On Sunday, November 13th, TLC is set to premier a new 8-episode series: All-American Muslim in the United States. As this comes from the same channel that brings American viewers Sister Wives and the Kate+8 debacle, I’ll admit my immediate thoughts surrounding the show are wary, to say the least, when it comes to its ability to portray “what is it like to be Muslim in America.”
As I watched clips of video provided by TLC, I realized that the show’s entire cast hails from Dearborn, Michigan and an Arab-American Muslim background. I had a hard time trying to reconcile the image of an “All-American” Muslim as ones who have Arab backgrounds. The idea that “Dearborn is another world” from the show’s promotional video clip remained with me the entire time. (You can read some of the statistics on the diversity of backgrounds among first-generation Muslim Americans in the Pew Research Center’s 2011 report.)
I’m curious as to why the show chose this specific community as one to represent the All-American Muslim, and not individuals from a metropolitan city, or families growing up in Midwestern suburbia, or any other combination of a multitude of American locales.The one prevalent theme that carries through the video clips is the impending marriage of one of the characters in the show to an Irish-American man. There are clips from a wedding rehearsal, clips from visiting potential wedding sites, and a discussion about the groom’s impending conversion at a nail salon between the bride and her sister—and no groom present.
In portraying these scenes, it appears that the wedding has become the highlight for this family—a universal event for merriment and potential for cross-cultural exploration that occurs among societies irrespective of personal religious beliefs. But then where are the opinions of the bride’s other family members? Or even the bride herself? All of the opinions come from her sister in the clips. And what say does the groom have for his conversion? It’s not so clear in the brief clips—hopefully the show will reveal more itself.
Will the show really deeply ponder what it means to be an American? Especially of interest here at MMW: An American Muslim Woman? Or instead use the popular, tired scenery of wedding drama to say, “Muslims are just like us—they get married too!” The clips used to promote the show seem to promote the latter—the only way to know for sure, though, is by watching it…
MMW will cover the show once it airs on TLC—stay tuned!