our focus was [1] gaining better understanding across denominational and faith lines and [2] giving people of all faiths a place to bring their faiths to life by volunteering in Dallas’ 5 most needy neighborhoods.

Following the 9/11 attacks, GDCC pulled together Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faith leaders, who publically condemn the attack; ask the community’s help in not stereotyping Muslims or other Arabs; and set up programs where Christians, Jews, and others could supportively engage Islam by all sorts of approaches–from taking Muslim women to the grocery stores (because they were terribly afraid) to learning about each others faiths, similarities, and differences.

While the initial offering was very helpful to Dallas’ leadership, media, and religious members, there remains among some grass-roots folks a tremendous lack of knowledge, experience, and trust of those who are not of “our own kind.”

Your website is a regular read of mine and I often forward it to others for whom it may be of help. Thank you.

Larry D. Spencer

March 13, 2012 at 4:17 am
(3) Larry says:

Nadra, your column usually enlightens me about so many topics or may I say you write on so many issues that sometimes I found it difficult to determine your field of professionalism that is if you are an historian, a philosopher, a politician, a scientist, a theologist or simply a teacher rather than a journalist or a writer etc because your column covers all spectra of human endeavours and you do it confidently. I am very proud and will always be very proud of your contribution to the general populace of those who read your column. Religion is the most volatile issue worldwide today and a big challenge to majority of the world leaders, sometimes destroys and makes them. I have never read or heard about “ALL AMERICAN MUSLIMS” until this morning Nigerian time. When it comes to religion, Islam in particular the fools will always be fools and the ignorants will always remain ignorants, no matter what happens they have been brain washed against Islam. It will remain so no matter what we muslims do to educate them, that Islam is the religion of peace. What do we say about an American soldier who shot and killed 16 innocent Afghan civilians or the Pastor who burnt the Qur’an? Funny enough I read today that majority of the deep South voters believed Mr. Presiden is a Muslim while some others believed he was never born in American. Any logical thinking here? To me they are fools and ignorants no matter their educational backgrounds or how highly they are placed. Every Christmas my neighbor always bring cookies to our house and she has been doing this almost 10years in appreciation of our peaceful neighborliness and co habitation in the subdivision. They know that me and my family are muslims and they are christians but never an issue of discordant. Mr. Larry D Spencer has spoken well of the religion faiths and I agree with him.

March 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm
(4) Nadra says:

Thanks for the nice comments, you all. I appreciate it.

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