All-American Muslim: Religion of Protest

Some religions really are better than others.

When Obama listed his favorite shows, All-American Muslim didn't make the cut. On Sunday at 10 o'clock the television set at the White House isn't tuned to TLC, it's tuned to Showtime for Homeland. Obama isn't alone. Homeland has been picking up viewers, while All-American Muslim has been losing them.

Obama's attitude shows the paradoxical attitude of liberals to All-American Muslim. They want to see a show like it exist, but they just don't want to watch it. For week after week, Front Page Magazine has been the only site covering All-American Muslim. The media outlets that kicked into hysterical witch hunt mode last week after Lowe's pulled its ads from the failing, viewer-deprived series never actually bothered to tune in to the show.

The liberal attitude toward All-American Muslim reveals something darker about their exploitation of Muslims. They are only truly interested in them when they can use them as a cudgel or as a badge of tolerance. After a single episode of All-American Muslim their tolerance was affirmed and they were free to go back to watching Homeland, a show that tries to marry the political incorrectness of Islamic terrorism and a politically correct insistence on exploring its ambiguities. It was only when Lowe's was targeted for pulling its ads that they suddenly became interested in the show again; not the actual show, but the idea of the show as a "tolerance test."

At the Washington Post an editorial suggests that "All-American Muslim fans" should invade Lowe's with signs protesting against the home shopping giant. But how many of those fans are there? The series has fallen out of the Top 100 cable shows for two weeks running. It was the lowest-rated series even before that. But the editorial highlights the problem. Liberals are only interested in Muslims as a means of fighting a culture war against the bogeymen of American "intolerance." All-American Muslim isn't interesting to them except as a vehicle for another protest movement.

The left needs an "Other" to justify its war against American traditions and values. Muslims conveniently provide that "Other," a role that they began to fill after September 11. Even as the left denounces the right for "Otherizing" Muslims and associating them with terrorism, it is the left that is truly guilty of it. If the attacks of September 11 had never taken place and the War on Terror had not followed, then the left would have as much interest in Muslims as they do in Hindus or Baha’i or any number of other world religions.

All-American Muslim has included the usual complaints about prejudice and discrimination, but not nearly enough of it to interest the left, which doesn't want to hear a lot talk about the virtues of the hijab; they want to see men driving pickup trucks with confederate flags on them shouting at women wearing hijabs. They don't really want to see a show about Muslims, any kind of Muslims, they want to see a show about how awful Americans are.

That is why All-American Muslim truly failed. But its failure is reviving its purpose. The Jihad against Lowe's reminds liberals of why they were interested in the show, not for its content, but as a cause for another round of the culture war. Probably the only honest corporate response to All-American Muslim came from KAYAK's CEO who explained why his company was pulling its ads from the series by saying, "I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show sucked." And it does.

Astoundingly few media outlets can admit something so simple as that. They would rather ignore the show except when it's a convenient way of picking a fight. But admitting that All-American Muslim isn't very good requires being critical of something involving Muslims, even if it is something as a minor as a television show. And that is something they simply cannot and will not do.

Sunday's episode, "A Chance at Redemption," continues cribbing from “Fordson: Faith, Fasting and Football,” the documentary on the Fordson High School football team. It's material that the show returns to often because it's the only part of the narrative that goes anywhere. And yet at a time when Tim Tebow is being widely ridiculed for his religion, it's surreal to watch a celebration of Islamic religion interlaced with football. If it's somehow wrong for Tim Tebow to combine religion and football, why celebrate the Islamic version of Tebowing at Fordson High?

The entire existence of All-American Muslim is a testament to the fact that some religions can be promoted more than others. A show following around Christian football players that was as enthusiastic about its subjects as All-American Muslim is about its team is all but inconceivable on TLC or anywhere else. But All-American Muslim's football players face no such obstacles. It is enough to make you wonder who the real victims of discrimination are when Christians get "Jesus Camp" while Muslims get "All-American Muslim."

All-American Muslim is a conscious case study in the politicization of religion, but to what end? The underlying premise of All-American Muslim has always been that Muslims are the victims of ignorance and discrimination. But the dangerous question is: are they really the victims and, if so, whose victims are they?

The Muslims of All-American Muslims are certainly not the members of an underclass. They are successful members of their community who nonetheless make their token complaints about being discriminated against. They are the stars of a television series that failed on its merits but is being deluged with advertising dollars from advertisers who want to show off their tolerance. They are privileged. But that privilege is also a double-edged sword.

The left doesn't need All-American Muslims, it needs marginalized Muslims, it needs suicide bombers and protesters. It needs people who are being oppressed and whose physical violence can justify their political activism. In return for privilege, Muslims act out the role of the oppressed, but the act is unconvincing. As All-American Muslim passes its sixth episode, its continuing existence despite its poor ratings and the firestorm of controversy aimed at advertisers who dared to pull out of the series is a testament to the privileged status of the All-American Muslim.

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