What Can a Muslim Reality Show Do in a Post-9/11 America?

Suheila and Bilal--Two American Muslims featured on "All American Muslim"

This coming November, a new Muslim reality show will broadcast on TLC. All American Muslim will follow the lives of 5 families in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Muslim population in the United States. The show aims to give a glimpse of the Muslim American population and the challenges that they face, inside and outside of their community. Moreover, according to Amy Winter, TLC’s general manager, one of the goals of the program is to show the diversity of the Muslim community, which is not only true of the community in Dearborn but of the worldwide Muslim community.

This show comes at a time where the situation for Muslim Americans has been mixed. Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, there is an increased awareness of this community and Islam more generally but on the other hand it has become much more acceptable to express negative sentiments about Muslims and Islam. A show like this can further the positive interest that has emerged post 9/11 and counteract the negative response.

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CNN’s “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door”

On Sunday, March 27th, CNN aired “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” in which correspondent, Soledad O’Brien went to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to examine the controversy around the building of an Islamic center.

In 2010, the city commission committee approved  plans  for the local Muslim community to build a 52,000-foot facility that would include not only a mosque, but also a school, a swimming pool, a gym, and a cemetery. Residents of Murfreesboro, which houses 180 churches and currently one mosque, came out in protest of the the Islamic center. In addition to protests, the sign at the site of the future center was vandalized twice: the first time the words “not welcome” were sprayed on it and the second time it was cut in half. Also, the construction equipment at the site was doused with gas and lit on fire. Finally, some residents filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop construction of the mosque.

O’Brien interviewed both opponents and supporters of the project. The question that emerged throughout the interviews was this: Is the problem with the building of the mosque itself or is the prevalent emotion symptomatic of a broader Islamophobia?

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Could a Muslim “Cosby Show” Dispel Islamophobia?

While talking about the year in review, Katie Couric spoke out against the anti-Muslim sentiment that emerged around the Islamic Center near Ground Zero, Cordoba House, and suggested on her CBSNews.com webshow that a Muslim version of “The Cosby Show” would alleviate the situation. In the show’s short segment, Couric said that she was disappointed by the hatred of Muslims displayed around the issue of the Islamic Center, which she attributed to a lack of knowledge of Islam among Americans. Although some find her suggestion of a sitcom absurd, I argue that a sitcom would be a constructive means to improve the image of Muslims.

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