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My Take: Is ‘All-American Muslim’ begetting all-American bigotry?
One of the families on TLC's "All-American Muslim."
December 12th, 2011
10:29 PM ET

My Take: Is ‘All-American Muslim’ begetting all-American bigotry?

Editor's note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, global media commentator and author of the book "Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era."

By Arsalan Iftikhar, Special to CNN

Imagine for a moment that a major American corporation decided to remove its commercials from a reality television show highlighting the everyday lives of Latinos, African-Americans, members of the LGBT community or Jewish Americans because of coordinated letter-writing campaigns from right-wing organizations.

If you think this kind of bigotry could not happen in modern-day America, you would be absolutely wrong.

The hardware and building supply chain Lowe’s has pulled its TV commercials from future episodes of TLC’s new reality show “All-American Muslim” after a letter-writing campaign by the Florida Family Association, a Christian group.

The Tampa-based organization has urged companies to pull ads because it alleges the show is “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.”

This argument is lunacy and is a pretext for bigotry against Muslims, plain and simple. Using this sophomoric logic, the TLC reality show "Sister Wives" is a covert campaign to promote fundamentalist Mormon polygamy across America.

Nonetheless, in response to the growing controversy, Lowe's issued a terribly weak statement (and non-apology) on its Facebook page which states, in part:

“Lowe’s has received a significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views. As a result, we did pull our advertising on this program.”

Wait a minute, Lowe’s. Exactly what "topic" are you talking about? Are we 7 million American Muslims merely a "topic" to discuss in today’s America? In 2011, do we live in a country in which an entire minority group can be dehumanized as a “topic?”

Plus, it is cowardly for Lowe’s not to  even mention this "topic" (aka Muslims) by name in its public statements.

What if right-wing groups were mobilizing against a television show highlighting the everyday lives of Latinos, African-Americans, Jewish people or gay people? Would Lowe’s have buckled?

Of course not.

What makes this national controversy all the more troubling is that many of the more than 12,000 comments responding to Lowe’s Facebook statement endorse the chain store’s decision, and in jingoistic language that is a lot less oblique than Lowe’s. Here are some of the comments that were showcased by BuzzFeed:

- “Thank you Lowes, for pulling your advertising from “All American Muslims” show (there is no such thing as “All American Muslims”).”

- “[The women on the TLC show] were almost pretty, till they put rags on their heads.”

- “How dare these people come into our country and try to take over and push their religion onto us!”

- “Thank you for pulling your support for American Muslim, now I will come back and shop in your stores.”

I wonder whether these people would ever have the guts to say these same things about other religious and ethnic groups in America today.

Do these people know that the cast members for "All-American Muslim" include a federal agent and a deputy chief of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, both of whom are proud American Muslims?

Do they know that some of America’s foremost heroes and celebrities, from boxer Muhammad Ali to comedian Dave Chappelle, are proud Muslims?

Just as anti-black, anti-Semitic, homophobic or anti-Latino campaigns should have no place in our country, it is important for Americans of all races, religions and ethnicities to stand up against the bigoted campaign against "All-American Muslim."

Otherwise, TLC might as well change the name of its show to "All-American Bigotry."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Arsalan Iftikhar.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Opinion • TV

soundoff (2,079 Responses)
  1. Jim

    Lowes has affiliated itself with Christian Extremists who (given the opportunity) would be every bit as dangerous as other lunatic fringe groups. Boycott Lowes! BTW, I am a Christian American.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Bill Henderson

      Yeah, those big, bad Christian extremists. They sure kill a lot of people with their suicide bombers.
      Uh-huh. What a dolt you are.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • eve

      At Mr. Henderson – hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered in the name of Christ. The Christian & Catholic extremists through history slayed many people who were of different cultures – they went to their countries and murdered and converted them, oh, and robbed and pillaged them. Yes, your religion has had plenty of terrorists of their own.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Sybaris

      No Bill, christians in the U.S. kill people "legally" by having their christian President declare war on Muslim countries.

      Get it right.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Floyd

      Uh... Bill Henderson, there are violent christian extremists... like the guy who shot the abortion doctor (a completely legal profession by the way) while the guy was in church. why? because it's what his version of god tells him to do. there may not be as many christian extremists (or at least not as many violent) but they exist, they still do, just like when the catholics were burning protestants at the stake as heratics in the 1500s. stop pretending that your faith is clean of blood of the innocent, it's just been a few more years.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Peter

      Yeah, those Christians are real dangerous, taking their families to church every week. Yeah, worshiping The Lord God is very threatening to a decent society.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  2. Gumby

    Shame on Lowe's for buckling on this instead of going public with this blackmail threat. Ask for donations or other advertiser backing instead. This Christian group would be wise to remember as George Washington stated "America is not a Christian nation". Love your neighbor as yourself. Remember the good Samaritan?

