Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NEW SHOW: All-American Muslim

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

The first thing that stood out to me was the fact that the most concentrated community of Arabs outside the Middle East is in Dearborn, Michigan. Maybe it's because I've never been anywhere in the Great Lakes region, but I honestly had no idea that there were such condensed areas. I can't really fathom a public high school that's 95% Arab - there were three families where the girls wore hijabs at my middle/high school so we certainly didn't have a large population (though I confess I have no idea who else might have been Muslim and not been so outward about it). While I had a little trouble keeping the families separate, I really enjoyed being introduced to them while having just two stories going on. I imagine it won't always be like that, but it was a nice introduction. 

All-American Muslim "How to Marry a Muslim" (S01E01): Throughout the show, there was a panel of sorts of some of the folks on the show. They mention that, after 9/11, the environment was a bit more hostile. They disagree over whether a Muslim man can marry a non-converting Christian woman, but agree that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man. [No mention of same-sex marriage.] They seem to agree that pre-marital sex is a sin...  There's talk about the hijab is a choice, though some believe that it's required, to cover the ornaments, etc. Some women color and treat their hair, even though it's not really seen. [I actually thought that was really interesting. I never thought about it.] It would depress some parents if their children left the Muslim faith. [I think that's fairly universal.] The Islamic dowry goes to the woman's family - you offer the family something in return for giving up their daughter. [and this still seems to be in place, at least a little bit.]

Aoudes - Nader & Nawal (almost 25) talked on the phone for a long time prior to beginning courtship. Their families are from the same village in Lebanon. He met her dad and got his approval, then he sent a bunch of people (90 [haha]) to formally ask for her hand in marriage. He dared her if he won a basketball game, she'd have to marry him. [I thought this was funny.] They've been married for ten months and she's expecting in a few weeks. [haha on Nader not thinking he'd need a toothbrush at the hospital.] Nawal is happy that Nader will take on some parental responsibility, which doesn't happen in every Arab couple. She appreciates that he's making her life easier, and if he continues to be helpful, they may want six children. Nawal doesn't like belly dancers, because they flaunt like strippers. [...I guess that's true.]

Zabans - Fouad and Zaynab have been married about 12 years, and they have four kids. The girls (Jamilah is one of them) started wearing hijabs at 9. Fouad coaches high school football at the school previously mentioned. We learn that the players do hear rude things when they play outside of Dearborn. [that's a shame. You'd think there would be some sensitivity training at the schools that generally play them annually.] Since you can't drink from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, it's difficult to practice and play, and they have at least one game during Ramadan this year. [wow. things I never think of.]

Bazzy-Aliahmeads - Nina Bazzy is an event planner. She's a first-generation from Lebanon who has a husband and son. She doesn't wear a hijab, and some people don't know how to take that. She wants to open a club in Dearborn, but is being discouraged.

Jaafars - Angela and Mike were high school sweethearts who have been married for 11 years. They have four kids - two boys and two girls. Both parents work. She's a liaison for an auto manufacturer and he is a Deputy Chief for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Amens - Parents Mohsen and Lila have four children - Suehaila, Samira (not really mentioned this episode), Shadia, and Bilal. Suehaila is 32 and unmarried, considered an old maid in a way. Bilal is sometimes mistaken as Hispanic. Shadia has piercings, tattooes, and wears a lot of makeup. She is the rebel of the family and has a ten-year-old son from her first marriage. This episode's title comes from the fact that she's going to marry Jeff, a Catholic man whom she met back when she worked at a bar. They were engaged for around a year, and Shadia wanted to marry a Muslim, for her family's sake, so Jeff knew he'd need to convert. Lila was softened with the news that Jeff would convert. Mohsen tells Jeff not to feel pressured, and Jeff says it isn't a rash decision, though he is nervous. [can ya blame him?] Mohsen took the time to write the conversion prayer/statement phonetically for Jeff. Jeff's parents arrive from Chicago a couple days before the wedding, and Jeff tells them that he's converting the following evening... they knew about it but seemed to believe it was further in the future. [after the wedding? what sense does that make?] Jeff's mom feels like things are crashing in on her.

Conversion is easy - you just say a statement. Jeff repeats after Mohsen and is now Muslim... he was surprised at how easy it was. [hey, so was I! And I took "Introduction to Islam" in undergrad!] The next day, they have the Islamic wedding. Husham Al-Husany, Shiite imam comes to perform the religious ceremony in the parents' home. He accidentally says Suehaila's name, which makes the family laugh. Jeff's mother wore a scarf for the occasion. The next day, they have their big wedding. Suehaila has her head wrap put on by a local businesswoman known for fabulous creations.
It's like a different way of getting your hair done. [wow. that's so neat! I kinda love looking at different head-wrap designs, but I didnt' know hoe fancy it could get!] Shadia wasn't happy that her veil covered the tattoes on her back. [...okay. I don't think Shadia is going to be my favorite character.] Islams don't drink, and the community halls owned by Muslims don't sell alcoholic beverages. They came in and danced in an Arabic style. Then, Jeff's cousin performs an Irish hard-shoe dance. They also had a professional belly dancer, who was mostly covered up. [interesting blend of cultures.] They also have slow dancing for the mother-son/father-daughter dances.
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