TLC’s ‘All-American Muslim’ Series Premiere: A Fascinating Look At An Often-Maligned People

by Mo Fathelbab on November 14, 2011 · 148 comments

in Reality TV, TLC, TV Recaps / Review

Before I begin my review of TLC‘s new reality series, All-American Muslim, let me say upfront that I was raised born in Brooklyn, New York to Sunni Muslim parents who had immigrated from Egypt. They raised me and my younger siblings in the traditional Sunni Muslim way (praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan, donating money/time to charity) with a little Sufi Muslim mysticism sprinkled in (we believed in “paying it forward” way before that stupid Kevin Spacey movie came out). In addition to that upbringing, we also lived an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and attended a nearby private Roman Catholic school from K-8th Grades. There were some controversies along the way, as there tends to be when you’re the only one of your kind in a sea of people who look at you with suspicion, but we always considered ourselves to be patriotic Americans.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and Republican/Conservative/TeaParty bigotry (before and after 9/11) have made it harder for the average Muslim-American and people like me (being exposed to three religions simultaneously made me agnostic but I still proudly have a Muslim name) to get by in this country without fear of becoming a victim of a hate crime. We now know what African-Americans, Latinos, and members of the GLBT go through every single day of their lives. It fracking sucks. It is why All-American Muslim is extremely important television. It shows non-Muslim Americans who may be on the fence regarding their fellow citizens who happen to be Muslim — because Fox News, right wing radio, and every Republican running for President keeps telling them to hate their living guts — that these people are just as boring as them. And I mean boring in a good, suburban way.

Now, for those of you who had the pleasure to catch the first episode of All-American Muslim, you already know how relieved I am that the show also didn’t turn out to be a Real Housewives or Jersey Shore clone, which it could have easily done with the wrong kind of casting. With that I say: “Bravo, TLC!” (Err, maybe Bravo isn’t the right word in this case. Let’s say “Congrats!”) For those who haven’t yet caught the show and/or have been hesitant: don’t fret. The five families the show follows are as Muslim as halal food and are also as American as Coca-Cola (or in this case, Faygo, since they live in the Dearborn, Michigan):

-The Amen Family: led by traditional patriarch Mohsen and wife Lila, they prepare for the wedding of their “rebel” daughter Shadia (who is unveiled, has tattoos, and a 10-year-old son from a previous marriage) to Jeff, an Irish-American who was raised Roman Catholic but is converting to Shia Islam.

-The Aoude Family: newlyweds Nader and Nawal prepare for the arrival of their first child. They live a traditional lifestyle, with Nawal wearing the veil, but they are still a young, modern couple. Nader is expected — and yes, eager — to be involved in raising their child.

-The Bazzy-Aliahmad Family: Nina is the central focus of this family, which also consists of husband Ali and son Andre. She is modern-day woman who runs her own party planning business but is now eager to open the first nightclub in Dearborn. She is also a very flashy dresser (big earrings, leopard prints, short skirts) which shock some in her community but it doesn’t feel out of place in reality show. (Nina is the person who comes closest to a Real Housewife.)

-The Jaafar Family: another average, modern family, wife Angela works as an automotive marketing consultant while husband Mike works as a deputy chief sheriff, all while raising four kids.

-The Zaban Family: my favorite family of the bunch only because husband/father Fouad is the hot-headed head coach of the Fordson High School football team. Even though he’s a very religious man, football comes first, which means that his majority-Muslim players have to suit up while fasting during Ramadan.

In terms of personalities, and the importance of faith in each of their hearts, we do get a wide variety. My only complaint is that because the show focuses on the residents of Dearborn, which is made up of mostly Shia Muslims with ties to South Lebanon, we only get to see their version of Islam. We don’t get to focus on Sunnis, Sufis, non-Lebanese, nor non-Arabs — with Jeff being the notable exception. The hope is, if the show is successful enough, it would then move across America and showcase other cities with a large Muslim populations. Until then, we will have to stay with these five families who are all fascinating and all average.

