Today, I learned that the CW Television Network (a.k.a., “CW”) launched a new show, Aliens in America, Monday that features a 16-year-old Muslim character (“Raja”) from a small village in Pakistan. The storyline centers on Raja coming to the United States to live with the Tolchuck family in Medora, Wisc., as an exchange student.
Immediately, I found myself intrigued by the coincidental timing of the show’s debut (on a cable channel I rarely watch), taking place as Pakistan’s leadership teeters on the brink of overthrow and U.S. troops are waging the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. My second reaction was to find out as much as possible about the program.
On the show’s web site, I found a music video, What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding, by P.J. Olsson & Salman Ahmad from their American Scream CD on CBS Records. The words of the song on the video reminded me of the words uttered — according to a recent TIME Magazine article — by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his recent visit to Columbia University and the United Nations:
“I believe that Almighty God created the universe for mankind. Man is God’s most important creation and it is through him that we appreciate the beauties of the universe. God has sent man here on a mission.” That mission, he says, is to pursue love, justice, kindness and dignity. In fact, he repeats those works so often that it begins to sound like a mantra: Love. Justice. Kindness. Dignity. He speaks with the quiet zeal of a not-very-flamboyant televangelist. “The pursuit of justice through love and kindness and human dignity can end all conflicts on earth,” he says. “Inshallah.”
Digging further, I found this in the “show info” section of the web site:
(Raja is described as) …thoughtful, responsible and wise beyond his years. To the Tolchucks and everyone else in Medora, he’s also just about as foreign as a foreigner can be. While the rest of the family is slightly freaked out by the Muslim in their midst, Gary (the father) is comforted by the fact that the host family receives a monthly check to help with expenses. This fits right in with Gary’s money-making schemes, and when he sees how hard-working and respectful Raja is, he’s totally on board.
Maybe I’m being too sensitive in being critical of the show’s timing and the selection of music/lyrics to promote it. And maybe I’m being too sensitive when I take issue with the Raja character being described as “wise beyond his years” while members of the host family are “slightly freaked out” or portrayed, in the case of the father, as viewing the relationship solely in economic terms. Before I publish a review of Aliens in America in this space, I plan to watch the next episode Monday night.
If you get an opportunity, watch next week’s episode of Aliens in America. Then we’ll compare notes.