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What really led to the demise of TLC's 'All-American Muslim?'

TIME magazine's James Poniewozik ponders this in a thoughtful piece about the groundbreaking and controversial TLC reality show, whose debut we live-blogged on Multi-American several months ago. "All-American Muslim," which followed several American Muslims and their families in Dearborn, Michigan, became the subject of an advertising brouhaha after a Florida Christian-right activist began pressuring companies to pull their advertising. Lowe's Home Improvement in fact did so, along with another company, and took considerable heat for it.

TLC has cited low ratings as the cause of death. It's hard to know what other factors may have contributed to the show's demise, but it's a loss, Poniewozik writes:

Regardless, it"s too bad. For one thing, whether or not the protests knocked the show off the air, the show"s protesters will certainly take it as vindication. And before anyone starts arguing about people"s "right" to protest and boycott a show, that"s not the issue. Anyone has the right to boycott a show they don"t like, or to boycott the boycotters in return. But also, anyone has a right to criticize the reasons for a particular boycott"for instance, boycotting a show because it positively portrays actual decent people, without tarring them by association with murderers who share their religion. To say that there is one religious group in America that it is actually dangerous to represent with law-abiding citizens, lest people make the mistake of liking them, is absurd. (It was not, however, the only reason the show was criticized"some conservative Muslims didn"t like the show because of the nontraditional, assimilated lifestyles of some characters.)

More important, All-American Muslim was a good program, not just for depicting a rarely-seen segment of Muslim Americans (ordinary Midwesterners working jobs, getting married and playing football in the Detroit area) but because it was a rare slice-of-life reality show, produced without a lot of melodrama or characters cast for outrageousness. Which, frankly, is probably a big part of the reason the show"s ratings didn"t hold up.

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