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All-American Muslim is unwilling to look at the harder questions; instead it serves up a one-sided narrative which ignores the complex realities. Though Zaban and Fordson have been a presence in episode after episode, the show has never dealt with the allegations that Fordson High School’s Muslim utopia was created when its Muslim principal forced out Christian staff members.
Gerald Marszalek, a top wrestling coach, received a settlement after being forced out of Fordson. A lawsuit filed by two teachers charged that Fordson Principal Imad Fadlallah had “systematically weeded out Christian teachers, coaches and employees.” Information such as this casts a whole different light on the “All-American” nature of Zaban’s high school team and asks how it was achieved and who had to pay the price.
In a tie-in with Homeland, one former member of the football team and brother of a current team member, was accused of buying cell phones in bulk for resale the Middle East where they are used to remotely detonate car bombs.
The rest of the episode does its best to milk the conversion of Jeff for drama, but inevitably falls into the show’s usual pattern of using the time it’s given to preach about Islam in the guise of discussing a topic. Whether it’s the hijab or the nature of Islam, this approach is tediously dishonest, but also ends up being its own punishment as the catastrophic ratings drop testifies. People may not have been tuning in for a behind the scenes look at suicide bombers, but they expected more than a tepid version of the Jersey Shore interspersed with lectures on wearing the hijab.
“A Muslim Goes to Washington” plays a trip to Washington and a birth for drama but it can’t deliver. Its goal is to get us to identify with the families on the show, but its approach is self-defeating. Like so many media productions that deal with Islam, All-American Muslim has nothing meaningful to say about the subject and gives audiences no reason to continue watching.
The innate drama of Islam is not another story of immigrants facing intolerance, as All-American Muslim would like us to believe. It is the violence and intolerance that is spread in its wake, and because it fails to address the concerns of Americans, the show fails to make an impact. Homeland does address those concerns. Its politics are often wrong, but it isn’t willing to completely close its eyes either.
Homeland asks what the consequences of bringing Islam to this country are; All-American Muslim blandly assures us that they are all good. But the question is who pays the price. Whether it is the Americans caught up in a terrorist attack or the Christian teachers and coaches purged from Fordson High School, this is the great unanswered question that hangs in the air during every commercial break. And when the show is done and the handful of remaining viewers move on with the rest of their night, that question is still there.
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