All-American Muslim: Hardly a Threat
by Larisa Manescu | University of Texas- Austin
America has been likened to both a “melting pot” and a “salad bowl,” the former term emphasizing the complete homogenization of American society and the latter implying inhabitants of different cultures living in the same area but adhering strictly to their unique lifestyles. I don’t think either term does the nation justice. It’s much more complicated than that. Cultural assimilation is a give-and-take process, with a mixture of influences and factors affecting the lifestyles of American residents and citizens. However, it is obvious that all inhabitants share and appreciate the value of independence, whether it is for one’s self or one’s family.
The Florida Family Association (FFA) is an organization whose main mission statement could be interpreted as something else entirely: a vision of America as mashed potatoes, no gravy allowed. It strives to protect the “moral environment” of the United States by educating “people on what they can do to defend, protect, and promote traditional, biblical values.”
Their most recent endeavor has been to challenge support of the new TLC show “All-American Muslim” by sending over 700,000 emails to various companies, including Bank of America, Dell, McDonalds, Sears, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s, successfully convincing these and many other companies to retract their advertisements from the commercial time of a show the FFA believes is spreading dangerous propaganda. This threatening propaganda, the FFA argues, is “clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.”
The legitimacy of these concerns can be easily scrutinized if one glances through the comments left on Lowe’s Facebook page supporting the company’s decision to hold its advertisements, where a majority of the people thanked Lowe’s for standing up for “American values,” emphasized “Merry CHRISTmas,” and articulated the paranoid concern that American Muslim families are trying to enforce Sharia law in the United States.
The FFA assures that they are not condemning Muslims in general but “just want to make sure that only American laws are enforced in America and that Islamic code or Sharia law does NOT change our way of life or diminish our liberty.” This liberty-loving rhetoric is commonplace in the United States, but it epitomizes the true propaganda circulating in our nation. I would not be as concerned if this propaganda was questioned, properly analyzed, and people asked themselves if their liberty was actually being threatened. But, unfortunately, the appealing rhetoric of “defending our liberty” is a placeholder phrase that is regularly used as justification for trampling upon the rights of minority groups, and people accept this justification as heroic and patriotic.
The FFA is unnecessarily and falsely labeling Muslim family integration in the United States as an issue that should cause concern and be carefully observed, sidelining the liberties of the Muslim families themselves in an attempt to preserve the already-safeguarded liberty of “traditional” American families. Why must the nation constantly be warned and kept in terror about the existence of a mythical outside force depicted as trying to infiltrate and corrupt the American society?
The simple fact is that the organization is misrepresenting the intentions of American Muslim families, standard intentions such as raising their families and living their lives in an environment free of intolerant ridicule and accusations that they are trying to change the political nature of America.
It’s disturbing that many Americans are breeding extremist paranoia by rejecting a show that offers a deeper understanding of a misunderstood minority group. It’s even more baffling as to why Americans who adhere to “traditional, biblical values,” a clear majority group in the United States, feel that Muslim families are in any way imposing a conspiracy-ridden cultural and religious revolution upon the nation.
If people were more open to following the show, perhaps the misconceptions surrounding Islam and Muslims could be clarified. For instance, Samira Amen-Fawa explains her personal reasoning behind wearing the hijab: “What makes my decision any different than that of a Catholic nun committing herself to God or an Amish woman modestly dressed, or a Sikh in a turban or a Jew wearing a yarmulke? It is our personal expression of faith and closeness to a higher power.”
Sadly, many people cannot even tolerate the name of the show “All-American Muslim,” believing that the two descriptions are mutually exclusive and offensive when combined. The description “American” should never be restricted to being strictly synonymous with worshipping a certain religion or following a specific lifestyle. At that point, the nation becomes devoid of the liberty and freedom it universally promotes.Larisa Manescu attends the University of Texas: Austin, double majoring in International Relations/Global Studies and Journalism, where she writes as an opinion columnist for The Daily Texan. She believes there is a severe issue with the public being too domestically focused, and uses any chance she can to encourage profound interest in other countries. She also believes there are huge inadequacies in mainstream journalism. Big dreams? Oh yes.