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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. TexasDude

    Why does CCN give this kind of coverage to a NON-issue? Lowe's is free to choose whom they support, or don't support. If this bothersome, don't shop there. Quit using 'muslim' as a name to inpsire sympathy. The Author sounds like a cry-baby.

    The main question is: can Lowe's deliver products/services to everyone...including muslims? Yes. T

    December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • DJL

      It's an Opinion piece, that's why it's here on CNN. Ultimately, it's about bigotry against *any* minority, not just muslims. Oh and by the way, in about 35 years, non-Latino Caucasians will become a minority in the USA. So get ready to start pressing "2" if you want English...

      December 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Jye75

      Seems to me, the crybabies are the ones who participated in this letter-writing campaign to get sponsorship pulled from the show.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  2. redhead72

    The ignorance of the comments posted here makes me ashamed to be an American

    December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Jon

      Then perhaps you should read, and not post...

      December 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • no

      Totally agree. This is a cesspool of American stupidity at its worst.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  3. Bob

    Wow Arsalan, are you that big of a moron? This is America. Lowes has every right in the world to advertise how they see fit. They didn't pull their ads to be discriminatory. They pulled them to avoid controversy. If they were running ads blasting Islam, or trying to actively hurt Muslims, then you would be on the right track. The very article you posted is one of the big reason for the anti Muslim sentiment in America. You don't want a level playing field, you want special treatment. Where is your outrage at a UNITED STATES SENATOR threatening to use the federal government to try and cripple an American company over where they advertise? Where? Oh, that's right, he's using the govt. to help your blind ideals, so that's OK. Lowes can advertise how they wish, and America will respond with their wallets. That's the way it works in The Land Of The Free. If ANYone is coming off as a bigoted jerk in this issue, it's you...

    December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • James

      They were advertising where they wished ....but unfortunately, right wing christian fanatics rallied against them... so brotherly they are! ... and Lowes bowed under pressure.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  4. Downafewpegs

    I don't think the author (or his editor) knows what "jingoistic" means. None of the Facebook comments he quoted are jingoistic. Conceivably they are *xenophobic* under a freer definition of xenophobia. Quite possibly they are bigoted (and btw bigotry is not limited to just race). The statements are not jingoistic. Jingoism is extreme patriotism in the advocacy of aggressive foreign policy. An advertisement for an American hardware store on an American television program about America citizens is in no way related to foreign policy.

    I respect the author's right to voice his opinion but he has undermined himself by using words he clearly does not understand. I would rather read the thoughts of an educated, thoughtful person – this author is not one.

    Who edited this piece, and has that person the basic common sense to be embarrassed? Wow.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • MikeyMikeMichaelandyouknowwhyitsmyname

      http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ bigoted thinking....no just an exercise of enlightened discernment.
      Start Here for your personal journey of enlightenment http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

      December 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  5. stefan kosof

    American Muslims missed the boat after 911. If they were against what happened, we never saw it. They should have been marching in the streets by the thousands, supporting America and speaking out against terror, that never happened. Truth is, (and it sucks) that most American Muslims don't reflect the views that these fine Americans do on the show.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Intelligence

      And like so many others, your ignorance has blinded you to the fact that many of them did. You didnt see it, because you didnt want to see it.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Edwin

      They did what you said, except for marching in the streets. They protested on web sites, loudly and vocally. They made public statements against the attack.

      They did not walk in the streets, though, because that was when attacks against muslims became popular, and they feared for their safety at the hands of other Americans.

      Just because you ignorantly missed their protest against 9/11 doesn't mean it did not happen - it means you are ignorant. Unfortunately, my post will probably have little benefit, because you will probably choose to remain that way.

