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.