The new television program Ramy has the familiar theme of a twentysomething trying to make his way in the world. Yet although the title character is a Muslim, writes Gabe Friedman, observant Jews may find him surprisingly easy to relate to:
Ramy Hassan, the show’s protagonist, is . . . a religious Muslim who prays regularly, observes holidays somewhat strictly, and doesn’t drink alcohol. During Ramadan, he even surprises his family and friends with his religiosity when he digs his childhood thobe out of the closet. He does, however, have plenty of premarital sex, something he’s constantly conflicted about.
In addition to the groundbreaking portrayal of Muslims on screen, this is what makes the show stand out: its hip millennial character engages deeply with religion—not just the “spiritual” side, but also the day-to-day lifestyle and ritual choices—in a way that makes for a compelling combination rarely, if ever, seen on television.
In [contemporary] TV shows featuring obviously Jewish characters—such as Transparent, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, or Broad City—the protagonists telegraph their Jewishness through comedy and constant cultural references. Only sometimes will the Jewish characters dip their feet into Judaism [as a religion]. In the case of Mrs. Maisel, the characters are almost all Jews, but Judaism rarely intrudes in a meaningful way. These characters never engage very deeply with any tenets of Jewish practice, worship or thought, especially the ritual strictures—such as keeping kosher and observing Shabbat—that define the daily religious aspect of Jewish observance. . . .
Ramy’s life, on the other hand, is very directly affected by his religious choices. . . .