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

      @edwin links please? here is one for you http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

      December 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  6. Sybaris

    In a country where about 75% of the population claims to be christian I guess it's not surprising for Lowes to cave into majority pressure/majority consumers regardless, Lowes has just demonstrated time travel though only backwards.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Edwin

      And of those 75% christians, I'd bet a large percentage WOULD feel the same way against a show about jews, blacks, or latinos. The difference is they'd know not to publicly say it - but they DO feel just as much hatred and bigotry against such groups.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Terri

      I am a Christian but I am NOT represented by the Florida Family Group, just as the majority of Muslims are NOT represented by the Taliban. Shame on Lowe's for caving to terrorism – that of the Florida Family Group.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Terri

      Edwin, why do you make the assumption that most Christians are bigotted? I strongly disagree. I would watch a show about another race or religion. I find it interesting and mind-expanding. I have many friends and acquaintances who are Christian and feel the same way.

      You're only furthering the bigotry by assuming that the majority of Christians feel or think a certain way.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  7. Rick

    Whyto go Lowes now I will always shop there, that show has no place on american TV.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • MikeyMikeMichaelandyouknowwhyitsmyname

      I wish they sold groceries and made home and car loans as well....oh wait just a minute here folks...lets not go too far...be sensible..unlike a monetary system based upon sharia accounting practices...all islam all the time. Remember the trap "Choose your enemies well, for soon you will become like them" Get the facts http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

      December 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  8. krispy kritter

    more concerned about my fantasy football team than thse dam muslims..............

    December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  9. Robert

    I'm catholic and this is total crap. If any of these so called Christians read the bible they'd know Jesus welcomed everyone. I bet most of these people never even saw the show. Get out of your sheltered living. Go out and meet some new people who don't believe exactly what you believe there is a whole world out there.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Mike

      Manye Jesus did. I dont!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • MikeyMikeMichaelandyouknowwhyitsmyname

      translation for islamists "See the world, meet interesting people, decieve them, infiltrate them, convert them, subjugate them, murder them" It's all too stark to ignore http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

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

    Sad that America will allow a show about the Kardashians to continue but have issue with this show? If anything this shows allows us to see not ALL Muslims are Extremists. Shame on Lowes, I'll be taking my $$ to Home Depot.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • Mike

      When it comes down to it theyre all suicide bombers. Ill be taking my money back to Lowes now and Ill bet i spend a lot more than you since Im not always trying to get a bargain!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Jo nathan76

    Let's not forget that it wasn't Latinos, African Americans, or Asian american's that blew up the WTC. It was a group of Muslims that is bent on bringing down this country. I am a tolerant person and I am able to separate bad Christians from good and bad Muslims from good. BUT I at least understand the sensitivity of people on this one.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • James

      ..and who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma city? 'll give you a hint.. it wasnt a muslim

      December 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • beth

      My dearest Jo nathan76,

      It wasn't the Muslim people who crashed those planes into the WTC. It was a very specific group of people and the main person is now gone. and with your refrence it wasn't any of those people or muslims that was responsible for OK City. The klan is a Christian Terrorist Group but you dont shun all Christians!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Sadie

      Let's not forget that it was Timothy McVeigh (white and not Muslim, as far as I remember) who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Let's not forget it is Christian extremists who blow up reproductive services clinics and murder doctors. Let's not forget it was the Catholic Church who sent thousands of children to war during the Crusades.
      Do you get where I'm going with this?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • David Stone

      @ James....a LONE NUT....who was part of no religious group....no church....no religious organization....don't even start with that convoluted logic....GARBAGE!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Jo nathan76

      Just stirring up debate...looks like it worked. Ha!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  12. Guest

    Well said, Arsalan. But you erred in singling out Lowes–it isn't just Lowes, unfortunately. I won't shop at Lowes, but I also won't shop at any of the other companies who supported this.

    You also erred in referring to the Florida Family Association as a "Christian" group. Clearly, they're wholly unfamiliar with the teachings of Christ.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • MikeyMikeMichaelandyouknowwhyitsmyname

      http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ Plain and simple the statistics are staggering !!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  13. Roy

    This would have been a better argument coming from someone who wasn't an Muslim. Not saying that he doesn't have a point, just that it would seem less one-sided.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • MikeyMikeMichaelandyouknowwhyitsmyname

      He is a spy and propagandist(unwittingly at that)....he would be dead already in an islamic nation. http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ This is the real islam at work

      December 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  14. lathebiosas

    Wow, guess my All American Atheist reality show idea will have no sponsors. Dissapointed in Lowes. Don't they know people from all backgrounds shop there? Uneducated right wingers getting their way again because Lowes doesn't have the nads to say "change the channel churchie".

