When it comes to portraying Muslims in American films and shows, there’s hardly any room for positive roles other than getting typecast as terrorists hijacking planes.

And the good Muslims? The good guys? They die too soon.

The bigotry, says writer and religious scholar Reza Aslan, comes from fear, which in turn cares nothing for data. Wondering how this fear can be overcome, Aslan looks for parallels from the changing public attitude to same sex marriage. His solution? A Modern Family with Muslims in it (video above).

It’s not new, but, argues Aslan, needs to be reiterated: do for the average Muslim family what television shows like Will and Grace and Modern Family did for same-sex families and relationships. “The only way you’re going to dissipate that fear is by getting people to know someone that they’re afraid of,” concludes Aslan in a video in Vox’s The Secret Life of Muslims series.

Many of Aslan’s battles have been in the newsrooms. In an interview (video below) with Fox News Channel, he had to answer more questions about his religion than about his book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which later became New York Times bestseller.


“The hardest part for me when I’m being interviewed is to tamp down my astonishment,” Aslan says. “The thing that’s mostly going through my mind is, ‘Calm down, calm down.’”

And so when Aslan calmly rebutted negative stereotypes in his interview with CNN (video below), it went big on social media. His defence of Islam and the differentiation of the everyday version of the faith from the extremist position earned him cheers and death threats on Twitter at the same time.