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Ryan Seacrest, Bravo Create Imam 'Jersey Shore'
DETROIT (CAP) - Fresh off their announcement of a new reality show, Shahs Of Sunset, featuring wealthy, wayward Persian Americans in California, Ryan Seacrest and Bravo have announced that next year, they'll be moving the concept to the Midwest with a new demographic: Imam Americans.
The Real Housewives network announced this week that it was developing a show with Seacrest tentatively titled Imams Of Dearborn that will document Dearborn, Michigan's colorful Muslim cleric community.
"The series will offer rich characters and relatable storylines about everyday life - love, work, friendship, ritual prayers, fasting, making sure their wives' hair isn't showing - steeped in a diverse culture, which is wildly entertaining and fun," Seacrest said in a statement. "Except when it's misused as an excuse to justify Islamic terrorism, which is admittedly less fun."
Dearborn is home to as many as 30,000 people of Arab ancestry, many of whom attend the Islamic Center of America, North America's largest mosque. The area has also attracted hundreds of Imams, many more than there are congregations to accommodate them.
As a result, many of them spend their time hanging around the shores of Lake Erie lifting weights, having Qur'an recitation contests and whistling at women in burkas. It's this lifestyle the series hopes to capture, according to Bravo.
"Armed with flowing robes, scraggly beards and designer skullcaps, they've got it and they're not afraid to flaunt it," Bravo said in a statement, while adding that the group also "knows the value of family and tradition, especially if that tradition happens to involve multiple subservient wives."
"Also, watch the hilarity that ensues when they're taken off flights and strip searched at Detroit Metro Airport!" the statement continues.
According to Seacrest, the characters "The Testamentation" and "Burki" featured in promos for the show are played by actors, but that he was sure the actual clerics and their families would be just as colorful and interesting.
"And you can bet that we're going to do our darndest to find ones we can call The Testamentation and Burki," he added.
Critics are skeptical, noting the failure of the 2009 Rachael Ray vehicle So You Think You're A Terrorist and al Qaeda's 2010 declaration of responsibility for Jay Leno. "Muslims and TV just don't mix," said Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales, noting that the networks would be much wiser to do more shows based on Twitter feeds.
And some leaders in the Muslim community have also objected to the show's concept. "I think we can safely say that a depiction of Muslims, particularly Muslim clerics, as lakeside slacker party animals is not what America needs right now," said Rasoolullah Mohammed of the American Society of Muslims. "It's just as insulting and offensive as when Tiger Woods converted to Islam for the virgins."
Asked what he thought about Seacrest's other new idea for a show, Rabbis Of Miami Beach, in which Jewish Rabbis lift weights, have Torah recitation contests and cluck at women in yarmulkes, Mohammed responded, "Oh, heh - that one's pretty hilarious."