All-American Muslim is still a very entertaining and informative series. There are some pretty amusing moments, like when Nader playfully admits to having pre-martial sex with Nawal (which, like in any religion, is a “sin”) then she playfully slaps him on the chest as a retort, and when Shadia’s gi-normous and imposing brother Bilal (who may or may not be a Juggalo, I still haven’t figured him out) helps the lanky Jeff with his conversion.

But let’s give credit to the show for doing one thing that is far more important than changing the dialogue regarding Muslim-Americans: putting the role of Muslim women in the spotlight. Every woman on All-American Muslim has a different opinion on what her role in society at large is. Some may be 100% traditional, like Lila. Some may be 180 degrees of Lila, like Shadia and Nina. Others are in between, like Nawal, who wears the veil like a badge of honor but speaks with the ferocity of an Emma Goldman (look her up, kids).

Again, I urge everyone to check out All-American Muslim. You may not get the whole picture regarding Islam in the United States but at least it won’t be the distorted, bigoted version you’ve been bombarded with.

{ 148 comments… read them below or add one }

Mofathelbab November 15, 2011 at 8:12 am

Another reminder to BuzzFocus readers, to whom I am very grateful to for checking out my reviews: do not feed the hate trolls. It’s just the same 3 or 4 people who have been doing nothing but spreading hate and misinformation. Do not waste your time engaging them. You’re only validating their seething bigotry.

Again, a healthy spirited debate amongst those who are intellectually curious is encouraged but don’t fall for a troll’s trap.

At the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of humans looking for our place in this world.

Anonymous November 15, 2011 at 9:41 am

Correction: Man 50+ years old married a 6 year old girl that still played with her dolls and had sex with her at the age of 9. Just stating a Fact; as narrated by Aisha herself (Sahih Bukhari 9.140). No explanations or excuses needed. If anyone thinks this is a lie or an insult; just do the search yourself.

Anonymous November 15, 2011 at 10:02 am

Definition of islamic peace: Peace can only be achieved when there are no more unbelievers and the Islam is victorious ABOVE ALL religions.

From Wikipedia:

Dar al-Islam (Arabic: دار الإسلام‎ literally house/abode of Islam; or Dar as-Salam, house/abode of Peace; or Dar al-Tawhid, house/abode of Union) is a term used by Muslim scholars
to refer to those countries where Muslims can practice their religion
freely. These are usually Islamic cultures wherein Muslims represent the
majority of the population, and so the government promises them
protection. Most Dar al-Islam areas are surrounded by other Islamic
societies to ensure public protection.

Muslim scholars maintain and believe that the labeling of a country or place as being a part of Dar al-Islam
revolves around the question of religious security. This means that if a
Muslim practices Islam freely in his place of abode despite that the
place happens to be secular or un-Islamic, then he will be considered as
living in the Dar al-Islam.

Dar al-Islam is also known and referred to as Dar al-Salam, or house/abode of Peace. The term appears in the Koran in 10.25 an 6.127 as a name of Paradise.[4]

According to Abu Hanifa, considered to be the originator of the concept, the two requirements for a country to be part of Dar al-Islam are:[1][2]

Muslims must be able to enjoy peace and security with and within this country.It has common frontiers with some Muslim countries.

If the former does not apply then physical means such as Jihad can be used to correct the situation and in the latter case, individuals are required to do hijra to where they can practice their religion.

[edit] Dar al-Harb (House of war)

Dar al-Harb (Arabic: دار الحرب “house of war”; also referred to as Dar al-Garb “house of the West” in later Ottoman sources; a person from “Dar al-Harb” is a “harbi” (Arabic:حربي)) is a term classically referring to those countries where the Muslim law is not in force, in the matter of worship and the protection of the faithful and Dhimmis. Territories that do have a treaty of nonaggression or peace with Muslims are called dar al-ahd or dar al-sulh.[5][dead link]

