Nawal and Nader Aoude, some of the stars of the new Muslim television show
According to The Learning Channel, its coming new “All-American Muslim” program is a “powerful series” taking viewers “inside the rarely seen world of American Muslims.” And it uncovers a “unique community struggling to balance faith and nationality.”
Critics, however, say it is nothing more or less than a video version of jihad.
The program launches on Sunday on the TLC Cable Channel.
The producers went to Dearborn, Mich., the U.S. city that has the highest concentration of Muslims in the United States, and a producer who declined to be named told WND the stories focus on people.
“Ultimately, our shows are about telling the stories of the families featured in them. So, to some extent, the history of American Muslims settling in Dearborn may be touched upon, but ultimately, this is about the families’ stories and what’s going on in their lives today, not the past, per se,” the producer said.
The producer said he believes the program is a glimpse into a lifestyle with which most Americans are unfamiliar.
“Like many of our programs, it offers viewers a glimpse into a world they may not otherwise experience, introducing them to real-life families who are going through everyday experiences that really resonate with our audience – from getting married, to having a baby to rooting for your favorite football team,” the producer said.
“We’re excited about that because we think this group of families really will give our audience a taste of what life is like in Dearborn, Mich., for a variety of American Muslims – some quite traditional, and some not.”
But Islam analyst Pamela Geller says that perspective on the show is also its danger.
“Clearly this program is designed to counter the fictional threat of ‘Islamophobia’ by showing Muslims who aren’t terrorist monsters, but ordinary people living ordinary lives, balancing tradition and modern life, dealing with their families, their jobs, and a host of other issues,” Geller said.
“It is an attempt to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to bully them into thinking that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show. The problem is not people; it’s ideology. The show doesn’t address that,” Geller said.
The producer of the program says that for the most part, program makers purposefully avoided getting too deeply into some of the deeper issues surrounding Islam.
“This show is not about politics. Viewers will gain insight into Islam, definitely, but more from the perspective of cultural traditions, how modern American Muslims in Dearborn live, family matters and so on,” the producer said.
“But we think there are interesting insights that will be offered by the show, so we hope people will tune in, just knowing that this is not an academic-type documentary about Islam, it’s really about day-to-day life in Dearborn, as seen through the eyes of the families featured in the show, who are pretty diverse,” the producer said.
He said the program tried to avoid the issue that some Islamic clerics want to bring Islamic law – Shariah – into America.
“As I say, viewers will get an insight into Islam and Muslim traditions as practiced by the families featured in the show who have varying practices when it comes to their faith. The show focuses on how each of these families balances their beliefs and traditions in their day-to-day lives,” the producer said.
Truth in Action Ministries President Jerry Newcombe says the major problem with the program is that it’s not going to show the reality of “pure Islam.”
“It’s a free country. Muslims are free to practice their religion here (thanks to Christianity, ultimately). What is sad, though, is that the truth about the goals of radical Islam are hidden from many Americans through programs like the one on TLC. Islam wants to take over the world. If they have to use force, they’ll do that. But otherwise, they’ll do it by what Robert Spencer calls ‘stealth jihad,'” Newcombe said.
A line from one of the first two episodes illustrates what both Geller and Newcombe are describing, when one of Muslim women says in a panel discussion, “We live our lives just like anyone else.”
That perception is one of the reasons why Jihad Watch publisher and Executive Director Robert Spencer shares the concerns expressed by Geller and Newcombe.
Spencer says the program is attempting to produce a neutral view of Islam.
“The show apparently is trying to show that Muslims go to clubs, like to have fun, etc. But this doesn’t really establish anything,” Spencer said.
“The problem people have with Islam is its teachings of violence against and the subjugation of unbelievers. The problem is not with every Muslim person. It is with the supremacist ideology and the fervent believers in those noxious doctrines of warfare and subjugation,” Spencer also said.
“It is trying to show nominal Muslims as the norm, as if their existence takes away the threat from devout Muslims,” Geller said.
“It is mentioned once but never explained: the man has to convert to Islam because a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man. This is a supremacist measure designed to make the Muslim community always expand at the expense of the non-Muslim one. But there is no hint of that in this show,” Geller said.
Geller is making reference to the major issue in the program’s first episode.
One of the program’s main subjects former Roman Catholic Jeff McDermott. McDermott converts to Islam so that he can marry Shadia Amen, the daughter of one of the five families featured in the program.
While the program honestly portrays one of the Muslim men saying that anyone who marries a Muslim must be a Muslim, the subtle nature of the prevailing attitude can be missed by the average viewer.
In an interview sequence, Jeff sits with Shadia in front of the camera and says, “They (referring to her family) made me feel comfortable.”
Shadia replies, “We (including herself with her family) wanted you to feel comfortable.”
Spencer believes the result might have been different if the couple had chosen the other possible path, which was for her to become a Catholic.
“What if he and his bride to be decide to get married in the Roman Catholic Church, or leave Islam at some later date? In that case he may find her Muslim relatives somewhat less solicitous of their desire to put their happiness above all other things,” Spencer said.
When asked if the program is actually showing a more subtle version of strict Islam by subtly forcing the young Catholic man to convert to Islam to marry the young woman, Spencer said, “Precisely.”
Newcombe also believes the conversion issue for marriage isn’t being dealt with realistically. He points to the ultimate question.
“I’m sure the young man who converted from Catholicism to Islam to marry someone has no clue what he gave up in rejecting Jesus Christ. But it’s a free country, and people can convert different ways. At least, Christians wouldn’t attempt to kill him for leaving our religion – in the way that Muslims attempt to kill their own who leave their religion. In a strict Muslim country, it is a death sentence to leave Islam,” Newcombe said.
Spencer adds that the program also gives subtle clues to the realities of Islam’s beliefs.
“Another way the program is carefully presenting strict Islam is the ‘traditional’ Muslim man says that women should not be opening up clubs. There are lots of small clues here and there,” Spencer said.
Spencer was referring to a scene in episode two in which one of the young women wants to open a night club and her father objects saying, “Muslim women don’t do that.”
Spencer and Geller agree that the focus of the program plays down the major emphases of Islam.
Geller adds that the ultimate danger posed by a program presenting the “normal” side of life for American Muslims is that it isn’t accurate.
“The danger is, it’s misleading. The Muslims portrayed in the show are free to choose their path. That is the beauty of living in a free society. But so many aren’t, not only in Muslim countries, but here in America,” Geller said.
Geller points to two instances that reveal the consequences of Islam growing in any country where it gains the upper hand.
“Who speaks for Jessica Mokdad who lived not far from where this show is taping? Mokdad was honor murdered by her stepfather, Rahim Alfetlawi, for ‘not following Islam’. That happened in the same city that refuses to run my freedom bus ads. The ads were designed to help girls like Jessica. Despite our free speech victories in the Detroit court, Mokdad was honor murdered the week my ads were supposed to run,” Geller said.
“The danger is in the deception and obfuscation of the truth which results in the intellectual disarming of the American people,” Geller also said.
Dearborn often is called “Dearbornistan” by cultural critics because it has the largest concentration of Arab peoples outside of the Middle East.
Dearborn’s population is 30 percent Arab, with most of the people coming from Lebanon. A 2009 Associated Press report says that the large Lebanese population in Dearborn makes the Michigan city, “The heart of Shiism in the United States.”
Dearborn has also grown progressively more compliant with Shariah law. The city recently was the subject of controversy when members of a Christian group wanted to hand out Christian literature at a public park during a Muslim festival and were arrested and charged with creating a public nuisance.
The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center represented the Christians in the case, who eventually were acquitted.