All American Muslim's Suehaila Amen Talks Hijab
Long time friend of Haute Hijab, Suehaila Amen, of TLC's All American Muslim was gracious enough to answer some questions about the compelling show and about hijab. TLC's All-American Muslim answers the question, "What’s it like to be Muslim in America?" with a powerful eight-part series that premiered in November, 2011. The show delves deep inside the rarely seen world of Muslim Americans to uncover unique insight. Be sure to tune-in to All American Muslim airing Sundays at 10/9c on TLC!
1) Tell us about your experience on the show!
This show has been an extraordinary experience. The opportunity to learn about the production process, the ability to engage members of communities in conversations they may have never previously had and the knowledge that we could be changing people's perceptions has been amazing and I am thankful to be a part of this opportunity.
2) After watching the aired shows each week, how do you feel you and your family are represented?
I am happy with the way we are represented; it is a real view into our lives. Within our own family we range from moderate to conservative in our observance of our religion and it shows in "All-American Muslim" as you watch each episode. We are content with how we are shown and its really who we are.
3) Many people have expressed the show does not accurately depict the Musilm community because it focuses on families in Dearborn, which many have called a subculture within the Muslim community. How do you respond to this?
Unfortunately the show does not give a diverse representation of the Muslim community; I don't believe there could ever be a show that could do just that. I don't think anyone will ever be completely happy because each person has their own view of what a "Muslim" should be. This show is not a documentary on Islam, the show is about American families who embrace the faith of Islam in various capacities; their ethnicity and faith should not be the focus...as it is about being American and the struggles we deal with on a daily basis. This is the first opportunity the Muslim community has had to ever be shown in a positive manner by a national network and we need to view this as a stepping stone for us all. Inshallah there will be more to come as a result of this ground breaking opportunity.
The Amen Family
4) What do you hope is the biggest take-away from the mainstream audience watching the show?
That we are all human; we have the same struggles, concerns for our family/children, issues with the economy and how policies affect us in this nation, and deal with everyday struggles in the same way all others in this world do...hoping for the best for our family.
5) I learned from the show that you started wearing hijab at a very early age. What impact has this had on you?
Alhamdulillah, hijab has been a blessing. I have worn it since age 7 and have not once thought of removing it. I may not be as conservative as others, though the greatest blessing I have had is in having the hijab. In wearing the hijab for over 25 years, I have realized the extraordinary impact it has on a person, spiritually, emotionally and professionally; as people have a respect for you as an individual without being influenced by physical attributes that may sway their perceptions.
6) Many of our fans see hijab as a source of strength and power. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?
I feel that hijab does empower women to a different degree, though I also feel it varies with each person. I am very self confident and I do feel that the hijab has allowed me to hold myself to a different standard and expect more of myself and of those who I come in contact with.
The Amen Sisters, (from left to right) Shadia, Suehaila, and Samira
7) There has been a wave of Muslim girls taking off their hijab in recent years. Why do you think this is and what can be done to prevent it?
I feel that those who are taking off the hijab are possibly doing it because they were not as strong in their initial conviction to wear it. A person who wears the hijab needs to understand that its not a fashion statement but a way of life and though there are many who range in their level of conviction, it is a commitment that one makes. I don't know what can be done to "prevent" it but rather what can be done to engage young women to understand the hijab and Islam so they know why they are wearing it and what hijab means for both men and women.
8) What piece of advice would you give to girls who are struggling to put on or take off the hijab?
I hope that if someone is interested in wearing the hijab that they have an understanding of the commitment that is being made and what the hijab means; there should be no compulsion or the feeling that one MUST wear it if not fully being committed to it. If a person wants to take it off, essentially, it is a decision that one makes for themselves. The decision to wear hijab or to take it off, in my opinion, is a personal choice and comes from the heart and should not be taken lightly.
Below: An exclusive clip from All-American Muslim featuring the Zaban family hijab shopping for their two girls in Dearborn, Michigan.
Special thanks to Suehaila and All-American Muslim for providing photo's and video clip!