In Reliance of the Traveller,
point w43.2, a hadith is referred to containing the exact word Dar
al-Harb. Scholars have, nevertheless, disagreed on its reliability as is
commented in Reliance of the Traveller.[citation needed]

[edit] Dar al-Amn (House of safety)

Dar al-Amn (Arabic: دار الأمن “house of safety”) is a term
proposed to describe the status of Muslims either in the West or other
non-Muslim societies. The term dar al-Amn may be used in conjunction with, or in opposition to, the older terms dar al-Islam and dar al-Harb,
from which it is derived. This region usually refers to countries where
Muslims have the right to practice their religion. Many countries with
Muslim minorities have been declared as Dar al-Amn at different points
in time. For example, India has been declared as Dar al-Amn

aproudmuslim November 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

dude every religion does that. i cant tell you how many people of different faith have rang my door bell to give us a brochure or to join there church or to speak to us about there religion. I really dont have a problem with it because everyone has a right to speak there mind and spread there religion if they feel like it. where were you in history class when your history teacher told you that america is a free country. please have a more open mind because if you have faith and believe in your religion it shouldn’t bother you. And in my life I have never seen a muslim try to convert someone to islam. from what I’ve seen the people usually get curious and ask and thats how it usually starts until they convert on there own. I hope you can understand where I’m coming from

Patrick Hess November 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I am not so happy with this show. As a reverted Muslim, I found many of the behaviors displayed by these people to be very un-Islamic.The sad thing is this is the reality of the Muslim society, especially in this country. Everyone tries so hard to fit in and have the good life that the religion takes a back seat to life. That is the first thing in Islam we are warned not to do. As with Christians a large portion of Muslims are Muslims by name and not deed. They may attend prayers on Friday and some only on major Holidays, but the rest of the time you would not know they are Muslim. While it is important for Americans to see the truth of Islam, that it is a peaceful, dignified, and moral way of life, the people who would best exemplify this would not be on this show, as their modesty prohibits it. I guess that means Americans will have to bast their opinions of Muslims on the Terrorist stereotypes, the rather non-Islamic Muslims on this show, or any Muslims they are lucky enough to associate with. 

Patrick Hess November 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm

First of all you would have to read that in the context it was written and understand the Tafsir regarding this verse. It was directed at the non-believers at that time who had violated the Treaty and had betrayed the Muslims during a war. 

Patrick Hess November 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm

If this is true then the “Muslims” doing this were not following Islam. First of all Muslims believe Jesus is a Prophet and is highly respected in Islam. As a Prophet it would be forbidden for any Muslim to have a picture of him (or any Prophet) or disrespect him in any way. Finally, killing defenseless people, even in time of war, is forbidden. 

Patrick Hess November 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Catholics feel the same way. My father (a Protestant) was required to convert to Catholicism to marry my mother . My Great-Great Grandfather (a Mennonite) was require to convert to Catholicism to marry his wife. Most religions have this requirement, and most have a punishment for apostasy. Some just fail to realize the punishment is eternal death, not death in this life. 

curious November 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm

To the Muslims:
Simple yes or no.
Do you believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, our Father?
Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins?
Do you believe God is the source of all that is good, not evil?
Is the Bible God’s word?
Remember : Yes or No

curious November 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Don’t want to offend anybody. My fiance wants me to convert, but I can’t get a straight answer about basic principles . I’m finding a lot of people don’t understand their own religion.

Pb5000 November 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I grew up in Dearborn, the east side is almost all Arabic and the west side is likely white majority.  Dearborn though is a very diverse city with a large representation of race and religion.  With the exception of a few idiots, everyone gets a long well.  I went to school in east Dearborn in a predominately Arabic neighborhood, I used to love going to the Arabic bakeries, the food is amazing.

Sarah6616980 November 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I am happy the put a spotlight on American Muslims. I think they are all shites though. I wish they would of showed Sunni Muslims. A big difference. Also I’m not proud of that girl who wants to open a bar. Wow what a good Muslim. It is against god to drink and she will be responsible for anybody’s lives she affects.

