So I’ve finally saw the first season of Ramy, premiering on Hulu and it has ten episodes. I’ve seen most of it in one night and the last three episodes the next night.
I do have my own mixed feelings and observations. They range from the show itself and outwards from the reactions people offered towards the show. So let us explore Ramy to see if you wish to Ramy or not. In essence, if reading Madkhali drivel might cause one to loose brain cells by the absurd illogic they’ll say, then watching Ramy would cause one to loose haya cells in their spiritual journey towards Allah.
What the show is
It is definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, fahisha of the strangest order. Whether it be some Egyptian girl who wants him to strangle her due to her sadomasochistic fetish of being strangled while getting smashed. Upon refusal to do so, she at least tells Ramy to strangle her while she fingers herself. Or from a sister at the mosque who’s virtually abandoned by her husband thus making her a closet freak and so after he innocently offers to carry her baby home, they talk, and then, BAMMM, he smashes a muslim wife. The show is definitely a rated R series. I wouldn’t advise watching this with anyone other than yourself. And honestly, if you’re the religious type that flips out, or you are cognitively incapable of looking at the content with a director’s vision in mind, ascertaining what the message is trying to get across, and I mean both the outward intent of the directors, and the inner (batin) intent of the marketers and platforms like Hulu, then you shouldn’t watch the show
What the show is is exactly what the show professed. From IDMB, it says
Ramy Hassan is a first-generation Egyptian-American who is on a spiritual journey in his politically divided New Jersey neighborhood. He becomes caught between a Muslim community that thinks life is a moral test and a millennial generation that believes life has no consequences. Through it all, he’s still trying to do the things that most 20-somethings do, like date. He is essentially a guy who is torn between praying on Fridays and going to parties on Friday nights. Which side will win out in this seemingly endless internal battle?
Every word describing the show in this excerpt is EXACTLY what the show is about!
This is exactly what Muslim life is for living in America where it is normal for 7 year old boys to discuss how they jerked off to the thought of some girl, where sexuality is highly normalized as the thing to do. Where drugs is a normal part of every day life. The show has drugs. Ramy himself does not do them.
The show is primarily Arab-based. The experiences of an arab family who happen to be Muslim in an immediately post 9-11 world with a show dedicated to their life on the day 9/11 happened
What the show is not
What the show is not are some of the absurd exaggerations offered by “religious” people and I hate using this cliched term. So what do I mean? There are a lot of traditionally conservative Muslims who flip out at the mere acknowledgment that fahisha itself could be practiced by Muslims. This reaction lacks about as much wisdom as the promotion of the show itself. Worse is the fact that Ramy and his show knowingly isnt trying to push any wisdom, unlike the “Amr bil-M’aruf wan-Nahu ‘An al-munkar” gang. In a way, as one good brother has said, the show is a reflection of how much “religious” Muslims are living in a bubble and completely oblivious to the common American Muslim experience.
To get to the point, a good brother and student of knowledge offered his own review lambasting the show, and while doing so, he has literally made up fabrications for it. Its not important who exactly said this, its only important as to what was substantively claimed.
It has been claimed that the show has nudity. This is absurd. Even though I feel the frustration the shaykh had, I understand his anger and frustration, one has to be calm in reacting to liberalist endeavors. I’ve watched the entire season. There isnt even a single scene of nudity. Yet he has said “the nudity is off the charts”.
He didnt “skip tarawih just to sleep with a married women“. This is the problem that a lot of extreme conservatism does to the mind. It blinds one from seeing things as they truly are. Ramy didn’t “skip tarawih prayers” just to do this. This event was purely organic both of whom did not intend this. This is naturally how the bulk of life and sex operate.
Sadly, other social commentators used our brothers facebook post as a means to judge the show.
While the show shows drugs, Ramy, the central protagonist of the show, does not do them or drink even if others, including one of his best muslim buddies, does it. Although in one scene, Ramy does take a sip of some alcoholic drink in the context of some girl who is apparently psychotic and has signs of self inflicted attempts at suicide, and to try and lift her spirits up, he takes a sip. Now obviously, those who have experienced kufr and how its like to live without Islam can sympathize to the context of this scene and show some empathy and context to this situation, even if they would have played their cards differently like I would have for example.
However, having this extreme mental of religious conservatism will obviously blind someone from recognizing nuances like this to at least make excuse.
Why offer commentary on the show
Firstly because it spread through the Muslim community and secondly, its sociological affects and the higher subliminal intent enters into my forte.
In some ways, this is part of my own sincere criticism of the show
Obviously a show about Arab Muslims behaving like normal people would be of no value if there was not a specific agenda at play here, NOT by the show’s founder Ramy, but of platforms who help create culture, in this case Hulu, and foundations who help fund and promote these platforms. What exactly is the agenda at play here?
Liberal Muslims live in a state of incredulity. They take the world in the way it has been given to them thinking there was no sinister or malicious intent behind their adoption of their own opinions that media has helped them in arriving at!
So lets use a truthful argument that has been made. It has been said that the outcry to the show is a reflection of how much “religious” Muslims are living in a bubble and completely oblivious to the common American Muslim experience.
Granted, This is true. Equally true with this, is that the show subliminally, even through the innocent conduit of “portraying American Muslim life”, is obviously portraying the sense of normalizing fahisha like “whats the big deal”.
Someone from this mindset commented saying
“Do you actually believe that Hollywood producers sit around the table discussing how to make Muslims look bad or “push an agenda”? They tell stories, whether you agree with those stories or not. There have been movies made with every religious tone, people from every religion struggling with their beliefs, conservative religious movies, etc. Heck, The Simpsons had an episode showing Muslims as intelligent and the local Americans as intolerant buffoons.”
