Remember the overheated bloviating last year about Park51 (a.k.a. the "Ground Zero Mosque")? Nearly all of 2011 had passed without a similar Muslim-related controversy du jour to take up media bandwidth, but based on the last few days, it looks like one has manifested just in time to beat the buzzer with reality series All-American Muslim. I watched the first episode of the skein -- chronicling the day-to-day struggle of some Muslim families in Dearborn, MI -- when it aired last month, and it didn't really do anything for me, so I didn't bother commenting on it (though a quote from me did make into this post by Zahid Lilani).
My "meh" reaction to the program comes, I think, from my general dislike of the omnipresent desire among many to turn religions into demographics, and compartmentalizing a far-ranging faith group that includes so much diversity into a single reality cast and labeling it "All-American" just seems counter-intuitive to me. I've long held that the best way to demonstrate how "All-American" Muslims are is to just do it without hanging a lampshade on it. Muslim lawyers on lawyer shows, and it's no big deal. Muslim cops on cop shows, and it's no big deal. Because, guess what? It's no big deal.
Regardless, that's just my take. It's not like I have any great love for the reality genre to begin with, and if folks find something worthwhile in the series and can expand their experience through it, fantastic. Beyond that, demonstrating my continued naĆÆvetĆ©, I really didn't think it was a big enough deal to dwell on, and was content to let it drift off my radar. Ah, but that was before the usual suspects of America's "Islamphobia First" crowd chimed in, accusing the show of trafficking in all the old favorites, like "stealth jihad," "creeping sharia," "sharia jihad," and, of course, "creeping stealth."
Once a group of nutbars calling themselves the Florida Family Association started orchestrating a boycott campaign aimed at All-American Muslim's advertisers, things really got interesting. First, Lowe's Hardware pulled its spots due to the show's supposed "controversial" subject matter, and once that became the story, things swiftly went south from there. Needless to say, there's a whole lot that's wrong here, from the cluelessness of those protesting, to the fact that Lowe's (and presumably at least a few others) were so easily cowed by said cluelessness, to the brain donors who are proudly showing their support for the hardware chain in what is quite possibly the worst way possible.
But while many in the Muslim community are upset, some righteously so, some perhaps a little too much so, I don't see any of this as a bad thing. If it's an open and honest discussion about Islam's tenets and values these folks are after, fair enough. Let's have that conversation. Personally, I'd rather someone -- whether person or corporation -- be absolutely clear and open with their prejudices and preconceptions. It clarifies where they stand and, accordingly, where I stand in relation to them. As far as I'm concerned, the only downside to this controversy is that it's in regards to a pretty average show that doesn't warrant nearly the amount of noise it's generated.
Follow Zaki Hasan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zakiscorner