LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “All-American Muslim,” a TV reality show celebrated by some and criticized by others for its view of everyday life in an Islamic community, was canceled by its network on Wednesday after one season of slumping viewership.
“We decided not to renew it for a second season,” said Laurie Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the TLC network that aired the program.
“All-American Muslim” made headlines shortly after its debut in November last year when home improvement retailer Lowe’s dropped its sponsorship following complaints by a Florida-based conservative group that accused the show of glossing over Islamic extremism.
The company’s decision was criticized by some groups, and celebrities and politicians rallied behind TLC and the show.
But “All-American Muslim” struggled to find an audience. It lost over half its viewers between its debut in November, when over 1.7 million people tuned in, and its eighth and final episode in January that drew an audience of 729,000.
A source familiar with the matter said the network’s decision was strictly related to the declining ratings.
The program profiling five Muslim-American families in Dearborn, Michigan, was seen as groundbreaking for giving the reality show treatment to people of Arab descent. But its focus on everyday issues also drew criticism.
A group called the Florida Family Association campaigned against the show, approaching sponsors and urging them to drop their support. The group claimed the show was biased because it did not deal with topics such as Americans’ concerns about Muslim Sharia law.
One company that did pull back from advertising on the show was Lowe’s. It said in a statement in December, shortly after making its decision, that the program had become “a lightning rod” for “strong political and societal views.”
In response, hip hop mogul Russell Simmons and actors Mia Farrow and Kal Penn publicly expressed their support for the show. Simmons went so far as to purchase two 30-second ads on “All-American Muslim.”
Lowe’s also was rebuked by some politicians, including U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota who in 2006 became the first Muslim elected to the House.
The show not only drew fire from conservative groups but also Muslims who said some of the lifestyle choices portrayed in “All-American Muslim” were too Western.
“Some people expected to see a documentary and didn’t really expect to see a reality show,” cast member Nina Bazzy Aliahmad, 30, told Reuters. “They thought they were going to get a (lesson) on religion, and it was just following the day-to-day life of five different families who happen to be Muslim.”
Unlike other cast members of the show, Aliahmad did not wear a headscarf. She did wear tank tops and was shown pursuing a plan to open a nightclub. Aliahmad told Reuters that she heard a local Muslim religious leader had spoken out against her.
Among the storylines in the show was another adult, female cast member’s arguments with her parents over her plans to move to Washington, D.C. to further her career. Her father told the woman that as she was unmarried, he objected.
Aliahmad said she is not angry at TLC’s decision to end the program. “I hope that this show was a stepping stone into the Muslim community for mainstream media for the future,” she said.
The show will be missed among some in the Muslim community.
The everyday lives of Muslim-Americans have rarely been portrayed on television in recent years, aside from isolated instances such as an episode in director Morgan Spurlock’s reality show “30 Days” and some network news reports, said Deana Nassar, Hollywood liaison for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
“It’s a much needed step, and we’re very proud of TLC for opening the door for more shows to come,” she said.
Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte