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The falling ratings show that by now even the most sympathetic liberal has grown tired of this approach. They may not be able to vocalize if for fear of being branded Islamophobes, but even the most agreeable and open-minded people in the world rarely like condescending lectures or advertising disguised as a television show– and All-American Muslim is chock full of both.
But like all propaganda the interesting moments come when you read between the lines and realize the unspoken assumptions of the people making their pitch. The more the show promotes the Hijab and the Islamic way of dress for women, the more you sense the thoughtless single-mindedness of the series which pretends to question the standard of clothing, but never does, because it can’t. It can temporarily accept liberalized standards, but it cannot part ways with the principle of the Hijab or the rest of the constellation of unspoken assumptions that shape Muslim life even inside a First World country.
Propaganda is revealing its own way because it tells you about the mindset of the people who produce, write and star in it. The more that they tell you how you should see the world; the more they are really telling you how they see the world and how they see you.
The implied premise of All-American Muslim is that Muslim life in America is different from what it would be in their native Lebanon, but it’s not too clear that this is the case. Switch football for soccer (which after all is still called football outside the United States) and it’s quite probable that you could do the same show in Beirut as in Dearborn. You could not do the show in Iran, where the Shiite clerics that you occasionally see on All-American Muslim have taken over and gotten their way.
The more those clerics get their way, the less freedom there is for debates on the Hijab or for that matter on football, considering that allowing women to attend soccer games in Iran is considered a concession. And that is the great unspoken variable in the equation of All-American Muslim. It is only the American context that allows for variation.
Back in Lebanon, religious coexistence has proven to be nearly impossible. Iran represses Sunnis. Bahrain represses Shiites. Iraq is torn between Sunnis and Shiites. If we were to imagine an America that was “All-Muslim” would it be a place where Shiite and Sunnis could even get along with one another, let alone with members of non-Muslim religious groups? A quick glance at the world gives us our answer.
It is a pity that the cast of All-American Muslim is too busy telling us what to think to grapple with such questions that are of great importance to their future and to our own.
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