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.
Negative images of Islam and Muslims have been a part of Hollywood from almost the beginning. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jack Shaheen wrote an entire book about the subject called Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. These images of Arabs and Muslims as exotic, foreign, barbaric, and violent have no doubt impacted how many Americans view Islam, Muslims, and the Middle East. Thus, a sitcom that shows Muslims in a realistic light would help to dispel these images.
Couric’s suggestion about dispelling stereotypes with a television show is not a new idea. It has already been realized in Canada with the show “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Granted the show is not about one family, it does show a community and the real struggles that Muslims, like everyone else, face in their everyday life. Also, from 2007-2008, “Aliens in America” aired on CW. The show was about a family in Wisconsin taking in a Muslim foreign exchange student. Moreover, I am sure among the aims of “The Cosby Show” was to shed a different light on African Americans. It should not be taken as representative, but it should be taken as a real and valid example. So a Muslim version of the show would not represent all Muslims’ reality, but it would force viewers to rethink some of their most basic stereotypes of Islam and Muslims.
What do you think about Couric’s suggestion? How powerful do you think a sitcom can be in changing people’s views? Can you think of examples of negative images of Islam and Muslims? What impact do you think they have had in the American psyche? Can a positive image change that? Please share your thoughts below.