TLC, the “Yay religion!” channel, has a new show called All-American Muslim. Guess what it’s about! Guess what its take is!
Well in one way its take is fine. Good, show people that Mulims aren’t some weird alien species; excellent; promote fellow-feeling and peace; great. But…
Well I’ve only managed to watch a few minutes of it, a couple of times, because it’s so annoying. It may be more annoying than it needed to be – it may have gone out of its way to be annoying, by seeking out hyper-observant Muslims. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s normal in Dearborn.
Anyway my point isn’t actually about TLC or the show overall, it’s about the bits that I did see – both of which, as it happens, featured women going on and on and on and on about will they put on the hijab or not, along with women already in the fucking hijab and men saying well you really ought to put on the hijab. Both featured a lot of hijab. There was also a little about fasting during Ramadan, for variety.
What was so irritating about it was the settled assumption that there are rules, there’s a right way to do Islam, and that’s that. This was a theme that kept recurring even in the tiny fractions of the shows that I saw: that a good Muslim follows the rules and does it the right way. There were discussion scenes with people sitting around on couches discussing “hijab: yes or no” and “fasting: yes or no” and always there was this assumption: there are rules, and you can obey them or not obey them, but they are the rules.
Some of the time someone was being all “liberal” and saying “it’s none of my business” – but it was still always The Rules. What’s the point of being a Muslim if you’re not going to do it right? Why convert to Islam (which someone was doing, or thinking about doing) if you’re not going to do it right? One woman said she didn’t fast during Ramadan because it was difficult with her job and then taking care of her children. (Of course it is! Going without water and food all day for a month is unhealthy.) A man replied that whether she fasted or not was her business, not his. How noble, but of course the implication was there that she was not following the rules.
There was another depressing bit where a woman decided to start wearing the hijab, and she was all smiley and kind of trembly, as if she were announcing a pregnancy, and she told her husband and he was all happy…And she said they should take all the photos off the living room wall, because of course it would be silly to wear a hijab but let people see her without one in photos all over the wall…so they took them all down (and there were a lot).
It’s all so depressing – handing themselves over to these stupid, bad, anti-woman, anti-human, antiquated rules for no good reason except that it’s “religious.” They don’t question whether or not they are rules, and if so why it matters; the most they can manage (that I’ve seen) is to say things along the lines of “well if you want to be a bad Muslim that’s your business.”