    December 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Greg s

      Maybe Loews looked at what Muslims are doing for them and decided it just wasnt worth it. How many Muslims shop at Loews anyway. How many Christians shop at Loews, Hmm lets do the math!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  3. EarnYourOwn

    Here is a littel advise for the Muslims. You are now in the spot light and it will remain that way until another group of people draws the attention away. neign someoen of little to no faith I have no opinion of your religion, only that the extreame fringe of your religion has caused all this for you. There is no easy way to address this if you are a company like Lowes, and I understand them removing their selves from the middle of the decussion.

    I know it is not fair and reeks of racism, but for the company it is probably best to not be apart of the lighting rod issue.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  4. Keefster

    It *used* to be a form of entertainment to read all the harebrained, bigoted, bongwater-drinking halfwits who are able to drag their knuckles across a keyboard to "comment" on a CNN story–but this one? No way. Reading just one screenful was enough to put me off my lunch. I knew what to expect, and I wasn't disappointed. God help America. What a bunch of losers. No, NOT ALL AMERICANS, just a disturbingly large number. Jeez, people! It's A TV SHOW. About FAMILIES. AMERICAN families. HeLLO?

    December 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  5. Miranda

    These few Muslims don't even begin to make up for the millions of Muslims who hate us, hate America, and want to see us all dead. For all I know Muslims put this together as propaganda to brain wash us into putting our heads in the sand again. I'm not buying it and the stupid show should be off the air. Anymore dumb shows to try and make us learn to love the nice Muslims and I'll start wanting them to all pack up and get out.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • kern

      Europe is a very good example of this trojon horse slowly infiltrates the culture and causes havoc.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Keefster

      Yep!!! America-haters. You know–like Timothy McVeigh.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Greg s

      yea you dont have many to choose from when it comes to American Terrorist, Ole Timmy is all ya got, Folks try to say hes a Christian Terrorist but that's Lie, He didn't blow up that Building for Jesus Christ, He didn't scream Jesus Christ name when it went POOF! Yea not quite the same friend.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  6. Tough SItuation

    I can see why Mr. Iftikhar is upset, and he has a very valid point. Lowes was in a difficult situation, and they decided to take the "easy" way out, even though it makes them look hypocritical, and even though it encourages these right wing wackos to do more of this.

    Life isn't fair. It was decidedly unfair to all good, law abiding islamic-americans when the the twin towers were destroyed and thousands of innocent civilians were killed by islamic extremists. In response, Americans jumped into a "bunker" mentality, starting two wars, creating an entire new governmental agency, shutting down immigration, spending trillions in defense and other related areas, suspending reasonable privacy standards, and embracing a decidedly visceral fear of everything middle eastern, particularly islamic.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Greg s

      Why is it if you do not like this Show you are a right wing Wacko, Ive seen it and I think its boring and un realistic, I don't like it. So now Im a right wing wacko well hell, guess I better go buy a gun and join the NRA huh!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  7. Steve

    You mean a company doesn't want to be associated with something that is deemed controversial by a minute fraction of the population because of their loud protests – despite how nonsensical? Kind of like all the protests over Tebow's sueprbowl commercial and any company that dares to recognize Christmas?
    How shocking

    December 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  8. Hypatia

    Another tv tempest in a teacup. Or glass, as the case may be.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  9. Terrence Dolan

    My family and I will no longer shop at Lowes until they renew their commercial
    support of the TV program "All American Muslim." I have been living in the
    Middle East (Saudi Arabia) on-and-off during the past decade and the letters
    wriitten from the Florida Family Association are but the latest example, in my
    opinion, of the ignorance of Americans who have never been to the Middle
    East and who haves never spent any time with Muslims or lived in an Arab
    country. I guess I can't be surprised given the past views and behaviors that
    have been displayed by this organization and others like it. No wonder we
    are so hated globally and why are future seems bleak. If there is a God, I'd
    ask that he/she protect us from such ignorant people.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Hypatia

      That is your right. I've never set foot in a Walmart because I object to their business practices. It is also Lowe's right to air its commecials during whatever program they please. *shrug* If the show is a hit, this will die away. If it stinks and gets pulled, it will also die away. All in all, this smacks of CNN grandstanding.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Greg s

      Could it be the bad press the Muslims are getting in Egypt from dragging Christians out of there homes and killing them in the streets, Egypt is in the Middle East isnt it, Hmm those particular Christians living in Egypt probably have an opinion on Muslims that we should adopt!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  10. jonny

    It's a shame that we still call ourselves Americans. Right now Lowes is using it's financial strength to support close-minded bigotry. In order to avoaid losing their middle-America shoppers, they have captiulated to the worst type of fear – xenopohobia, and all in the name of profit. Congratulations Lowes, you're proving everyone who complains about America correct. If you're a REAL American, who believes in Freedom of Speech, Relion and Expression, you'll boycott Lowes until they aplogize to the Muslim Community. But I doubt you will.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  11. rcpr

    if the shoe fits, wear it! we didn't create this anti-islam... your own people did...

