Last night I watched Soledad O’Brien’s highly anticipated news special, “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door.” Her 1-hour segment covered a small Tennessee town’s fight to shut down the construction of a local mosque that was being built to serve the local Muslim community. Because I follow O’Brien on Twitter, I was excited for Sunday evening to arrive because she had been heavily publicizing her special. O’Brien was careful not to reveal too much about her show, understandably so. As a result I was left to assume that it would mirror some of her earlier projects such as “Black In America” and “Latino In America” which were broad, objective pieces that covered each ethnicity’s current day plight in America.
I was wrong.
O’Brien focused disproportionately on the mosque fight and the local community’s negative reaction. The viewer was not well-educated about what current day Muslim issues are (beyond separating themselves from the catastrophic 9/11 events) nor what the Muslim experience can mean across socio-economic class levels. The show was not objective, very narrow in scope and overall, simply left me disappointed.
That is rare, seeing as to how I’m such a major fan of O’Brien’s work. Within the past two years I’ve followed her work more closely than ever and have watched her success grow with the completion of her new informative and objective television news specials. This latest “In America” special has left much to be desired.
The one good thing that has come out of this however is that it has inspired me to do a bit more research of my own on Muslims living in America. The subject matter has piqued my interest on a topic that I am largely ignorant of. The questions that I posed earlier must have answers and it is now my social (and civic) responsibility, I believe, to seek them out.
For that I say, “Thank you, Soledad.”