All-American Muslim tries to dispel misconceptions

American MuslimWASHINGTON: All-American Muslim, which premiered Sunday evening, is a powerful new eight-part series that goes inside the seldom seen world of American Muslims and reveals a unique community struggling to balance faith and nationality in a post 9/11 world.

All-American Muslim shows the new face of the minority culture’s struggle in America.The new TLC docu-series shares the highs and lows of their personal and professional lives with hopes that their stories connect with viewers all across the country.The families featured share the same religion, but lead very distinct lives that will challenge Americans’ stereotype of Muslims. The portrait of Muslim Americans depicted on the show is a purposefully diverse one, from the strictly observant to the seamlessly assimilated.

The show follows the daily lives of five Muslim-American families in Dearborn, Michigan, one of the most established and largest concentrations of American Muslims in the country and home to the largest mosque in the United States.The story focuses on Nadar and Nawal Aoude, newlyweds expecting a baby; Dearborn Deputy Chief Sheriff Mike Jaafar, his wife Angela, and their children; Nina Bazzy, an aspiring nightclub owner, and her husband and son; football coach Fouad Zaban and his family; and the sprawling Amen clan, which includes four grownup children and was the center of Sunday night’s premiere episode.

“The reality show is not to demean or make us feel bad about being who we are as people or as Muslims,” said Nawal Aoude, a nurse who is prepping in the pilot episode for the birth of her first child with husband Nader, a federal agent.”The whole point of doing this is to bring out what Muslims are,” she added. “We want to set good examples, show that we are still traditional but that we are Americans, too.”

In All-American Muslim, there are basically three struggles here: the effort to adapt strict religious codes to modern life; the decision on what parts of their culture are crucial in a country where every immigrant is pressured to assimilate; and the challenge of overcoming Islamophobia in post-9/11 America while retaining what makes your heritage special while seeking acceptance on your own cultural terms.There’s also no question that the women portrayed here have all wrestled with gender roles within their religious community, as do women in many other religious communities.

The series comes at a time of intense curiosity among Americans about Islam, with some believing that the religion oppresses women and forces them to wear the hijab.The TV series shows a world of independent women who decide for themselves whether to wear the hijab and how to incorporate Islam into their lives.”I’m here as a Muslim,” Amen says. “But I’m not here to represent Islam. Nobody on the show is running for the Muslim of the Year award. No one is trying to represent the religion as a whole.”While it’s too early to tell how viewers will respond to the series in terms of ratings, TLC is hopeful that All-American Muslim will live on for multiple seasons. They added that they hope to make that second season decision quickly.All-American Muslim easily achieves its primary goal, as it forces us to think twice about issues of assimilation, religion and culture. – Arabnews