TLC series shows what it's like to practice Islam in America

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Spirit of Austin

Suehaila Amen is one of the stars of the TLC reality series "All-American Muslim." (Photo courtesy of TLC.)

TLC’s “All-American Muslim” does its darndest to make Muslims seem normal.

The network follows five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich. The city is home to the largest mosque in North America and is characterized by a large concentration of Arab Americans.

The Muslims featured on the show represent diverse views and live out their faith in varied ways.

Shadia Amen doesn’t wear a hijab, the traditional Muslim head covering, though her mother and older sister do.

Nina Bazzy-Aliahmad wants to open a nightclub, but her male, conservative business partner says she wouldn’t be up to the job because she is a woman. Nawal Aoudes wears the hijab and seems to look down on women who don’t uphold the symbol of modesty.

The show engages viewers with diverse stories and the eight-part series is the first of its kind. On a network known for controversial shows such as “Little People, Big World” and “Sister Wives,” the show comes off almost subdued.

The story line is a bit slow-moving and repetitive, but it does touch on topics ranging from marriage and family to high school football. The town of Dearborn looks like it could be one of the Dallas or Houston suburbs that many UT students grew up in.

History and religious studies senior Hannah Abbasi said after seeing the trailer for the show, she worries that it may reinforce some stereotypes about Muslims. For example, all the Muslim families featured on the show are Arab, so the show doesn’t represent South and East Asian, African or white Muslims.

“A lot of Muslims don’t like it, but I hope the show makes people think and learn something,” Abbasi said.

The first episode got some things right and other things wrong, said 2011 UT alumni Wasiq Sheikh.

“A lot of non-Muslims are watching the show to learn about Islam, and a lot of Muslims have said the show is horrible because it doesn’t show Islam how it’s supposed to be, but really, it’s a show about people who practice Islam in America,” Sheikh said.

He said he plans to keep watching it and hopes non-Muslims and Muslims alike will too.

“I do think they’ve done some things wrong, but it shows that we’re just like everyone else,” Sheikh said. “Some of us wear scarves, some wear mini skirts. Islam is no different from any other society.”

“All-American Muslim” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on TLC.

Printed on Monday, November 21, 2011 as: TLC series profiles families practicing Islam in America