Americans would benefit from a Muslim version of the Huxtables

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Clarence Page

A conservative Christian group has launched a boycott against “All-American Muslim.” The TLC cable TV reality show about Muslim families in America fails to live down to the group’s narrow-minded stereotypes. Their gripe, in my view, makes about as much sense as boycotting “The Cosby Show” back in the day because it didn’t mention black street gangs.

The Christian group’s boycott made national headlines this week when the home-improvement giant Lowe’s pulled its ads from the program. If the North Carolina-based company was hoping to dodge controversy, it failed. The move touched off protests joined by music mogul Russell Simmons and actor Kal Penn, among other celebrities, and a second boycott campaign — against Lowe’s.

The company apologized to everyone who is offended, citing its “strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.” But it stuck by its decision, explaining the show became a “lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives — political, social and otherwise.”

Blame the Tampa-based Florida Family Association, which launched the boycott.

When I clicked on the association’s website, a notice from David Caton, the group’s executive director, said it was shut down because of “extremely mean-spirited” hacker attacks. “In a country that supposedly embraces free speech,” a posted statement said without a hint of irony, “those that oppose our position have no qualms about destroying our free speech.” Right. No more qualms than the association feels about silencing “All-American Muslim.”

Nevertheless, if the association’s protest actually helps to boost the show’s ratings as people tune in to judge for themselves, I think it will have performed a valuable public service.

The show premiered in November on TLC, which previously made news with “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” a reality show that I imagine the Tampa group found more to its liking. “All-American Muslim” follows the daily lives of five Lebanese families in Dearborn, Mich., a suburban Detroit city with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Arabs. In a format mercifully free of self-congratulatory piety or eat-your-broccoli earnestness, its middle-class subjects offer entertaining yet also enlightening evidence that America’s multiethnic, multicultural melting pot still works, despite occasional bumps in the road.

Yet, the Tampa group and its allied fearmongers complain about what the show leaves out: The violence that Muslim fanatics have committed in the name of Islam.

“The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks,” the Florida group asserts in a letter to TLC advertisers, “while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.” Is it not enough for the critics that images of such violence appear on TV news almost every day? Most of the violence occurs overseas and, by the way, kills mostly fellow Muslims. Yet, the Florida Family Association insists that we judge Muslim Americans by their worst actors overseas, not as families who live in much the same way other middle-class Americans do.

I am reminded of the black intellectual critics who complained in the 1980s that “The Cosby Show” was too sentimental and far-removed, with its upper-class professional African-American family, from the lives that most black people lived. Yet, Bill Cosby’s show broke TV audience records during a time when race relations were less relaxed than they are today. Viewers across racial lines quickly connected with its subtle subtext: The American dream is not for whites only.

That’s why I suggested a few months ago that, as Muslims seem to have replaced African-Americans at the bottom of America’s totem pole of ignorance-based stereotypes, all Americans would benefit from a Muslim version of Cosby’s Huxtable family.

Some of my readers scoffed, but Canadian TV has aired five seasons of the popular “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” a comedy about a Muslim family and their interactions with non-Muslims, since January 2007. U.S. networks have produced pilots for similar sitcoms here but the occasionally funny moments in “All-American Muslims” are the closest that a Muslim family comedy has come to broadcast. We Americans are justly proud of our land of opportunity and fair play, but we’re behind Canada this time.

Maybe our networks still think Islamaphobia is still too raw in our minds for Americans to laugh about. Perhaps “All-American Muslims” can help to ease those tensions, even if some of its critics hope that it doesn’t.

Clarence Page is a member of the Tribune’s editorial board and blogs at chicagotribune.com/pagespage

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Qur`an for Cambodian Muslims!

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

100,000 copies of Qur’an for Cambodian Muslims in next 5 years

Phnom Penh, July 31 – The World Qur’an Endowment Program organized by the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) with the cooperation of Restu Foundation will print 100,000 copies of the Qur’an with translation in the Khmer language for distribution to Muslims in Cambodia in the next five years.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the effort was to fulfill the need of the Muslim community in Cambodia and to ensure that each Muslim family would have at least one copy of the Qur’an, ABNA reported.

“There are about 500,000 Muslims in Cambodia and there is only one Qur’an for every six families. So, we hope generous Malaysians can assist Cambodian Muslims through this program so that each family will have at least one Qur’an,” he told Malaysian journalists.

Ahmad Zahid had earlier handed over 10,200 copies of donated Qur’an to the president of the Cambodian Islamic Community Development Foundation Othsman Hassan and Cambodia mufti Kamaruddion Yusof at Chrouk Romeat Mosque in Kampung Chhnang and Amar bin Yazid Mosque at KM9, to be distributed to Muslims.

