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Ramy Youssef in 'Ramy.'
Ramy Youssef in 'Ramy.'
Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu


3/5 Stars


A young Muslim American struggles to find his place in the world: How should he behave, what should he do with his life, and who should he love?


I really wanted to like Ramy. I really tried because for me, as a Muslim, there aren't many shows on TV where Muslims aren't either terrorists, suspected terrorists or the victims of intolerance. And while we do experience a lot of intolerance in this post 9/11 world we live in, we experience enough to not want to turn on the telly and see it there too.

Give me stories of Muslims just existing as functional members of society (spoiler alert: we do), give me stories of Muslims that have positive messages because there are enough negative narratives about us.

I actually don't really like Ramy as a character. I mean, he's not the worst person to exist, and maybe he's just a product of his circumstances (aren't we all), but he just seems like a weak person. And I don't just mean with regard with to his faith, but as a human being. I'm sorry, but at 30 years old, you should be beyond peer pressure, and the nonsense he gets himself into is mostly because he can't say no to his friend's stupid ideas. He tries to half-heartedly, but he just ends up going along with things so easily. Which becomes annoying after a while. There's no character growth and at the end of the day, he's the kind of person who apologises because he got caught and not because he genuinely feels sorry about what he did.

As a religious person, I fully understand that we all have doubts, and feel lost and unaccepted at times, but I just can't deal with the way in which he uses and interprets Islam to justify all his nonsense. It may be relatable to men, but it's triggering and I felt uncomfortable watching it. It doesn't feel like he wants answers or to better himself but rather to find ways to justify what he does.

"I feel like the problem is that I don't know what kind of Muslim I am. I wanna go to Friday prayer and Friday night. I'm at both. I wanna pray. I wanna go to the party. I'm breaking some rules, I'm following others," he says to his cousin on his trip to Egypt. Okay, this is supposed to make Ramy special, but he's not. There are a lot of people who struggle with this and as Zeinab Khalil says quite succinctly in her piece on Wear Your Voice Mag: "The 'spiritually conflicted' trope desperately seeks to reduce Muslim American experiences to a set of restrictions, rules, and performances familiar to white audiences."

We're fortunate that in South Africa, particularly in Cape Town, we have a very strong Muslim community and while it's not without its faults, it's probably the reason I can't relate to a lot of what Ramy or his community experience. Maybe an American Muslim will feel a better connection to this show. Because Ramy is not just a show about Muslims, it's also a show about migrants and how they have to change a lot of who they are to fit into the "new world" they've come to, and the characters around him are more interesting than Ramy.

His father's journey is an interesting one to watch as well as the story of his sister and how she tries to find her way. A relatable storyline would have been her struggle with hijab - something many Muslim women, myself included, know a lot about. 

That said, there are some very funny moments. One I laughed about for days was when Ramy's non-Muslim friend asked him to pray for his mother, and Ramy just pretended to make salaah (pray) but recited the woman's name melodiously. It was so stupid, but the delivery was perfect.

Another heartfelt moment was when Ramy finally reconnected with his grandfather and the old man has such love for his degenerate grandson.

Time and again, Ramy Youssef has said that the show isn't one to watch if you want to learn about Islam. It's "a messy, immature comedy from a cishet male POV about a guy who jerks off too much while trying to be true to his faith". So I guess we were warned.



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