TLC's 'All-American Muslim' Cast Faces the Critics
"People fear what they don't know ... I'm not from Mars," says Muslim-American cast member Mike Jaafar.
The cast of TLC's All-American Muslim addressed the TV press Friday with a singular message: We're just like you.
The series, set to premiere in November, is designed to bring viewers inside a Dearborn, Mich. community which is home to the largest mosque in the United States. The cameras will chronicle the everyday lives of five diverse Muslim-American families, focusing on their customs, celebrations, conflicts and misconceptions.
The decision -- strategy, even -- of the Discovery-owned cable channel to once again deep dive into an unfamiliar and potentially controversial subculture as it did with polygamy-focused Sister Wives has proved a winning one, with TLC becoming the No. 2 cable net among its core women 18 to 49 demo last month.
"People have been waiting 10-plus years to show the world that we're just like you," says Muslim cast member Shadia Amen-McDermott. Adds Suehaila Amen of the community's response to the cameras invited in to document the faith and its people, "They love the fact that they're given the opportunity ... They feel like they're misrepresented."
If this group has any real trepidation about the reactions inside or outside of the Muslim culture, it isn't letting on. It's a stance similar to the one taken by the Wives cast, who appeared before the Television Critics Association audience a year earlier.
"We knew there were risks but we feel that the story, for the sake of our entire family, is an important one to tell," Janelle, one of Kody Brown's three wives, told the press at the time. Like her fellow cast members, she was excited about the opportunity to inform viewers about the untraditional lifestyle on what became a top-performing show.
Like that one, the Muslim cast is insistent that this show wouldn't be political in any way, reiterating instead the importance of having a series that can showcase a culture that many know little about and often judge. "People fear what they don't know," says the series' Mike Jaafar. "This show is based on everyday Americans, which we are. I'm not from Mars."
Adds Amen, "This isn't about politics. It's about the joys of celebrations, weddings, the birth of a child, momentous moments in life that people can relate to."
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