‘I’m a Muslim…get me out of here’ (or why I despair at ‘Make me a Muslim’ and other Muslim reality tv)


What’s worse…the demonisation of Muslims through the media or Muslims demonising themselves through the media?

I’ve just watched Channel 4’s latest offering, ‘Make me a Muslim’ and cannot believe that there are people that think that this will be of some benefit. Let’s stop crowing on about the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, forget about the attacks led by Panorama and Dispatches, this is far worse. This is because programmes such as these and the equally disastrous Muslim ‘Wife Swap’ are justified by those involved as:

i. they want to challenge the misconceptions that exist about Islam and/or Muslims;

ii. they see it as an opportunity for dawah

Are these people stupid? All these programmes do in reality is to reinforce the very things that they set out to (allegedly) challenge and in no stretch of the imagination can they ever begin to change people’s perceptions of Islam/Muslims let alone soften their hearts to the religion of Islam.

Want evidence of this? where do you want me to start?

Well first off, Ajmal Masroor began by stating:

“some of the participants think that Islam is all about taking things away…this is not true”

So what then did ajmal and his ‘mentors’ then do? They went to each of the contestant’s – they’re not called ‘contestants’ but let’s face it, that’s what they are – houses and stripped out all that was ‘forbidden’. And so here goes in no particular order:

No Daily Sport (“something much more troubling…” than alcohol…a contraband !!!)
No glamour modelling (“that is something that you cannot do” – said after one of the mentors asked disgustedly, “is that what you do?)
No Nuts magazine
No nudity (“don’t open the door on that kind of thing…”)
No “physical contact” is allowed (despite Mohammed the mentor touching two different women and going out onto the street to randomly look for a “beautiful woman” who can help the gay hairdresser participant with “cleaning and supporting” him as a wife)
No masturbation
“No sex, no touching…”
No skimpy outfits (“you cannot wear this out…it’s not covering the areas”)
No alcohol (especially £200 per week on vodka)
No men’s magazines
No hardcore pornography
No make-up for men
No homosexuality
No “ladies clothes” for men (especially fairy dresses for 7-8 year olds from Asda and red frilly thongs)
No bacon
No salami
No “pig meat” (it’s unclean)
No toad in the hole (“we don’t dig on swine”)
No pink clothes for men
No friends with women

Now I’m not advocating any of these but if you’re stating that you want to challenge the view that Islam is not about “taking things away”, going around and ‘taking things away’ is something of a contradictory start point.

But it wasn’t just this, there were also some real gems of wisdom: gems that no doubt went a long way to really changing the ‘misconceptions’ of Islam and Muslims held by the wider British public. And so we had:

On rape – “the woman is inviting it by wearing something that is [like that - a red 'tankini' I believe they're called]“

On homosexuality – “if you keep in the company of females you will want to behave like them all the time” (do women really do this sort of thing when they’re alone?)

Again on homosexuality – “when the Almighty created Adam and Eve, he didn’t create Adam and Steve” (one of Alan Partridge’s finest lines)

On how to ‘cure’ homosexuality – “you change the desire that you have now to another desire as well” (so does that mean that you can be bisexual given the ‘as well’?)

On modesty – “you should not be wearing very tight fitting clothes” and “skirts to the ankle” (even though mentor Dawn was wearing tight fitting jeans when she took one of the contestants on a shopping trip to an ‘Asian’ clothes shop in Bradford – well that’s another stereotype challenged then !!!)

On what to wear – “those men who imitate the females are cursed” (whilst Suleyman was wearing what from a ‘Western’ perspective looked remarkably like a dress over pyjama bottoms…!!!)

On Islamic style tips – covering “will keep Kerry [a contestant] out of trouble”

On masculinity – “if you dress like a man you feel like a man” (Suleyman chooses clothes that to me makes the gay hairdresser look like a shop-assistant from WH Smith, nice. For Suleyman he looked like a teacher)

On the hijab – “it’s for protecting yourself” (???)

Given that this took up more than 40 minutes of the show, when the contestants were taught to pray this took less than 3. All the contestants were given a prayer mat with a compass on it pointing towards Makkah and told to follow their ‘imam’. they were then given a calendar\with Arabic on it and told that prayer was required five times a day.
Good balance between what Muslims do and don’t do.