Guest November 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm

1. No. Jesus is a prophet just like adam, moses,noah,mohamed…and there were many more.
2.No. Jesus did not die god protected him but he will be coming back and living the remainder of his life.
3. Yes and No. God is all hearing all aware.
4. Yes and No  The old testament is god’s word but has been changed and revised over and over again by man. Hence the reason god revealed the quran. Which was recited to Mohamed in a way that can never be revised or change.

I have answered each of your questions a quick response but ofcourse there are many layers of islam that I found the more I learned the more I feel in love with and feel that it is the absolute truth. Good luck with which ever path you choose.

ModernMuslimWoman November 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I completely get your point, as a young muslim myself, I used to wear Hijab and altho I don’t anymore, I am modest in my dress – now the point is to really say that in every culture and every religion we have women who dress like Nina – I think people are more shocked just because she is Muslim,but this is the norm…you have one religion with a variety of people who do what they please, just like in judism, christianty,and hinduism

ModernMuslimWoman November 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I completely get your point, as a young muslim myself, I used to wear Hijab and altho I don’t anymore, I am modest in my dress – now the point is to really say that in every culture and every religion we have women who dress like Nina – I think people are more shocked just because she is Muslim,but this is the norm…you have one religion with a variety of people who do what they please, just like in judism, christianty,and hinduism

ModernMuslimWoman November 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm

I was raised with a muslim father and mother (who converted before she married my father, on her own), I have great faith in Islam and am very happy to see that we actually have a show out there that show’s the world WE ARE HUMAN, we are not evil, although there are some who have their own views and always will, and although “only Gd can judge us” it is human nature for others to judge actions and stand for what they believe is their truth - perception is reality.  I am proud to be a sunni muslim woman who is modern, with a husband who loves me for me, we party together, play games, go shopping and on trips,cook and clean together, and best of all,pray together…Allhamdulillah God is great!

Muyouknow November 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

it was a good show

SethC November 15, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I would have a beef with Ken, who converted to get married to this woman. I have a problem because he hurt his family and just to satisfy his flesh with this woman. Am I distrustful of islam sure am. Call me racist I don’t care, but I pray they stop this taking over town, after town. Sheesh.

curious November 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Thank you, so much for answering !!!! Helps a lot!!!

Nana November 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm

I would like to comment on the part where the review says that Nader and Nawal confessed to having pre-marital sex – ACTUALLY  you misinterpreted the scene – because they were talking about after the wedding when Nawal’s mother and aunt were asking her if they had sex and Nader jokingly commented – so they were talking about their weeding night – I just wanted to clarify that.

Light of the World November 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm

You know what’s funny? Khushy-wushy and company are only whining and acting like whiny teens…capitalizing OMG and using an excessive amount of exclamation points.

Theey did not answer any questions nor did they provide educated responses.

Anciant Egypt November 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm

BTW, according to your Qura’an, Mohammed got his “inspiration” while sitting on Khadija (his wife’s) lap.

Talk about holy

Puertochino November 15, 2011 at 11:21 pm

wtf are you talking about he got it while meditating in a cave, also you follow the teachings of Jesus that come from a man who never met him once in his life and worship a white image of man that is historically and geographically known to be dark skinned. If you want to make up ignorant lies about something you know nothing about, look into the lies the Christian religion has spread for centuries

Light of the World November 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Like you’ve met Mohammed. It’s called FAITH. It’s not an ignorant lie…maybe my wording was incorrect-he was sitting on her lap to make sure that Gabriel was not Satan. Dude, it’s in your books.
Oh, and Jesus is Jesus…dark-skinned and brown eyes or fair-skinned and blue eyes…He is still the beautiful, loving Messiah. People aren’t going to leave Christianity if Jesus isn’t white as snow (so your point does not give your argument any credit).

Like I said-you never saw Mohammed and you don’t even know how he looks like.

Mattmuller024 November 16, 2011 at 12:25 am

haha. yes im a man. and only if your hot.

