Your moral superiors know you need it, and so you shall have it: the celebrated cannibal Reza Aslan, says LA Weekly, is “an E.P. on a new Chuck Lorre CBS comedy called The United States of Al, which aims to ‘de-exotify’ a Muslim character for a mainstream audience.” Meanwhile, in Australia (for now): Australia’s ABC iView has unveiled what it proudly calls the “World’s First Hijabi Comedy Series,” Halal Gurls.
Aslan has wanted to do this for a long time. “I’m waiting for a Muslim ‘All in the Family,’” he said in 2016. “Muslims are never going to feel like a part of the American family until people start to make fun of them on TV. That’s how minds have always been changed in this country.” Really? After all, we all know how much Muslims love being made fun of. And can Reza Aslan give us a single other example of a group that started “to feel like a part of the American family” when people started “to make fun of them on TV”?
This is just another spurious claim of Muslim victimhood from someone who has made a tidy living in the Muslims-Are-Victims industry, Reza Aslan. And it is more muddled thinking from a spectacularly muddled thinker. Which marginalized group began to “feel like a part of the American family” because they were made fun of “All in the Family”? Right-wing racist bigots? Polish hippies who were dubbed “Meathead” by their fathers-in-law?
Aslan here probably meant not “All in the Family,” but something like “The Cosby Show,” which has been invoked before in the same way: Katie Couric said a few years ago that we needed a Muslim “Cosby Show,” i.e., a TV show that shows Muslims as just ordinary folks, and this will supposedly melt away the alleged prejudice that Americans have toward them.
The fallacy of that reasoning lies in the fact that when “The Cosby Show” aired, there were no international black terror groups mounting terror attacks in the U.S. and around the world, and boasting of their imminent conquest of the U.S. The suspicion that Americans have of Islam comes from jihad terror and Islamic supremacism, not from racism and bigotry, and Americans know this distinction, despite the best efforts of people like Reza Aslan to obscure it and make people feel guilty for opposing jihad terror. Some slick TV show depicting funny, warm, attractive, cuddly Muslims would not end jihad terror, or blunt concern about it — it would only serve to further the idea that resisting jihad violence was somehow “bigoted.”
Meanwhile, this effort is already underway in Australia. According to ABC iView, Halal Gurls, which was “Created and Directed by Award-winning Australian filmmaker Vonne Patiag,” intends to celebrate “Muslim women and the cultural diversity in Western Sydney. The show follows workaholic hijabi Mouna, played by Aanisa Vylet, as she navigates a cross-cultural balancing act between her structured career-driven life and the chaotic mess of her personal life.”
Aanisa Vylet explains how much we need this: “How often do we get to see a show about Muslim women where their religion, sexuality, and form of expression are not brought into question? The intelligence, inclusivity, lightness, and the very apparent respect towards the culture and community is what drew me towards the team and the webseries that is HALAL GURLS.”
Patiag agrees, this is just what our Islamophobia-laden world needs now: “It’s definitely time for a groundbreaking series like this to exist. Some of my closest friends are Muslim, and I’ve grown up and worked with Hijabis in the past – they have always been some of the most funniest and fiercest women out there, full of resilience and sass, but unfortunately society likes to paint them a different way. HALAL GURLS is an opportunity to reclaim the representation of modern Muslim women in a humanised and nuanced light, and to spark discussion about diversity on-screen and behind the camera.”
Pushing all the right contemporary buttons, not only does Halal Gurls celebrate diversity; it’s also inclusive. ABC iView assures us that Halal Gurls “was created via inclusive practice,” and really, how could it not have been? One of its producers, Petra Lovrencic, explained: “We wanted to show Muslim women in their best and most authentic light, and we couldn’t have done that without engaging with and listening to the community.” Of course. “We’ve collaborated with the community every step of the way, from writing through to the amazing soundtrack we produced. It all comes out of Western Sydney talent.”
One of the show’s scriptwriters, Sara Mansour, finds the whole thing exciting. “I love that the show is exactly about my lived experience as a veiled Muslim woman living in Sydney. The show draws on shared values and experiences and examines them through the lens of Muslim women in Australia – a group that have been subjected to a lot of scrutiny.”
I am not a veiled Muslim woman living in Sydney, Australia, and I’ve never written a sitcom script, but I’m just as excited as Sara Mansour. I feel a change of career coming on. I could write ten scripts for Halal Gurls right now, and pronto. I could finish them by this afternoon. In show number one, a plucky, attractive hijabi struggles — humorously and good-naturedly — to make her way in a world filled with clueless “Islamophobes,” well-meaning dunces who are ignorant of Islam. A subplot which becomes the main plot of show number two depicts her loving but comically conservative Muslim family pressuring her – humorously and good-naturedly — to get married and live a traditional Muslim life. In the give-and-take about that, there is not, of course, the faintest whiff of a threat if our hijabi doesn’t get married and settle down right away.
In show number three, we see firsthand how our plucky, attractive, humorous and good-natured hijabi heroine is constantly the recipient of rude and/or stupid remarks, to which she responds – humorously and good-naturedly — with sharp wisecracks that put the haters and/or idiots in their place. In show number four, and recurring now and then thereafter, a wise, kindly, avuncular imam offers our heroine sage advice – humorously and good-naturedly.
I could crank some out for The United States of Al as well. You know: Muslim struggles humorously and good-naturedly against casual Islamophobia at work. And ten variations on that.
Will these shows make Americans and Australians forget about jihad terrorism? Sure, at least until the next jihad massacre.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.
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