    December 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  15. Altee11

    The power of Jihadists and criminals who hide behind Islam has been to confuse people of all faiths into believing that Jihadism and criminality are part of Islam. We see this when something like the protest of the TV show happens and we also see it every time an American kid goes out and tries to perform jihadi acts in the name of Islam. Jihadism is not Islam; Is it? Parsing the jihadists, and criminals who hide behind Islam must be done more clearly to minimize misunderstandings.
    Parsing the far right Islamists who make the Christian right look like left-wing liberals must also be done better because combined they will help pull all religions towards intolerance.

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

      "What have you done for me lately" http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/ you moral equivalency is not appropriate in this matter...Get The Facts http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

      December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  16. s

    bah. the arguments on both sides are assuming the ignorance of the people watching the show. IF i were to watch this show, i would not A) run off to Lowe's immediately on seeing the commercial because i simply MUST have some drywall... NOAW! or B) automatically assume that the marketing geniuses at Lowe's were trying to somehow force me to become Muslim. commercials promote buying crap, most of which you don't need. how many people really care what commercials are on during ANY show? you get up, go to the bathroom, get a snack, let the dog out, surf for an actual show to watch so you can avoid the mind numbingly banal trivialities that are commercials. i mean, really, it's a home improvement store commercial. o noes, now people who watch the show will miss the sparkling performance of the fresh faced kid who is helping the newb home owners choose a paint color. AND MIX IT ALL SPECIAL FOR THEM! the horror....

    December 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  17. dudlio

    Maybe they pulled it because the ratings suck. The whole concept for the show is flawed and we've all had about enough of these so called "reality" shows anyway. I'm just waiting for an enterprising homeless person to come up with "Homeless in City X". None of them are real anymore. At least when Ozzie was on in the beginning it was real. Now it's all choreographed and manufactured like a Disney tween idle. My wife watches these things, I have no idea why and am not allowed to watch with her because I can't keep from making comments. "Baseball Wives" 2 wives, 2 ex-wives, and one ex-girlfriend, Huh!? Housewives of City X, is embarrassing to all housewives in City X, especially in Atlanta... "Real" people don't want cameras following them around 24/7.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  18. Keefster

    Thanks, Lowe's for making my decision whether to EVER shop a Lowe's so easy for me. No, not for "pulling" their sponsorship of a show I've never seen and am unlikely to watch. I just won't shop where corporations make chickens**t decisions based on the fulminations a group of developmentally-challenged, rapture-ized pinheaded zombies with a one-note agenda and a really big megaphone.

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

      Bigotry works both ways it seems...

      December 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  19. Hank

    The last I checked Blacks, Jews, Gays, and Latinos have yet to launch a terrorist attack on the United States.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • lathebiosas

      Those categories are mainly races, not religions. Christains have been waging war on everyone for centuries, but it was okay because it was to "spread the good word". Hitler (Catholic), Timothy Mcvey (Christian)....

      December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • LuckyDay

      Whites have though....

      December 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • heliocracy

      But Christians certainly have...do you denounce them as well as Muslims?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Heather

      That's funny because statistics show only 6% of terrorist attacks worldwide have been committed by Muslims, so I wonder what all the rest of those people are? I'd imagine some of them fall into those categories.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  20. you dont get it

    The issue is that regardless of location, a true muslim will always value sharia law higher then any other law. In the united states or in Iran, they are the same in assuming sharia law is gods law.

    Thats the real issue, sharia law is trivial and highly dehumanizing word of law. Muslims need to learn that but they never will, because they truely believe its the word of god, his law. Its so funny.

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

      Realistically speaking, anyone who is really in to religion will put the teachings of that religion above the law.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:50 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.