Mattmuller024 November 16, 2011 at 12:28 am

thats a bunch of crap…you muslims want everyone to believe that its a religion of peace so you can take over the whole world with your sharia law!!!

Bpkrj2142003 November 16, 2011 at 1:17 am

 I did not like the show as it does not show the true Islam. The women should not show off their bodies. They did not dress as muslims. Belgacem

Bpkrj2142003 November 16, 2011 at 1:17 am

 I did not like the show as it does not show the true Islam. The women should not show off their bodies. They did not dress as muslims. Belgacem

Bpkrj2142003 November 16, 2011 at 1:17 am

 I did not like the show as it does not show the true Islam. The women should not show off their bodies. They did not dress as muslims. Belgacem

Khushy_wushy November 16, 2011 at 2:02 am

Okay fine u can be like that and ur not open minded. apparently ur not willing to understand other people religion and ur full of crap. Every religion can have a bad group or extremists. i cant make u not hate our religion so stop looking at ways to bring us down cuz it makes u seem desperate and it makes us eem like we are really important to you!

Khushy_wushy November 16, 2011 at 2:02 am

Okay fine u can be like that and ur not open minded. apparently ur not willing to understand other people religion and ur full of crap. Every religion can have a bad group or extremists. i cant make u not hate our religion so stop looking at ways to bring us down cuz it makes u seem desperate and it makes us eem like we are really important to you!

Khushy_wushy November 16, 2011 at 2:03 am

shut up and get a life idiot dumb head

Khushy_wushy November 16, 2011 at 2:03 am

shut up and get a life idiot dumb head

Light of the World November 16, 2011 at 2:10 am

And thank you for proving my point.
This is all you’ve been saying:
OMG!!!!!!!!!!
shut up
idiot
get a life
what the [insert profanity]
stop being mean

Cry me a river…

Light of the World November 16, 2011 at 2:10 am

And thank you for proving my point.
This is all you’ve been saying:
OMG!!!!!!!!!!
shut up
idiot
get a life
what the [insert profanity]
stop being mean

Cry me a river…

Arab American Soldier November 16, 2011 at 2:27 am

we have many different races here in Dearborn. Many from the arabic world but Dearborn in the past started out with Polish, Italian, then Arabs. Many black and white, Italians and Polish Families still live here.  

ARAB AMERICAN SOLDIER November 16, 2011 at 3:08 am

To be honest, To those of you really want to understand Islam as the religion and how it was created Please in english check out the messenger its a movie able Islam. You will have an understanding of the religion. This show one does show how some of us do live in Dearborn, although many muslims Shite and Sunni its a show to cover the very basics of what Modern Muslims go through everyday in America. If they are or not the best representation of Muslims in America is in the eye of the muslim watching but. There attempt to open a little window of who and what some Arab Americans go through in everyday life. People have to understand that there are conservative strict Muslims and very liberal Muslims. Either one in America is looked upon the same way based on one fact you are Muslim. People that watch the media and have little to no exposure with Muslims may have hatred. That causes many problems, I am Arabic Muslim American I am also a resident of Dearborn, in fact I am a US Soldier who had deployed oversea. During my deployment there was someone that came to Dearborn to burn a Quran. It cause problems for me religiously, and for the safety of my troops and myself overseas. Because of hate and not understanding the people that live with you in the land of the free. I am not saying that you have to agree with what is being shown. But at least open your mind for the message. Understand first then strike, go in blind and people get hurt. 

