Every Sunday night for the past few weeks my husband and I have been watching TLC's "All American Muslim." Neither one of us are in love with this quirky reality show, but still, we're happy that TLC took the risk to feature these families in prime time on Sunday nights.
Our personal complaints about the show have been that Dearborn, Mich., isn't like the rest of the country for Muslims; most of us live as the minority in our cities and towns. Dearborn gives these families a very unique experience of being Muslim in America. Secondly, these families are all Arabs; we don't see any South Asian Muslims, or African American Muslims, who together make up the majority of Muslims in America. The show does follow one formerly Catholic guy who has converted to Islam but finds it very difficult to practice the faith; and as a convert, I can say this is not typical either. But, hey, they agreed to let cameras into their homes, and follow them into the maternity ward, the "man-garage" (a Dearborn-centric practice, as far as I know) and the gridiron. I congratulate them for their bravery.
There certainly have been some cringe-worthy moments in the program, particularly those featuring the story of Nina, the successful event planner who, well, doesn't exactly dress like a modest Muslim woman. Nina's story has been about her struggle to start up a nightclub -- not because selling or imbibing alcohol is strictly forbidden in Islam -- but because fellow Dearborn Muslims are telling her it's not a business for a woman. It's annoying that no one is stating the obvious: It's not OK for any Muslim -- man or woman -- to run a nightclub. We're not supposed to drink or sell alcohol!
However, we watch knowing that in our American Muslim communities there are plenty of Ninas, just as there are plenty of normal young married couples having their first baby like the Aoude family, or football coaching dads like Fouad Zaban, or patriotic law enforcement officers like Mike Jaafar. It's a reality show, right? It's their reality, and honestly they do try to inform America about Islam in their own Dearbornesque way. I'm waiting for an ABCD Muslim to come out. (ABCD refers to the slang, American-Born Confused Desi. Folks from the Subcontinent -- India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh -- often refer to themselves as "Desi" which refers to being from their homeland and culture.) I vote for Aasif Mandvi to produce. Not only would it be funny, it'd let America know that Muslims are incredibly diverse in terms of heritage and ethnicity. After that, I'd look for a Black American Muslim show directed by Bill Cosby. Then we'll know we have arrived as Muslims in America.
Sadly, a small group of anti-Islam bigots were able to hoodwink a major American retailer into thinking this innocuous show is some sort of stealth jihad on America. An insignificant fringe group called the Florida Family Association sent a letter to Lowe's stating, "Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show." Their letter on the website goes on to say, "The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish."
Yep, it's a big conspiracy. Nina's nightclub is a subtle ruse enabling Muslims in America to take over the country and rewrite the Constitution. First, Nina's cleavage lulls America into thinking, "Oh, Muslims are just like my neighbor next door," and the next thing you know, we'll be all living under Sharia law.
This would be laughably irritating if it wasn't true that Lowe's has pulled their advertising from "All American Muslim." According to Lowe's spokesperson, Katie Cody, "We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show." What viewer spectrum, other than the scaredy-cat bigots who follow the Florida Family Association's hateful blog?
Since the story broke, I've noticed strong protests and boycotting declarations from non-Muslim Americans on the Lowe's Facebook page (make sure you click the "everyone" view at the top of the page or you'll only see what Lowe's posts), on Twitter and on blogs. Hooray! My fellow Americans are coming through against bigotry in all its manifestations, even in support of whacky reality shows.
Now, my husband and I will be watching "All American Muslim" with a purpose; we'll be carefully noting who is advertising during the hour-long show, and we will be buying those products, knowing that those corporations don't cater to bigots. And we won't be buying anything from Lowe's, not even their beautiful flowers in the springtime, unless they rescind this decision. There are plenty of hardware stores, garden centers and other home improvement stores in our neighborhood.
Follow Kari Ansari on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KariAnsari