Image credit: *USB* (Flickr)

The controversy over a reality show about American Muslims shows that we still believe in the power of TV to influence society.

Image credit: *USB* (Flickr)

The following is a guest post from Dr. Hussein Rashid, a member of the Our Shared Future Advisory Board.

In a recent blog entry, I wrote about the power of popular culture in changing common discourse. A recent controversy around the US-based reality series, All-American Muslim, seems to strengthen my basic premise and show that culture can be threatening.

The show follows families in Dearborn, Michigan – the largest center of Arab Muslims in America – and lets the viewer see what life is like for a Muslim family. We meet a football coach, a woman who marries a Catholic man (who converts to Islam), a sheriff, a woman who wants to open a night club and a couple having fertility problems, amongst many other characters. It truly is an all-American cast of characters, suffering through all-American trials and tribulations.

However, the Florida Family Association (FFA) wrote to several companies asking that they remove ad revenue from the show. The rationale was that the series was duplicitous because the Muslims shown on the program were not as hateful:

a. as the FFA imagines Muslims to be
b. as the FFA portrays Muslims to be for fundraising purposes
c. as the FFA itself
d. all of the above.

What the show really is is a threat to the FFA. Here is a popular show that anyone can watch at any time, and it shows that Americans are Americans, regardless of their faith. It’s not very scary. The other option that makes the FFA’s case is to believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of people involved in the production of the show for TLC are complicit in a cover-up that millions of Americans who recognize their stories in the episodes are going along with.

The truth is that the show highlights the reality of living in America. If you take the lowest suggested number of Muslims living in the US as 2 million, that’s less than 1% of the US population. You are more likely to get mugged than to meet a Muslim, let alone get taken over by “shari’ah.” Or, if you go for the alternative statistic of 6 million Muslims in America, about 2% of the US population, you probably already know a Muslim, and you haven’t been forced into a polygamous marriage yet.

Guest posts on our blog are written by individuals with whom we collaborate externally. We publish them to stimulate discussion and debate by exploring ideas. The opinions expressed in them do not necessarily reflect the official position or views of the British Council.