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Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
CBS News anchor Katie Couric suggested at year’s end that a “Muslim version of ‘The Cosby Show'” could help end the “seething hatred many people feel toward all Muslims.”
How the network’s intellectual giant knows “many people” harbor such bitter and comprehensive enmity is unclear. In point of fact, it seems unlikely such broad antagonism exists, given the power of our mass media, which constantly explain that the bad behavior of some Muslims is attributable to schools of Islam that simply got Muhammad wrong.
Of course, there are some Americans who just can’t let go of the idea that Muslims dancing in the streets of the Middle East after Sept. 11 somehow reflected a religious malice, or that home-grown jihadists like the D.C. sniper, John Muhammad or Anwar al-Awlaki, hiding out in Yemen, were infected with the same malice – against all odds, as it were.
But really, most Americans truly wish to believe Islam is a “religion of peace,” and because they haven’t read the Quran, the buy-in is easy.
Nevertheless, Couric’s idea deserves our attention and our assistance in devising a script for the two-hour TV pilot. Let us begin with a cast of characters, paralleling “Cosby” as much as possible, and let us give them the surname “Smith” to demonstrate that this is an American family. So, we start with:
Ahmed – the loveable but slightly goofy patriarch, an advertising man
Aala – Ahmed’s wife, who works as a human resources director
Amira – the teenage daughter
Abdul – the younger, teenage son
A’Ishah – the darling preteen daughter
ACT 1, Scene 1
(Ahmed enters the front door – stage right – into a living room/family room furnished in all-American style:)
Ahmed (calling): I’m ho-o-o-o-ome!
(The rest of the family bustles in from stage left, giving affectionate calls of “Daddy!” “Dear!” and “Pop!”)
Ahmed (to Aala): I’m so hungry, I could eat – whatever you’ve prepared!
(They sit down at a dining table.)
Ahmed (to the children): So, how was school today?
Amira: Here’s my report card!
Ahmed (scanning the card): All “A’s!” I’m so proud of you! Where’s your report card, Abdul?
Abdul: Uh, I think I forget it at school … left it in my locker.
Aala: Now, Abdul, you know schools don’t have lockers anymore (burst from laugh track). Go get your backpack, dig out your report card and show it to your father.
(Abdul complies, handing the card to Ahmed.)
Ahmed: Abdul! This is disgraceful! I won’t stand for anything lower than a “B.” No more video games for you until you get these grades up!
Abdul: Awww! (Burst from laugh track.)
A’Ishah: Daddy, here’s my report card. (She extends it shyly, and Ahmed takes it.)
Ahmed: Wow, baby daughter! This is great, all “G’s” and “E’s,” and what’s this note from your teacher? (He holds the card at arm’s length to read it.)
Aala: Put on your glasses, Dear! (Burst from laugh track.)
Ahmed: Oh, yeah. I keep thinking my arm is getting shorter! (Another laugh track burst as he puts on his spectacles.) Oh! Now I see; it says, “Great report on all your family’s names starting with ‘A.'” What’s that about? (Laugh track giggles.)
A’Ishah: I told the class you said we had the easiest monogram in town. (Big burst from laugh track as Ahmed is momentarily speechless.)
Ahmed (regaining himself): OK, gang, your mom and I have some work to do, so after you do the dishes, it’s off to your homework!
Amira and A’Ishah: OK, Daddy!
Abdul: Awwww! (Heavy laugh track, fade scene one, go to commercial.)
I know I haven’t put in any religious content, but I can’t figure out how far to push it in a Cosby-style program. Are the Smiths cultural but non-observant Muslims? Are they moderate practitioners? Strict practitioners? Certainly not fundamentalists or radicals.
“The Cosby Show” always had some kind of conflict over values. Are the Smith kids going to rebel over praying five times a day? Is Ahmed going to insist that Amira wear the hijab to school? Is Aala going to complain that Ahmed’s decision to grow a beard of orthodox length will retard his career? Will the rebellious Abdul flirt with jihadism and have to be counseled on peaceful ways?
Will there be conversations about conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims – and between Muslim subdivisions – around the world? Is the family going to discuss the Quran, and if so, will the script omit references to infidels and their bleak fate?
Perhaps Ms. Couric, having come up with such a bright idea, can tell us how to take a problematic religion and play it for laughs.