The people from the British channel 4 have created a new "Makeover" show, but with A TWIST: It's an Islamic Makeover show, called "Make me a Muslim" . Through the help of 4 experts (3 Imams and a female British convert) , 6 contestants get to experience life as muslims for 3 weeks, in the almost exclusively white and non-muslim town of Harrogate, in Yorkshire. The group includes a single-mom glamor Model, an atheist and white Taxi Driver who likes beer and porn, the girlfriend of a lapsed muslim who lives with him without marriage but wishes to be accepted into his family, and a gay guy who likes to party too much. The idea behind the show is that through islamic teachings, they will fix the lives of those morally-compromised individuals. You know, kind of like the way the 5 gay guys from "Queer eye for the straight guy" would come in to the life of boring heterosexual males and make everything "fabulous", without the fabulousness, or, like, the humor. But I digress, it's sometimes very very funny, although for very unintentional reasons (The Promo for the show is here, the first episode, on 5 parts, here).
Take the gay guy for example: The Imams decide to fix his gayness. How would they do that? Well, they told him at first that his problem is that he hangs out with too many females, so what he needs to do is to hang out with guys and do masculine things, and that will just push the gay out of him. Needless to say that this plan didn't work at all, although it did make the gay guy happy to be surrounded "by all of this testosterone". While he is playing his manly sports with muslim men (does cricket count as a manly sport? I guess it doesn't have a lot of physical contact with other men, so.yeah..anyway), the Imam decides that in order to further cure the gay guy, he would have to find him a wife. So he takes his picture, walks around the town and asks every female he sees (quite seriously I might add) if she would like to marry the guy in the pic, to which the females laughed hysterically and told the Imam to sod off. Later on, they decide to take him shopping to buy manly clothes, because, as one of the Imams put it, "if you dress like a female, you will act like a female". Clothes shopping as a cure to male homosexuality. Hmm..Well, at least give them credit for trying something new here. I am not sure that anyone before thought clothes shopping was the way to turn gay men straight.
Ignoring the comic relief offered by the gay guy, you have the other contestants whose interactions with the "Muslim 4" might not be as funny, but they are equally as disturbing. Take Karla for example, who is doing this because she would like to be accepted by the parents of her "bad muslim" boyfriend Ash. They have been dating for 2 years and they won't even meet her, so the girl, in her desperation, tries to enroll herself in this religious experiment, hoping that if his parents saw her trying they would meet her half way. They don't, and her boyfriend considers that a normal thing. Ok, so here is your chance young Imams to set things right, and maybe help bridge the culture gap between the christian british woman and the immigrant desi parents of her boyfriend, but do they offer to mediate between the parents, or condemn how xenophobic and judgmental they are being? Hell no. The Imam just gives her the "I know it's difficult speech", but offers no help nor insight to make it better. Even his compassion to her seems a bit out of courtesy, and his solace very superficial and hollow.
Oh, and then comes the home inspection, and this was just fantastic, because it starts with the Imam telling the audience that there is a misconception that "Islam is about taking things away from its practitioners, which isn't true", and then he and the members of the Muslim 4 proceed to do just that. They go from home to home of the people enrolled in the show, and start taking away and forbidding everything they deemed un-islamic. Porn? Check. Magazine showing scantly clad bikini wearing women? Check. Pork? Check. Alcohol? Check. Shared bedroom? Check. Skimpy outfits? Check. Men's magazines? Check. Touching? Check. Glamor Modeling? Check. Pink clothes for men? Check. Friendship with women? Check Checkity Check. And when one of the women asks why not the skimpy outfit, the Imam actually has the audacity to suggest that wearing it "would invite rape". Sure, the british chick immediately bites his head off, but that's another story. The damage was done.
The thing is, this show showed the Imams proposing that Islam may be the solution to Britian's moral decay, but didn't explain how or even show it in the course of the show. The Imams had no arguments, they couldn't fend off the criticisms leveled against them. They couldn't adequately argue one convincing point to any of those people why doing things the islamic way would make their lives any better. Hell, they were constantly beaten by the contestants, and instead of admitting defeat they would just say " This is how we do it in Islam. Just try doing it our way and you will see why it's better" and then smile empty smiles at their frustrated and not-at-all-convinced students. If this is an evangelical effort, then it is the worst I've ever seen, and I actually watched CBN at one point in my life, people. The Imams appear judgmental, uncompromising and without logic, while every step of the way claiming that "this is the way of Islam", which leads the viewer to the conclusion that Islam is without logic. How this is promoting Islam in the UK, I have no idea.
In conclsuion, make me a muslim is a joke, and so are the Imams in it who think they are advancing the word of allah through this show and promoting Islam. The show, which claims to be a serious effort, borders on comical at its shallowness. It showed Islam to be judgmental, dogmatic and intolerant. That there was no spiritual aspects to it all (hell, they spent about 10X more time lecturing the contestants on their sinful ways then how to pray and the purpose of prayer), and that it's so based on dictation it's almost soulless. I looked forward to some convincing arguments, to some dialogue, to someone given the chance to be on TV who will say that we are not all crazy people with crazy rules, but all I got was 3 bearded men and a woman who appeared smug and superior and who kept acting like" if u r too stupid to be convinced by us, just do as we say anyway, because it's what's best for you". I don't know about the average viewer, but if I had nothing to do with Islam and that was my introduction to it, I sure as hell wouldn't turn Muslim, let alone have a good perception of the religion itself at all. This show is a failure and a disgrace, and deserves to be mocked, as it will be. Let's just hope there wouldn't be a second season.