Tuesday, July 19, 2005

30 Days, as a Muslim in America

Last night as I was getting ready for bed I was doing my routine surfing of TV channels when I came upon a show called 30 Days on the FX channel. I've seen the show's promos advertised before and managed to catch an episode of it. The show's idea is basically to take an individual and put them in an environment completely different than theirs and immerse them in that environment for 30 days, I know the reality TV fad has been done to death and is all but rightfully over, but I really like the idea of this show.

Last night's episode (it was actually a re-run) was to have a 33 year old Christian man live as a Muslim in Dearborn, Michigan known for being the largest Arab/Muslim community in the US. You can read more about the episode by visiting the 30 Days website and clicking on Episode Guide, then choosing Muslims and America. On the website you can read the episode's synopsis, character profiles, and see gallery images along with a short video clip. Now I'll leave things you can check on the website out of this post :) The subject, David, travels from West Virginia, moves in with a young Pakistani couple, grows a beard, and on some days, even dresses in traditional Pakistani attire. For 30 days, David follows Halal (Kosher) eating habits (no pork and no alcohol) and even observes the daily five prayers. He didn't actually pray but had to "roll out his prayer mat and be physically there for the duration of the prayer". He also went to the mosque during the congregate weekly prayer on Fridays. Now these things that David had to do are more than a lot of Muslims, including yours truly, actually do. But it really managed to give a much needed rare insight into the daily lives of Muslims.

Towards the end of the 30 day period, David appeared on a radio call-in show and answered questions about Muslims and their association with terrorism, he also tried to get people to sign a petition to stop legislation that would allow racial profiling. It was during these two events that David, and hopefully the viewers, got an understanding for the position that many Arabs and Muslims living in the states are in. The majority of the Arab/Muslim community are good American citizens, striving to live the American dream of prosperity while serving their country by excelling in their fields, and they certainly do not identify with the terrorist bunch.

As an Arab and a Muslim living in the US I've always felt a responsibility to reflect a true positive image (not a fake one) and to attempt to engage Americans and answer their questions and curiosities, not shy away into a cocoon. I believe this is the responsibility of every Arab and every Muslim living here, especially after 9/11 because dialogue and information are the best cure for guilt-by-association and the villainizing of a whole religion or race based on the acts of a few.

Edit (7/20 2:09PM):I've found more about this episode of 30 Days via blogger Palforce, here.
Palforce also provides a link to an Al Jazeera article about the same topic.

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