So what did the first episode of ‘Make me a Muslim’ do for Muslims? What misconceptions did it challenge? What was it’s dawah value?

Absolutely nothing.

All that came out of this appalling piece of superficial television was that it showed how a group of four Muslims justified the lure of the television cameras by convincing themselves that this would be a useful vehicle for challenging some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims as well as introducing Islam (dawah) to a wider audience.

In reality what came out was that Islam is an entirely and inherently prescriptive faith. That it is soul-less and without spiritual conviction. That Muslims are completely dogmatic and intolerant as well as being superior, smug, self serving and arrogant (something that also came out of the infamous Muslim ‘Wife Swap’). And that there is little fun, humour or enjoyment in Islam (btw, the only funny thing was when one of the mentors said ‘assalam alaykum’ to the large photo of the naked woman on the taxi driver’s bedroom wall). All this and it’s only the first of three episodes…and let’s not even start down that route where the Muslim participants say that there were duped into the programme and that they were edited inappropriately!!!

As I say, it’s not that I necessarily endorse any of the things that were deemed ‘prohibited’ in the programme but I am genuinely sick of having to field questions from people who have seen these programmes and become even more confused by what they see. All I can do is say that the people involved with these programmes and the Islam that they adhere to (as well as those involved in terrorism, extremism and oppressing women amongst others that generate questions from wider society) is completely different to that version of Islam that I personally am aware of. This is not to say that I want everyone to be like me, far from it, but when you’re challenged so many times by other Muslims around you, there is a point where you have to ask who it has got it wrong?

Oh dear…

15 thoughts on “‘I’m a Muslim…get me out of here’ (or why I despair at ‘Make me a Muslim’ and other Muslim reality tv)

  1. I assume this is Ajmal Masroor, MCB-er come Lib-Dem candidate for West Ham. So whatever happened to the Prophetic prohibition on wordly political involvement, approach ye not the Prince, but welcome him if he approaches you? Conveniently forgotten when your a member of the MCB/Lib Dem party.

    The reality, of course, is that empirical research (Yip) suggests Muslims in the UK are becoming increasingly tolerant of homosexuality. But whatever, can we at least ask why this is considered such a significant ‘border’ issue?

    Perhaps this is a good thing. A giant mirror, perhaps. Or has the giants wall grown so huge, they can no longer hear the howls of derisive laughter from the other side?

  2. “In reality what came out was that Islam is an entirely and inherently prescriptive faith. That it is soul-less and without spiritual conviction. That Muslims are completely dogmatic and intolerant as well as being superior, smug, self serving and arrogant (something that also came out of the infamous Muslim ‘Wife Swap’). And that there is little fun, humour or enjoyment in Islam”

    Hit. Nail. Head.

  3. I didn’t watch the programme, but it looks like they didn’t mention the most fundamental point of being a Muslim (belief/faith/iman etc). All the other ‘rules’ would appear to be make little sense without it.

  4. Absolutely right…little focus whatsoever on the ‘internal’ and all on the ‘external’.

    I’m not sure that what Muslims believe has even been mentioned…

  5. The show was not my favourite portrayal of Islamic teachings. And I think the ‘mentors’ failed to approach their students with tact, understanding and patience. HOWEVER, I also think the show highlighted some interesting things.
    Firstly is showed that Britain is not an un-religious nation out of choice rather because of feeling disillusioned by contradictions from Bible and church, I also learnt it is feeling of disappointment and disbelieve about their own faith which is maybe fuelling some of the distrust towards Islam (be it said terrorists haven’t helped the cause). The show also highlighted what appears to be a widely held western view that religion can be altered. The way the mentors approached the students may have been tactless BUT ultimately it was true. As Muslims believe the Quran is perfection and the word of a perfect God, and since the Quran guides its followers in every situation posed by life. There really is no change in Islam. And this (or so the show made it appear) is very difficult concept for the brits, who I felt were expecting to hear the likes of ‘its ok girl friend whatever pays the bills’ or ‘it’s ok to be gay and Muslim’.
    It is also interesting that although the students appeared to want to be reassured that it is such ‘for reassurance sake’ modifications which have turned the bible to a book of contradiction. And it is that very point which differentiates Islam and Christianity.
    All in all I found the show to be educational.

