Opinion Brief

All-American Muslim: Could this reality show work?

An upcoming TLC series that follows five Muslim families in Michigan has many critics worried about cultural sensitivity

What's it really like to be Muslim in America? A just-announced TLC reality series, All-American Muslim, will debut in November to try and answer that question. The show will follow five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich., home to the largest mosque in the U.S., and will offer an "intimate look at their customs and celebrations, as well as the misconceptions, conflicts, and differences they face," according to the press release. Can the network behind shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Freaky Eaters really do this topic justice?

It all lies in the execution: "The premise is encouraging," says James Poniewozik at TIME. No cultural group in the U.S. rivals Muslims as the focus of such "intense discussion and sometimes hysteria." Still, such a hot-button reality show could be "done very well or very poorly." The program could easily veer into trashy, Real Housewives territory. The silver lining: "This can't be as bad as Toddlers and Tiaras, can it?""The Real Muslims of Dearborn: TLC announces Islam reality show"

At least it will be good for Michigan's Muslims: Dearborn's Muslim community is "often misportrayed," says Niraj Warikoo at the Detroit Free Press. This series promises to teach Americans how much they have in common with Michigan Muslims, and offer insight into the offenses they face, such as the shocking death of a resident shot outside a mosque. With politicians routinely painting Dearborn as "extremist" because of its high concentration of Muslims, this show could help put faces to the issue, and increase tolerance."TLC filming reality show that focuses on Dearborn's Muslim community"

This is part of a troubling trend: There's an "ethnic reality show phenomenon," says Leslie Berestein Rojas at Southern California Public Radio. Start with K-Town, the Korean version of Jersey Shore. Bravo is developing The Shahs of Sunset, ostensibly a Persian-American version of The Hills. And just as Jersey Shore has "angered Italian Americans," these shows are expected to irk their respective ethnic communities. All-American Muslim could easily fall prey to the same lack of sensitivity."More ethnic reality TV, this time with Muslims"

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