Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Demystifying Islam, Can TV help?

While surfing the net recently, I came across some articles about TV programs on Islam and Muslims in the West. I found two of these TV shows particularly interesting, especially against the backdrop of the current political situation, where Muslims are considered guilty until proven innocent; as these shows aim to demystify  Islam and its followers.

One of these is All-American Muslim, which is a reality TV show, following the lives of five families living in Dearborn, Michigan; and the other one is Little Mosque on the Prairie, a six series sitcom set in the small fictional town of Mercy in Canada.

I decided to watch a few episodes of each show, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. All-American Muslim focuses on Arab Muslim families within a large community of Muslims, the largest in the US. I think that Americans value family life, and the support and stability that it brings, probably more than Europeans do, due to Americans’ strong Christian roots. So, following the lives of families rather than individuals was done purposefully to engage viewers who might otherwise ignore such programs entirely.

Despite its benign nature, the show was surrounded with controversy. Lobbying groups put pressure on a company which was going to sponsor it, because they believed that the show was an Islamist propaganda meant to whitewash Islam, which, in their opinion, is an imperialist/violent religion. I find it quite sad that some Americans praise their country for its democratic values and freedom of speech, and at the same time try to prevent shows like these from airing.

The sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie satirizes the lives of a group of Muslims, living in the fictional prairie town of Mercy, in Canada. I watched the first few episodes, and found it quite funny although not hilarious. It tackles issues within the Muslim community in the West, which could also arise in families and communities in the Arab/Muslim world.  I think that comedy is a great tool for opening up debate and breaking stereotypes. The director of the show is Muslim and although I have not watched the show in its entirety, I believe that it is set to educate rather than to offend, shock, or create controversy.

I hope that these shows will help dissipate the negativity associated with Muslims/Islam at least among those who watch them.  

I know that some Muslim readers think that we are always trying to defend ourselves against accusations, and we are trying hard to prove to the Western world that we are not terrorists, which we should not have to do. To them I say, in the words of the scholar Hamza Yusuf, who quotes Foucault, it is the powerful that define things and set norms,  and right now, the Western world has an immense amount of sovereignty in the world, so it has framed a discourse and we Muslims have to define ourselves within the model that the Western world has set up.

I have been reading comments posted recently on both British and American newspapers websites regarding Muslims, and what I read shocked me.  These papers are usually read by well-informed Americans and Brits. It is quite sad to come across so much hatred and insults of a religion and over a billion people who follow it.  

I know that sometimes no matter what you do, some people will never open their eyes to see. Voltaire says: « Il n’est pire aveugle que celui qui ne veut  pas voir ». However, I believe that it is our duty to defend our religion in all ways we can and prevent it from being hijacked by some extremist nihilists who do not value life. These TV shows are a step in the right direction. I hope many more will follow. 


  1. These sitcoms you mention in your well written piece are a step forward indeed, but I personally still think we have a long way to go. The West has done everything in its power to bring Islam down many times again
    I suppose 'every little helps' at this point
    Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks for your comment, Fares. I think that we should not hang the blame entirely on the West-media and politicians. We Muslims are responsible for much of the denigration of Islam. We should claim back our religion from extremists and Wahhabis.

  2. I fully concur with you on this matter. Moreover, I assume we need a bit more time to claim it back and embrace it as it should be. It's a pleasure reading your blog, keep them coming.
    Have a good day