The rise of the Muslim sitcom


Scene from United States of Al, a sitcom on CBS

A review of two new broadcast television comedies about Muslims in America

Muslim television characters have been popping up regularly on TV screens lately, and now there are even a few that will make you laugh. Most recently, Netflix greenlit a comedy series co-created by comedians and actors Mo Amer and Ramy Youssef. The show will center on Amer’s character, a Palestinian refugee stuck in a years-long immigration process, which is based on his own story of growing up as a Muslim refugee in Houston. His co-creator, Ramy Youssef, is the well-known star and creator of Hulu’s award-winning Ramy (2019–present), a sitcom based on Youssef’s life as an Egyptian Muslim kid growing up in New Jersey. With its critical reception, Ramy galvanized a resurgence in television comedies where Muslims are the main protagonists.

Part of why Ramy is so successful is because it sidesteps the common post-9/11 depiction of Muslims as terrorists and tells a story that is rooted in personal experience. Comedy has long been a way for minoritized communities to create shared experiences with broader audiences. Humor has the ability to persuade viewers through feelings and emotions rather than argument and debate, which opens up space to tackle complex issues and dissolve social tensions. Like other marginalized communities before them, Muslims are putting comedy to use as a strategy to produce more dynamic portrayals of Muslims on television.

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