  6. You miss the point completely…so what if the average Briton is not interested in the teachings of Christianity and the Bible?

    They’re also not interested in the teachings of Islam and the Qur’an either…!!! And so all this programme has done is reinforce the view that ALL religions are dogmatic and prescriptive.

    And if this is then OK, why then should Muslims complain when they are presented in the media in exactly the same way when it’s done so by non-Muslims…???

    As you say, there can’t be any contradictions can there…???

    And by the way, it is not just ‘Western’ views that show that religion can be altered. Look at Islam around the world and I’m am convinced that you will find a less than homogenous entity being practised (as you will with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and so on, all of which are ‘non-Western’).

    “There really is no change in Islam”…hmmm, OK.

  7. By the way…isn’t it funny how us Muslims are happy to target and condemn the non-Muslim gay despite there being a “lapsed Muslim” fornicator in the programme.

    Surely it couldn’t be our homophobia taking over could it…???

  8. It seems you have missed my point completely, I was saying that the programme gave me, personally some insight into the attitudes some western people may have.

    When I talk about Islam not being altered I was referring to the teachings of Islam-the Quran. Which have not been altered that is a fact. The Quran has not been modified. There was no convention to re-draft a new version which opposes to old version on ever teaching etc.
    Secondly I was merely saying that the students appeared to want/desire to be told that change was acceptable that they were expecting to hear ‘its ok to be gay and Muslim’ شs Christianity has been altered to do. But ironically enough it is such change in the teachings of Christianity which cause their distrust to begin with. Do you see the paradox?
    I Use the example of Luke as you describe the ‘non-Muslim gay’ because he was one person I remember having an argument with the Imam which in essence was him looking for acceptance.

    ‘Surely it couldn’t be our homophobia taking over could it…???’
    Lol what grand generalisation.

    And generally speaking, if I can graffiti your blog and have a rant……This idea that everyone who disagrees with the standard man made ideas of ‘liberalism’ is a homophobe or sexist is really oppressive. If I don’t agree with homosexuality that is my personal belief, why should be insulted or called special names because I have an opinion that doesn’t agree with the new age/new wave cool?
    At the time of the Prophet (SAW) people called him names for not accepting their ideas (which they too were convinced were the best most tolerant liberal ideas) …I guess something’s never change.

  9. I was saying that the programme gave me, personally some insight into the attitudes some western people may have.
    Where do you live?

    But ironically enough it is such change in the teachings of Christianity which cause their distrust to begin with. Do you see the paradox?
    Whatever your beliefs on homosexuality, this is a naive view of the history of Christianity in Britain. However, you are free* to show us how ignorant you are of Christianity, Britain and its history.

    *This freedom is dependent on the fact that this blog is owned by Chris Allen and not me or “liberalism”.

  10. Christianity has been altered to do. But ironically enough it is such change in the teachings of Christianity which cause their distrust to begin with. Do you see the paradox?

    You are obviously very ignorant of Christianity. Christianity has not changed. Modern secular Europe rejects it’s roots not because there is any disillusionment, they reject it because it interferes with it’s liberal if-it-feels-good-just-do-it mentality. Their leftist leaders with misguided guilt are too stupid or afraid to breach the sacrament of political correctness. Can’t offend those coming into our country with our history and our culture, when it is that very history and culture that made it a great nation to begin with. They are also told that religion is the cause of all the evils of the world, when in fact, the Bible was the first document to promote human rights and the worst abuse of human rights were at the hands of atheist/secular despots – Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, etc. (most recently, Rwanda and Darfur genocides are at the hands of muslim extremists)

    Beheadings, forced conversions, honor killings, bombings, suicide bombings, names such as kaffir/infidel, slavery, genocide against non-muslims, wanting special rights, intolerance of non-muslims beliefs, psychotic hatred of Jews, etc, in the name of allah…all over the world is what is giving Islam a bad name. Not stupid reality shows.

  11. I can’t believe people think seeing ‘imams’ taking page three girls and beer louts shopping will increase knowledge and understanding of Islam!

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