© Netflix
© Netflix
Culture/TV

Master of None’s pork story was an uncanny valley for Muslims

June 7, 2017

Aziz Ansari's religion episode told a story many needed to hear.

Being out of the loop isn’t new for me— I’m always the last person to start a series or to try that amazing Pho spot down the street. But now that it’s Ramadan, I still won’t try your favourite restaurant—but I will watch that show you’ve been raving about for weeks.

Ramadan, for all observing Muslims, means fasting from dawn to dusk, so no food and no drinks—not even water. The time that you would normally spend binge eating and drinking (normal liquids, not alcohol, folks) is spent instead in self-reflection and prayer. The monthlong spiritual cleanse is about abstaining from lying, false promises, slander, and gossip.

So anyway, I finally watched Master of None’s second season.

Season one was fan-diddly-tastic but season two, more specifically episode three, risked causing an uproar in the Muslim community.

The third episode focuses on Dev and how he interprets his Islamic faith; he’s a pork-eating, alcohol-drinking Muslim who definitely didn’t save himself for marriage. Dev makes it’s pretty clear that being a good person is what matters most to him—not the rules surrounding religion. While many Muslims can relate to him, the scene that created a bit of controversy was when Dev convinced his cousin, Navid, to try pork for the first time. While this may seem like a spontaneous dive into trying new things, it’s actually a pretty big deal for Muslims.

Pork, like alcohol and premarital sex, is prohibited in Islam. However, out of the three, pork is probably the biggest taboo. From a very early age, Muslims are conditioned to dislike pork and to see it as the most unappealing of meats.  A majority of Muslims who are more or less non-observant in all other aspects still choose to stay away from this pink and meaty animal.

For me, it seems as if this episode represented the uncanny valley for my faith. It seemed all so relatable—up until that one scene.

For many, it’s the only rule they’ll follow—perhaps it’s the fine line that keeps them associated with the Muslim community.

 

“I wish they used alcohol instead of pork” was the first response I heard from a friend after she finished the series. She said that she “hadn’t gone that far” herself, so it felt weird to see it on screen.

However, while my friend and I wondered if the episode crossed a line, many felt as if it spoke about the religion in a positive light—it stressed how difficult it is for some children to follow the same rules and regulations their parents did when it came to religious observances.

As Dev mentioned, for his parents, religion was a cultural tradition—for him, it’s a label that associates him with terrorism, 9/11 and extra security screenings before flights.

Practising faith has never been easy, but it seems as if everyone has an opinion on how you practise it. When you’re super observant and strict with your faith, you’re seen as uptight, and if you choose to totally ignore it, you’re perceived as a rebel. 

Maybe Dev has the right idea—maybe we all just need to be good people without the labels.

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