Apparently this guy has never read “The cultural cold war: the cia and the world of arts and letters” or “The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television” by Tricia Jenkins. In fact, it seems they’re oblivious to the famous documentary “Reel Bad Arabs” documentary how Hollywood intentionally and purposely with psychological precision, vilifies and has continually vilified Arabs for nearly a century.
At any rate, the best online commentary I’ve seen and heard thus far comes from my boys Sim and Mahin at The Mad Mamluks Podcast.
Self Introspection: Pros and Cons
If anyone has ever studied about nudge theory in the sciences like behavioral economics, behavioral sciences and political theories, the show is meant to stoke, or rather “nudge” muslims, and non muslims, on several paths. The obvious path is normalization of fahisha. However, there are more broad intellectual realities to consider in this regard.
Watching the show, it has landed me to the opinion that Arabs, or any foreigners new to America, commonly referenced by social media as fobs, or as UK twitter likes to say, “freshies” really do need assimilation. HOWEVER, NOT the American or kuffaric sense of the term.
American assimilation would entail the abandonment of religion as a means to dictate your views of life and ethics. Contrary to this, I would amend this meaning by saying that fobs need a slight training in cultural assimilation. The show concentrates a section of its content to the “masjid ammul” and in reference to this, the older “refugee” or “came for a better life” expats from Muslim countries. One of the scenes explains this best. The mother of Ramy, I forget her name in the series, in a specific episode dedicated to her and her need for attention, got her to apply and work for Lyft. The first passenger she picks up is an African American women with straight hair. Copying her last Lyft chauffeur who provided her with water and basic amenities, she, now as a Lyft driver herself, offered her passenger the same. Everything was cool. But then she goes on to make reference that she was beautiful. And then she remarks her hair is beautiful, and then she says, and I quote “its not like those kinky style of African hair”. She kept going at it and the passenger was like “WOW”. Even I was blown away. The reality was, the mom was COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS to how racially charged her comments were. She was completely unaware. Granted. She had absolutely no intention of being racial about it. Nevertheless, when people react to this, fobs would wonder why they’re getting treated in a certain way.
This is just one among a boatload of issues where “freshies” actually do need “assimilation” into the respective countries they’re actually entering.
The show does exaggerate and limit aspects of Islam. One of the over the top exaggerations was the portrayal of the “in between the toes” episode where the masjid uncle took his foot, and began sticking his finger in between his toes to ensure wudhu is done properly. I respect that Ramy was trying to portray this aspect of Islam, and what better way to do so is through exaggeration. Really though. Nobody does this.
Another portrayal is how it tries to insinuate certain types of muslims with stereotypes. So one of the main criticisms is how it portrays the religiously committed as “looney fruit baskets” who are weird. This is actually a common theme of the show. There is no “middle” ground. Either you’re a “normal” person who can perceive correctly, react correctly, and not trip and be normal while being a progressive, liberal, feminists, or sinning evil doer, OR, you arnt normal, trip over anything, and happens to be religiously committed in thought.
The fundamental problem is that the portrays these extreme divides as THEE standard living of Muslims in the country which is pure myth and nonsensical.
Another problem of the show is the portrayal of muslim girls as either closet freak behind nypmphos, or bland, sexually undesirable practicing Muslim women. Again, just like the other aspects, there is no middle ground, which is more realistic of the ground reality.
Another valid point of contention brought up which is probably the most central and fundamental flaw and criticism of the entire show is the removal of basic haya from the application of these fahisha. I know Muslims from all around the way. I know of extra martial issues and many crazy stories that happen in the world of sex, drugs, and other fahisha that muslims do with each other or with others outside their faith. The problem is that in the real world, there is a level of basic shame that we just feel ashamed of saying, doing, or promoting. As was stated rightfully by my man Mahin, the show either intentionally or not, helps to remove that sense of shame into the equation.
This fact plays into the promotion of irja I have been so fervently warning Muslims of for years. Irja, the concept of separating actions and their resulting consequences, from the realm of faith, is essentially what liberalism is in the social sphere. It is the idea that actions have absolutely no bearing on the level of faith whatsoever. In other words, while Ramy, the character himself, is merely showing how “life is like to be a Muslim in the streets of Jersey“, and while he himself is trying to “better himself“, the effect that it has on the viewing audience is how it aint that big of a deal to smash a married sister or have these freak nasty tendencies OUTSIDE of extra martial relationships and have no affect on your faith and that you’ll be just as equal, IN FAITH, as the one who avoids these vices. After all, “Only God can judge me”
Nudges in Dialogue
The show is bent on stoking issues to be addressed. Examples range from masjid parking, the “women’s side” in the masjid, masjid uncles, and some other issues prevalent in the Muslim communities. The show will definitely stoke dialogue for better or for worse, but it seems like the show is pushing for dialogue towards acceptability within the American diaspora.
Season 2 is in the making already. Based on what we found in season 1, it seems season two is really going to socially create a scorched earth policy where Ramy is going to throw all of Islam under the bus in terms of his portrayal of the religious folk. What I see happening is having scenes and even episodes of wolf shaykhs, where imams of masjids are hitting up muslim girls, or married muslim women, or possibly little boys. In conjunction with that, will be madrasah punishments where the Imam will hit the students and portraying it as some form of abuse. The local terroristic minded 2 or three guys in the community with the “me against the kuffar” mentality will definitely find its way in his narrative. Feminists like “the salafi feminist” will definitely be triggered in their own SJW way in the tidal waves that Ramy is going to produce in the future. I can see the social upheaval and the inadequate frustrations that traditionally and overly conservative Muslims are going to have of it