Muslim reality show proves they're 'not from Mars'

Published: Friday, Oct. 28 2011 9:51 a.m. MDT

A new reality television show may offer some viewers their first glimpses into the lives of Muslim Americans, showing that they face the same challenges and experience the same joys as any other American."

People fear what they don't know," Mike Jaafar, one of the fathers profiled in "All American Muslim" said in a press conference. "This show is based on everyday Americans, which we are. I'm not from Mars."

The eight-part series will begin Nov. 13 on TLC, and follow the lives of five Muslim families from Detroit — including a newlywed couple, a working family with children, and two sisters, one who wears the traditional head scarf and the other who's married to a Irish Catholic and sports tattoos.

The population of Muslims in the United States is projected to double over the next two decades, according to the Pew Research Center, going from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030. The increase will be due to immigration and higher-than-average fertility among Muslims.

Some individuals in the show adhere more strictly to their faith than others, though most all are trying to find the balance between their traditional roots and American culture.

In fact, 56 percent of Muslims who come to the United States say they want to adopt American customs and ways of life — while only 33 percent of the general public believes that's what Muslims want, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.

This won't be the first time a religious group has been profiled in a reality show.

TLC also produced the show "Sister Wives," which chronicles the lives of Kody Brown and his four wives, who all belong to the Apostolic United Brethren, a fundamentalist church that practices polygamy as part of its faith.

The show, which first aired in 2010, also prompted an investigation into the relationships, as they appeared to be in violation of Utah's bigamy laws. The Browns have since moved to Nevada.

Several years ago, a five-part miniseries on A&E, "God or the Girl," followed the lives of four men who were torn between the choice to become a Catholic priest with its required vow of celibacy or develop a deeper relationship with each of the women in their lives.

The documentary, with a slightly reality TV show feel, got more flack for its name than the actual content.

"The title of the show is less than appealing to any faithful Catholic," said 21-year-old Dan DeMatte, one of the young men profiled. "It's not a decision between God or the girl. It's a decision between serving God through celibacy or serving God through married life. God is No. 1 no matter what. The title is simply to catch eyes."

email: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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