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The Financial Express

Mo: The life of a Palestinian refugee in America

| Updated: September 07, 2022 17:47:06


Mo: The life of a Palestinian refugee in America

Muslims are generally not portrayed positively in Hollywood. They are portrayed as the antagonists most of the time. But in recent years, comedy dramas like Hulu's Ramy portrayed Muslims from a new perspective. 

Shows like this positively portray Muslims; they have their own way of living, culture, family, and social relationships. Mo, co-created by Ramy creator Ramy Youssef, is a new addition to the series that depicts the life of a Palestine refugee family up close.

Mo Amer plays the eponymous character in this show. The show is loosely based on his own life, so it can be considered a semi-biographical drama. 

Mo Najjar's family has been refugees since the Arab-Israel conflict took place in 1947. Ousted from their homeland, they took shelter in Kuwait until Iraq's President Saddam Hussein incited the Gulf War in 1991. All of this took a heavy toll on the Najjar family. They were forcibly removed from their homes, forced to live as refugees in the United States for more than 22 years, and are still waiting for the much-needed asylum status.

But most of the story centres around Mo. As a boy, he fled with his family from the Gulf War, and he coped with American society the hard way. As a refugee, he could not get decent studies or a job-thus no upward mobility. 

He meets his ends and his family's needs through blue-collar jobs, but those jobs barely stay as he continuously gets fired because he's still a refugee. All this makes Mo take up odd jobs to keep his family running.

Mo has a complex relationship with his family. He finds it hard to get the consent of his religious mother, Yusra, to marry his Mexican Catholic girlfriend, Maria. Moreover, he has a complicated dynamic with his estranged elder sister Nadia and older brother with special needs, Sameer. All these make Najjar family relationships pretty eventful and humorous.

The context of the Arab-Israel conflict is a recurring theme. The audience sees Mo still processing the grief of losing his father a few years after reuniting with them. He is struck with a new trauma when he finds out that Iraqi soldiers tortured his father in the war. He resorts to addiction to cope with them, but Maria helps him to recover, which is heartwarming.

The obnoxiousness of American laws and regulations is portrayed throughout the show. Mo could not seek medical attention though he was injured in a shooting, because the immigration authorities would identify him. Moreover, the 22-year wait of the Najjar family to become asylees is always felt. They are constantly postponed due to mundane clerical reasons but get no support or permit to earn a living—showing the hypocrisy of the American immigration system. 

Mo shows this hellish system pragmatically but in the most comical way possible.

Mo constantly shows the struggle of a Muslim immigrant to fit into American society and maintain his faith. Mo Amer perfectly portrays the lead character, whose life is rife with problems and traumas, but he deals with them with a smile. This brings the comedic elements into the drama and keeps the show running. 

Mo Amer is certainly the heart of Mo and knows how to intrigue the audience with his sense of humour.

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