Muslims on TV, No Terror in Sight

November 11, 2007


Source: The New York Times

RAJA MUSHARAFF is not the foreign exchange student the Tolchuck family of fictional Medora, Wis., was expecting. Tall and gangly with gentle brown eyes, Raja comes from a village in Pakistan. He is a practicing Muslim. He is dark skinned. He is anything but the blue-eyed Euro-teen the family envisioned from the brochure.

The relationship that develops between Raja and the socially awkward Justin Tolchuck is at the heart of the CW network’s new comedy series “Aliens in America.”

Arriving at a time when the few Muslim characters who do show up on television are shrouded in a web of terrorist plots and sinister motives, “Aliens in America” and a Canadian series, “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” are winning praise from advocacy groups and some critics for more rounded, lighthearted portrayals.

“They use comedy extremely well to debunk myths about Muslims,” Jack G. Shaheen, a media critic, said of the pilot episode of “Aliens.” “It’s the first that I can recall in a TV show that I laugh with, and also respect, the character.”