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When former MSNBC anchor David Shuster complains that a public figure who wraps himself in religion perverts and cheapens that religion, does that only apply to Christian football players or does it apply to Muslim football players as well?
Are we a nation of Islamophobes or Islamophiles? The relative treatment of Coach Zaban and his Muslim players who are celebrated for combining football and religion, and Tim Tebow who is mocked for doing the same thing, indicates that we reward Muslims for the same behavior for which we punish Christians.
But “Crunch Time,” the last and final episode of “All-American Muslim,” is about more than another round of Muslim football. It also tries to wrap up some of the tedious family drama of the Amen clan. In a startling moment of pure patriarchy, when Suehaila Amen proposes moving to Washington DC, her father makes it clear that unmarried women cannot move out of the home of their parents. It’s one of the few authentic moments in a series that has specialized in being inauthentic.
Much less authentic is an exchange between another of the Amens and an Israeli tattoo artist who regrets that they had to leave their countries to be friends. That statement isn’t particularly true. There are Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs who are friends. And many Muslims in America maintain the same resentments and hatreds as they do back in Egypt, Pakistan or Lebanon. The issue is not one of geography, but of attitude. The links between the clerics who have been featured on the show and the hatemongers they have supported are ample testimony of that.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has denied the Holocaust while calling for a new one. “If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” All-American Muslim has featured Imam Husham Al-Husayni who is a fan of Hezbollah and has signed the Jerusalem Document endorsing a Hezbollah Jihad against the Jewish state. And Suehaila Amen serves as president of the Lebanese American Heritage Club whose founder has spoken openly in defense of Hezbollah.
For all the football, tattoos and nightclubs, All-American Muslim shows a glimpse of a world that still operates on the old assumptions of hijabs, female inferiority and a wink and a nod to Jihad. Where Islam is king and America is useful only as a provider of material comforts and economic opportunities. And that is at the heart of the problem. There is more to being American than owning small businesses, holding down jobs and playing football.
All-American Muslim failed to explore the contradictions between Islamic values and American values. It also failed to convince Americans to watch a tepid drama which couldn’t decide if it wanted to convince them of the beauty of Islam or to sell them a third rate version of the Jersey Shore. The show’s supporters have managed to gain a good deal of publicity with their smear campaign of Lowe’s, but the ratings show that they still have not convinced anyone to actually watch the series.
The show’s stars insist that there is no word from TLC on whether the series will get a second season. The numbers certainly lean against it. All-American Muslim is a hole in TLC’s schedule and no matter how many companies are willing to buy ad time to show their Islamophilia, the ad rates for a poorly rated series are not likely to be worth the time. Which leaves the series what it was all along: an unserious affirmative action program.
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