    December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Reality

    Dear Arsalan,

    (We again request a reply addressing the following)

    The answer is easy:

    ( From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi)

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..

    December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Greg s

      SO you say, Who the hell are you?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  13. BobFromPA

    I am not a christian and do not have a religious bone in my body and do not support any organized religion. Having said that I also do not support bigotry in any form and I don't judge people until they give me a reason to. I also do not grossly generalize any group or in other words "Shoot the crowd for the sins of a few". I will not be shopping at Lowes until they realize this is America and what they did was truly unAmerican!

    December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Greg s

      Good for you, Your mad at Lows because they decided to keep the customers who shop at there store as opposed to those who's demographic is so small that its not worth the effort to appease them. Home Depot who chose not to endorse this show because it would upset the Christians who shop at there store will be glad to have you.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  14. Alger Dave

    Mr. Iftikhar (the writer) is either lying or incredibly naive in being amazed that this is happening in America. The US is largely a Christian nation, with most of our legal code and even everyday life based largely on Biblical teachings. We have developed, from this foundation of beliefs, a society in which people can express their personal beliefs, regardless of whether others agree or not. Christians (and most Americans for that matter) look across the globe to the areas where Muslims dominate the populace and see nearly the exact opposite of our core beliefs. This is even true (if not more so) in countries where the 'arab spring' has occurred – they're now moving towards more brutal Islamic law enforcement (which is now a function of the will of the people – as these countries are now democracies). Can't blame brutal legal systems or illiberal policies on dictators anymore – now we understand how the majority feels – and it's even worse than we had imagined it would be. So please don't throw stones at this largely Christian nation for not wanting to have Islam promoted through a show like the one on TLC. It's a complete lie that Muslims are just like us – they simply are not.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Ransom Stoddard

      Dave:

      Who is "us"??

      December 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Greg s

      Us is Us but not You, Im thinking your a them!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  15. Elaina

    I have not not had a chance to watch the show yet, but have seen previews for it and was curious. I recently moved to a new neighborhood where there are lots of Muslims. At my new job, I now work with several Muslims too. I have wanted to watch this show bc my new encounters with Muslims have shattered all my previous stereotypes that I held. Every single one of them has been friendly, nice, helpful, and respectful towards me. Not once has any of them talked down to me, treated me like they wanted to bomb my house, or ever even discussed their beliefs with me. That's more than I can say for the mormans and other religious fruit loops I have encountered in my life.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jimmy CrapCorn

      And you are just another in a long line of enabling stupid bytches.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Greg s

      Its a shame that the wonderful sweet Muslims that seem to grace our shores aren't the same the world over, oddly its only America that has peaceful fun loving Muslims full of Happiness, and sharing!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  16. tnsurge

    I spent my adult life in service to this country, protecting the rights you are exercising now...freedom of speech,, freedom to choose, freedom to worship....but somehow I feel ashamed when ignorance and hate are the result. Unless you are native american everyone would be well served to remember your ancestry and the road your family traveled to become "Americans".

    December 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  17. rush

    Many conservative Christians (christianists) have one common purpose is to destroy Islam in America because for one simple reason, Islam is gaining momentum and many Americans are interested in this beautiful religion. Here is the problem with these hateful people and their agenda, it doesn't work the more you make it an issue the more the american people want to know about Islam. Either way christianists will loose...

    December 13, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  18. ROBIN

    We do still have freedom of speech in America, if LOWES wants to pull an ad it is their right to do so. Just as its the right of TLC to make a muslim reality show. Get over it. In America you do not have to agree with everything put out there, thats why there is even a muslim reality show in the first place......

    December 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  19. liz

    I plan to tivo this show and watch the commercials over and over again

    December 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Jen

      Even better, support the companies that aren't afraid to stand up for what's right by buying their products!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  20. Greg s

    My mind would change about this show when I see a Gay Muslim on the show, I see a Muslim marry a Christian on the show, When I see a Muslim denounce a act of terrorism in the middle east publicly on the show, When we see these things maybe the show has a chance.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • stevem

      Best comment I have seen here......I agree totally with you!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Mandy323

      I'm Christian and married to a Muslim. I've been to the Middle East countless times. In Jordan, there are Christian churches sitting peacefully across the street from mosques. Any other ignorant views I can address for you Greg?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Mandy323

      A simple google search will show you just how many Muslims do denounce terrorism...choose your media, bud. The truth is, nothing will ever be good enough for people who are too lazy to educate themselves outside of Fox News.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      When Timothy McVeigh committed the Oklahoma City attack, did you feel the need to walk around apologizing for all white people or did you trust that smart people knew that this was just an attack by a very disturbed individual following a very extreme ideology?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.