Last thing I wanted to say, Every RELIGION wants you to be closer to god. There are Phases in each our books that if we followed Gods words to the tea can correct and put fear in to a person not to do wrong. IF WE FOLLOWED WE WOULD ALL BE GOD FEARING PEOPLE. BUT IN AMERICA OUR PRACTICES ARE DIFFERENT. BUT AS HUMANS LET OUR MINDS GET IN THE WAY OF WHAT WE WANT AND NOT WHAT GOD WANTS. Thank You   

shakeshackgirl November 16, 2011 at 6:59 am

Thank you for letting me know that!  I don’t mean that it is a bad thing that different races live there, but the way that the show was portrayed, I only thought Muslims lived there.  It sounds like you have a very diverse city!  I think diversity is good for the soul, mind and heart.  And Arab American Soldier, I personally want to say THANK YOU for your service to our country!  You make my heart sing with your service!

shakeshackgirl November 16, 2011 at 7:01 am

I totally agree with you Modern.  As a Christian with a Muslim husband, I feel that as women, we should be modest because we have the next generation of young sisters and daughters looking up to us watching our every move.  Their minds are absorbing so much and when someone young looks up to me for answers about how they should be when they grow up, I want to make sure that I represent Allah in the best light!  Thank you for your comment!

shakeshackgirl November 16, 2011 at 7:08 am

Pb5000, hey you know what, I am bi-racial and my husband is a Muslim, we got our share of idiots here also, so I completely understand!  LOL!  We don’t have an Arabic bakery so I feel sad that I have not been able to sample some of your Arabic baked goods.  =(  One day tho!  And as for going to an Arabic school, well now, you sound like me after I went to a predominately white school…and that is ….normal.  =D  Thank you for your comment!

Anonymous November 16, 2011 at 10:00 am

From the lips of the Big Kahuna himself:

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

“Those who know nothing about Islam pretend that Islam counsels
against war. Those people are witless. Islam says: ‘Kill all the
unbelievers just as they would kill you all!’ Does this mean that
Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by the infidel? Islam
says: ‘Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter them.’ Islam says:
‘Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword.’ The sword is the
key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! Does
all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging
war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.” Ahhh!….the sweet feeling of “KUMBAYA”

 

DoW 2! DoW 2! DoW 2! November 18, 2011 at 5:53 am

Yes…unfortunately, unlike in Christianity, Khomeini has no actual religious authority, and as such does not represent the majority view of your every day Muslim. He isn’t a pope, he’s a politician. People have been twisting religions for thousands of years. It happens, unfortunately, and if you’re going to use that to justify stereotypes then you’re just as dumb as he is.

DoW 2! DoW 2! DoW 2! November 18, 2011 at 5:56 am

Yeah, my understanding of their religion is that alcohol is prohibited, and any money you get from selling alcohol is, in essence, sinful money.

DoW 2! DoW 2! DoW 2! November 18, 2011 at 6:00 am

There is historical evidence about his life. The rest is faith, yes. E.g. the New Testament was only compiled for the estimated first time of ~20 or so years after the death of Jesus, and as such can’t really provide any true historical evidence of Jesus, his resurrection, etc etc etc.

DoW 2! DoW 2! DoW 2! November 18, 2011 at 6:01 am

You singlehandedly defeated the entire Islamic concept of Jizya. Good job.

hajar November 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I was born and raised in Kansas to American white parents. I converted when I was a teenager. I am Shia and live now in Iran. This show was very dissappointing. Muslim women must cover their body and not to show their body, and if they do not and dont adhere to the teachings of the Holy Quran they cannot be called Muslims. Its a sin to not be covered, its a sin in all that they are showing on this show…. they r not Muslim…. very poor show.

hajar November 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I was born and raised in Kansas to American white parents. I converted when I was a teenager. I am Shia and live now in Iran. This show was very dissappointing. Muslim women must cover their body and not to show their body, and if they do not and dont adhere to the teachings of the Holy Quran they cannot be called Muslims. Its a sin to not be covered, its a sin in all that they are showing on this show…. they r not Muslim…. very poor show.

Samira December 26, 2011 at 4:40 am

Nina Bazzi is not a muslim. She shows her boobs and her body. Its nothing but a free show. None of the girls on this show are “real muslims”. I live in dearborn, michigan. There are many educated people in this city who represent muslims in a great way! where are they? i guess tlc didnt let them make the cut… Maybe their lives where gona be to boring for the show. But seriously, dont sit here and call these idiots “muslims”. They are the kinds of people who put muslims like me to shame! Not one person on the show follows the religion!

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