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Ramy is the only show to capture the paradox and loneliness of being Muslim American after 9/11

  • "Shared among many of the TV shows and movies produced about September 11 is a hushed veneration for the day’s tragedies, a respectable distance from their occurrence, and an upholding of a white-America-first perspective," says Roxana Hadadi. "Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s FX dramedy about New York City firefighters living with PTSD, guilt, and anger. World Trade Center, Oliver Stone’s film about responding Port Authority Police officers. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s torture-endorsing film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Infrequently discussed was the 500 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes after September 11, or the normalization of Islamophobia so broad it produced a December 2002 Saturday Night Live cold open mocking the pronunciation and spelling of Muslim and Arabic names. There are outliers, like the melancholic inevitability of Spike Lee’s 25th Hour (which equates the arrest and imprisonment of Edward Norton’s drug dealer Monty Brogan with the collapse of American empire) and the subversive sympathies of Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (starring Riz Ahmed as a Pakistani man and Wall Street wunderkind whose dedication to the American Dream collapses amid the post-September 11 racism he weathers). But for the most part, September 11 in American entertainment is always a Very Special Episode: purposefully meaningful, leadenly weighted, and unwavering in its us vs. them, American vs. Muslim, and patriot vs. terrorist binary. And then there’s Ramy Youssef, starting 'Strawberries' — the September 11 episode of his titular dramedy, Ramy — with a chat-room query straight out of the aughts: 'How big are ur t*ts?' When it premiered in 2019 on Hulu, Ramy was the first scripted series focused on Muslim American life, and has since been joined only by United States of Al, which is far more limited in its exploration and imagination. The first two seasons of Ramy (with a third on the way) follow its millennial protagonist as he navigates his faith, the expectations of his Egyptian family and community in New Jersey, and the intermittent aimlessness of his generation. By virtue of Ramy’s singularity, 'Strawberries' — both written and directed by Youssef — provides what might be the <only primarily Muslim American perspective on September 11 from any TV genre. And the resulting episode derives its power not just from its thematic loneliness, but from its meta awareness of that loneliness."


    • Ramy Youssef and Ramy producer Maytha Alhassen reflect on Muslim American portrayals after 9/11: "'Strawberries' wasn’t just one of the first times USA saw 9/11 from Arab American Muslim eyes, it was also one of the rare moments we were not a terror trope in a highly marketed Orientalist and anti-Muslim terror genre about war.," says Alhassen. "We must contend with how malicious supply chains for hyper-capitalist plundering protected by a U.S. military subsidized by our tax dollars and supplied by our teenage children’s compromised life choices produce a system of 'convenience' where strawberries can be purchased in winter (reminder that U.S. military personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001, 2,455, is outnumbered by contractors, 3,917 — that number should tell us something). Our episode asks viewers to sit with this critique, to use as a guiding question to replace 'why do they hate us?' with: are 'strawberries in December' worth all this, worth the world being made undone?"
    • Reza Aslan, former CNN host and an executive producer on United States of Al, hopes an Afghan refugee creates a groundbreaking hit show about Muslim Americans: "Now, 20 years after 9/11, it is difficult not to conclude that all the college courses and cable news discussions, the bestselling books and viral videos — none of it made much of a difference in how Americans viewed Islam," says Aslan. "Some time ago I realized that I needed to think differently about how to reach people. What I came to understand is that bigotry is not the result of ignorance; bigotry is the result of fear. And fear is impervious to data. It cannot be combated with statistics and information. No amount of lectures or essays or bloviation on cable news will make someone stop fearing another person. The only way to truly reframe people’s perception of someone they fear is to allow them get to know that person. And one of the most effective ways to do that is to see that person on television, living an ordinary life. This is something I learned from personal experience."

    TOPICS: Ramy, United States of Al, Maytha Alhassen , Ramy Youssef, Reza Aslan, 9/11, Muslim Americans and TV