October 5, 2007

It’s amazing what race brings up …

AXN started showing "The Amazing Race" season 10 on satellite television over here yesterday. Of course, one of the first things I noticed was that they had a Muslim team in the race this time (not to mention a lot of other politically correct/ratings-oriented groups, but that’s another story).

Right off the bat, I was wondering how it was going to turn out both because of the current political climate in the USA and a majority of the people’s perceptions about Muslims and also because I had wondered myself watching previous episodes of "The Amazing Race" as to how I would conduct myself in the race if I was on it. There have been instances when contestants have had to eat things like fried grasshoppers that Muslims cannot eat due to our religious dietary restrictions. Would I eat the grasshoppers anyway just to win a million bucks? Do the producers take the religious restrictions of contestants into account when they set up challenges? I was hoping I could find some answers to these questions this season. Of course, then the Muslims got eliminated at the very first leg of the race :p

That probably would have been that and I’d probably have forgotten all about it if I hadn’t decided to check out the reactions of others to the first episode online. Now I know that a lot of Americans seem to think that they are engaged in some sort of war with Islam for some weird reason and so I should have expected the reactions I found. But still, I was surprised at the level of hatred and prejudice that was displayed online.

Posts like this, and this, and this, and this seem to indicate that Americans seriously believe that all Muslims are terrorists and that they will not be satisfied with anything but the total and utter destruction of America. There’s talk of Islamofacists, "Religion of Peace" (quotes theirs, not mine), revenge on an entire religion for an act of fanaticism, how the Muslims not shaking a woman’s hand is derogatory towards all women and so on and so forth.

In fact, I’m surprised that some consider Bilal and Sa’eed to be fundamentalists because they were dressed in "flowing Arab garments" and "tangly beards". I thought them to be less than fundamentalists – in fact, I was wondering about how well they practiced their faith since they seemed to have no trouble in simply standing up and praying in a dirty airport waiting room without even bothering to wash up for prayer :p But then again, I have no idea how much coaching there was (what? you thought reality shows were really real? :p) or if the two friends had decided to portray the "true face of Islam" to the world on their own or even if it was a mix of the two. Personally, I thought they were a bit too showy and seemed to be flaunting their religion for the camera and to think that God cares enough about whether you win a race on television is to think very little of God or way too much about yourself :)

Now don’t get me wrong. There are balanced stories about this particular episode. Places where people couldn’t care less whether Sa’eed and Bilal were Muslims or solipso-agnostic Martians from the moons of Phobos – entries like this and this. With no evidence to the contrary, I assume that these were written by Americans as well. What I find disturbing is the number of Americans who give into the paranoia and hatred and assume that an entire religion is out to get them. I wish they’d do the math: the population of the US is slightly over 300 million and there are over a billion Muslims in the world; if all of Islam wanted America taken out, it would be a really uneven battle :)

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Tags: Entertainment, Islam, Television
Posted by Fahim at 7:23 am   Comments (2)