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Call it Katie Couric’s “Sarah Palin Moment.”
As pretty much everyone knows by now, during a wrap-up of the events of 2010, CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric expressed concern about what she felt was “seething hatred” she claims faces Muslims in America.“ Her solution? “Maybe we need a Muslim version of ’The Cosby Show,’” Couric suggested. “I know that sounds crazy. But ‘The Cosby Show’ did so much to change attitudes about African Americans in this country, and I think sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t understand.” That will change, proposed Couric, “if they [Muslims] became part of the popular culture.”
Popular culture? Like Kareem Abdul-Jabaar? Like Mohammed Ali? Like Ahmad Rashad? Memet Oz, perhaps, named among both Esquire’s and Time’s “Most Influential” lists? How about Ice Cube, perhaps, or Mike Tyson, or Jermaine Jackson, or Snoop Dogg – all Muslims?
I also wonder what, exactly, “The Cosby Show” did to “change attitudes” in America. Were blacks not part of the popular culture before the “Cosby Show”? Was “The Jeffersons” meaningless? Were Diana Ross and the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder white? For that matter – wasn’t Bill Cosby part of the popular culture long before the show that bore his name?
The irony, of course, is that the so-called “Muslim hate” in America is itself a fiction. FBI reports show that while there are twice as many Jews as Muslims in the US, nearly ten times as many Jews as Muslims were the targets of hate crimes in 2009. Ten times. Where is Ms. Couric on this? Why isn’t she suggesting a Jewish Cosby show?
Moreover, the idea that the Cosby Show itself made a real difference is questionable, at best. While New Yorkers have embraced blacks, America has not – and as a journalist, she should know that. Or has she forgotten the thousands of people who revolted against the idea of a black president? Has she forgotten the cries of those who outwardly stated they “will never vote for a black man”?
But okay. Let’s say that there’s a relationship here: create a fictional sit-com about a fictitious Muslim family living in America, and presumably it will change the way people think about Muslims – even as, in reality, Muslims like the American Faisal Shahzad attempt to bomb Times Square; or like the Pakistani-American Farooque Ahmed, plan mass bombings of Washington Metrorail stations; or like Nidal Malik Hasan, massacre their colleagues and friends in a mass jihadist shootout.
But okay: let’s just say that fiction can override these facts. How do you put such a show together?
It’s one thing, of course, when you’re dealing with race. Blacks have continually attacked Cosby – and his eponymous TV show – contending that he is really a white man in a black man’s skin. But suppose you create a show about a Muslim American family in which the 15-year-old daughter dates a non-Muslim boy, and the family has no complaints. There are indeed many such Muslim families in the USA. But how would Muslim extremists – in America and abroad – approach that? Answer: they would say “these aren’t Muslims.” (And then threaten to kill the show’s producers. Remember “South Park”?)
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