Every time I turn on the TV lately, I see a Muslim. Now, I must admit that it’s not always good Muslims. In fact, some are absolutely horrible people. No, I don’t mean Zuhdi Jasser, I’m talking about the terrorists in Paris.
But there is clearly a growing number of amazing Muslims on American TV. People like The Islamic Monthly’s Arsalan Iftikhar, author Reza Aslan, MPAC’s Salam Al-Marayati, numerous people from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) such as Ibrahim Hooper, Nihad Awad and the list goes on. Even “The Daily Show” now boasts two Muslim correspondents, Aasif Mandvi and the show’s latest hire, Hasan Minhaj.
I can’t overstate the importance of this development given the unique position of Muslims in America. Muslims are a tiny minority group, maybe two percent of the U.S. population. That may explain how a recent poll found that 62 percent of Americans don’t know a Muslim personally. One way to address that may be through my idea of an “Adopt a Muslim” program where everyone can have at least one Muslim friend. Of course that may mean that every American Muslim now has to befriend hundreds of strangers for proportionality sake.
But maybe through the media all Americas can vicariously have their own “Muslim friend.”
I recently witnessed first hand the benefits of Muslims being a regular part of the media. About four months ago a friend of mine – a real liberal kind of guy – was guest hosting a show on SiriusXM radio. I have regularly appeared on this very show and discussed a range of issues, which naturally included Muslims. And on several occasions mentioned that Muslim organizations had consistently and publicly denounced acts of terrorism.
This host friend of mine happened to be on a day after one of the horrible beheadings by the Islamic State (ISIS) and offered a comment along the lines of “Why don’t we see more Muslims and Muslims groups denounces these type of acts?”
In response to this comment, many of the show’s regular listeners immediately tweeted and emailed to the show telling him that I made it clear many times in the past that Muslim leaders have always denounced terrorist acts. They cited articles I had written for The Daily Beast or CNN.com Opinion on this very issue.
He reached out to me, asking me to call in to the show. And we discussed the issue at great length.
But that experience made me recognize the importance and power of consistently being a part of the media, not just chiming in during specific world events. American Muslims need a TV show, a radio program, or even a Muslim boy band (maybe called SKB – Shish Kid Bob!) to stay current, constant and relevant in the media space at all times. Imagine the impact of a daily television talk show that addresses issues in a way that is both entertaining and informative to all Americans, not just Muslims—A Muslim “Oprah.”
While that dream may be still far reaching, here is one step in that direction. Starting Saturday, January 17, I will be hosting my own weekly national radio show on SiriusXM satellite radio. “The Dean Obeidallah Show” will address the issues of the week from the point of view of American Muslims. I will also highlight issues that impact our community that I feel that the mainstream media has ignored. For example, the case now pending before the federal court of appeals concerning the NYPD spying on the New York and New Jersey Muslim communities.
My goal is to also feature American Muslim voices talking about all issues from politics to pop culture. And finding people in our community to talk about a broad range of issues is not at all difficult. American Muslims are not just limited to conversations about terrorism.
This will be a national platform for this community’s voice and hopefully launch other Muslims into the media as well. And I’m very excited that on my very first show this Saturday, my guests will be Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show, Ahmed Rehab, executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, Linda Sarsour, executive director of Arab American Association of New York, and Wajahat Ali from Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.
Now here is a special deal I have for you. (This next line should be said in the voice of a Muslim man at a bazaar selling his wares) I can offer you a special link that will enable you to listen to SiriusXM for free for 30 days. Yes, 100 percent free! (And no credit card info is required either.)
God willing, this will just be one small step on our path to an even greater Muslim presence in the media. Not only is this important so we can tell our own story, you know it’s going to piss off the Fox News crowd-and that makes it even sweeter!