The minister said the program aimed to print and distribute 20,000 copies of the Qur’an annually over a period of five years and this was expected to commence from the month of Ramadan next year.
“Translation of the Qur’an into the Khmer language has been completed and we are only waiting for sufficient funds to print the copies of Qur’an,” he said.

Earlier, speaking before 1,500 Cambodian Muslims at Chrouk Romeat Mosque, Ahmad Zahid said the 10,200 copies of Qur’an given away today showed the concern of the Malaysian government and people towards Muslims in Cambodia.

Kamaruddin said he was touched and thankful for the gift of the Qur’an, adding that the Cambodian Muslim community depended on outside help for copies of the Holy Book.
“We hope there will be enough Qur’an for us in future,” he added.

At the two presentation ceremonies, Ahmad Zahid also handed over 500 Muqaddam booklets and 1,000 prayer rugs for use by the Cambodian Muslims.

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Opposites in Many Ways, but Seemingly Melded Well

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ashley Parker

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When Bill Clinton officiated at the Gatsbyesque wedding of Representative Anthony D. Weiner and Huma Abedin at Oheka Castle on Long Island last summer, the former president reportedly joked that marrying a politician can be difficult, because it is “easy to distrust them, whatever their religion.”

Less than a year later, Mr. Clinton’s warning has proved to be prescient.

Mr. Weiner’s admission Monday that he had conducted sexually charged online correspondence with six women over the last few years — even after his wedding — shocked those who knew him as a doting and adoring newlywed.

But it seemed all the more striking, given the congressman’s elaborate courtship of Ms. Abedin and her Muslim family, whose blessing he sought when he proposed marriage.

During his press conference Monday, Mr. Weiner seemed most choked up as he apologized to Ms. Abedin, 35, a deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose own marriage has been rocked by her husband’s sexual peccadilloes.

Ms. Abedin did not appear alongside Mr. Weiner, 46, during his news conference; instead, she put in a full day of work for the State Department.

“My wife is a remarkable woman,” Mr. Weiner said. “She’s not responsible for any of this. This was visited upon her. She’s getting back — getting back to work. And I apologize to her very deeply.”

Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin have seemed an unlikely couple from the start. They come from very different backgrounds — he is a Jewish man from Brooklyn, she a Michigan-born Muslim-American raised in Saudi Arabia by an Indian father and a Pakistani mother. And Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin have very different personalities.

He is a fiery, publicity-craving wisecracker with a reputation as a Romeo and a habit of turning up in the tabloids. He can be overbearing and intense and pushes his staff and himself unrelentingly.

She is calm, private and glamorous, with a sense of elegance that has earned her attention from fashion magazines. Her close friend Oscar de La Renta designed her chiffon wedding gown, likening her to Scheherazade, the beautiful queen from “One Thousand and One Nights.”

But they complement each other well, said friends of the couple, who described Mr. Weiner as a sweet, supportive partner. Ms. Abedin, a practicing Muslim who speaks fluent Arabic, does not drink, and Mr. Weiner has given up alcohol in solidarity with her, they said. He sometimes fasts with her during Ramadan, and often meets her at the airport when she returns from long trips, even in the early morning hours.

Friends say that Ms. Abedin had been courted by “a lot of very successful, important people,” but it was Mr. Weiner’s persistence and tenacity, as well as his confidence and sense of humor, that eventually won her over.

“I kept on hearing stories of how adoring he was of her and how much he cared about her, and over time it became clear that this was something he was focused on, and it was for real,” said a friend of Ms. Abedin, who asked to remain anonymous because he was commenting on a personal matter. Ms. Abedin got her start in politics in 1996 as an intern in Ms. Clinton’s White House office, and has been her aide since. She and Mr. Weiner met when Ms. Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, but did not start dating until Ms. Clinton ran for president 2008.

At their wedding, Mr. Weiner’s robust premarital dating life was the subject of considerable roasting, and Mr. Weiner made it clear Monday that Ms. Abedin knew about his rakish past, including his use of social media for sexual communication.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 7, 2011, on page A28 of the New York edition with the headline: Opposites in Many Ways, But Seemingly in Sync.

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Reshmaan Hussam, Soros Fellowship Recipient

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

6A12 This is the fourth installment of our series of profiles of Muslim recipients of Paul and Daisy Fellowships.

Reshmaan Hussam  is the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants to this country.  She was born in Virginia and graduated from MIT as a Burchard Scholar (a member of the Institute’s interdisciplinary honors program) in 2009 with a major in economics. She has undertaken empirical and interview-based research on such subjects as teenage pregnancy, dowries and independence of women in financial decisions, and the effects of patriarchy on the implementation of micro-credit.  She has also taken leadership roles in MIT’s interfaith dialogue group and the MIT Muslim Students Association.  She served as a youth columnist for America’s Muslim Family Magazine and an editor of a Cambridge-wide journal on Islam and society, Ascent Magazine. Beginning in the Fall of 2010, she will pursue a PhD in developmental economics.

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