PLANO, TEXAS - A few months ago, Sharmina Zaidi received a phone call from a fellow member of the local Muslim community. A production crew was looking for a Muslim family to spotlight in an upcoming docu-series on race relations in America. Sharmina, a wife, business owner, and mother of four seemed like the perfect fit for what they wanted.
But she had to remind them of something.
“I am not an immigrant.”
That fact always seems to come as somewhat of a surprise to people according to Sharmina. Her home is adorned with Islamic art and she wears the traditional hijab to cover her hair. But Sharmina was born in the United States, is lover of chicken fried steak and the Dallas Cowboys.
Smashing preconceived perceptions is one of the reasons why she wanted to take part in the series called American Race on TNT. But she had no idea it would mean playing host to a basketball legend.
“I was a little bit nervous. Initially when I responded, I did not realize what a huge production it would be and that Charles Barkley would be involved,” she said.
The basketball hall-of-famer turned commentator has become known for his raw, unfiltered opinions on societal issues almost as much as his opinions on basketball. The four-episode series has been heavily promoted on TNT during the NBA playoffs and features Barkley having conversations with people on all sides of racial tensions in the country.
In the episode airing on Thursday night, Barkley comes to Dallas-Fort Worth to meet with Sharmina and other local figures affected by the stereotypes, fears, and perceptions of Muslims. During the episode, he pays a visit to Sharmina’s Plano restaurant and also has dinner at her home with other invited guests to talk race.
“His approach was very down to earth, every humble,” said Sharmina. “He wanted to get into every community.”
Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne is among the people Barkley speaks with about how communities accept Muslims. Earlier this year, Van Duyne was at the center of controversy after voicing her opposition to Islamic tribunals in the City of Irving.
After watching the episode, Sharmina was happy with how the episode was presented.
“After watching him speak to the mayor, I think he did what he wanted to do. He presented both sides. He wanted to be fair.”
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