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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. Fredrica

    We fully support your American right to support who ever you want (this is in regard to the ads pulled on Muslims in America program. It is NOT a religious issue—it’s a freedom issue. When these rights have been eroded away by groups or individuals, then we will cease to be a free America.

    I will go out of my way now (going past a Home Depot) and rather shop at a Lowes from now on as long as you stick to your rights as free Americans. PLEASE DO NOT BACK DOWN FROM YOUR STAND.
    We as thinking Americans need to remember that there is freedom of speech here, which applies to where we choose to place our money. We as Americans who value these freedoms will hopefully put our money where our mouths are. THANK YOU LOWES FOR MAKING MY SHOPPING DECISIONS EASIER BY MAINTAINING OUR FREE RIGHTS

    December 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • seraphim0

      A freedom issue? Oh, I'm sorry... because the show features muslims as the focal point, pulling your ads because some right-wing racists threaten a boycott isn't caving in to bigotry? And what if it were a TV show about a white, christian family and aetheists threatened to boycott or held a letter campaign because 'those christians are always trying to shove their religion down our throats'?

      Or, how about if it was a jewish family show and another religious group forced lowes to pull its ads because of judaism?

      Would you still think this was freedom? Or cloaked bigotry?

      Yeah... doesn't look so free any more, does it? I love how people like you always coach this in terms of freedom and the like when you obviously have no idea what the heck you are talking about.

      And for the record, I'm not muslim. I was raised catholic.

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

      So let me get this straight: you are so convinced muslims want to destroy your freedoms, based on no actual evidence at all, that you consider the TLC show anti-freedom?

      You are one twisted individual. I had not planned on ever seeing this show, but knowing how much you hate it (and have probably never seen it) makes me seriously consider watching it now. Thank you for opening my eyes about how much evil there is in the hearts of Americans (not the muslim ones, in case you didn't get that).

      December 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Really???

      You, madam, are clearly an imbecile.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Patty

      Fredrica, people have the right to be bigots and everyone else has to the right to call them on it. This is about religion and race, to say it's a freedom of speech issue is ridicilous and just gives you an excuse to practice your bigotry. You can pretend that's not what you're doing but it's crystal clear.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  2. Jason T

    I I liked shopping at Lowe's. But Home Depot is getting all my money now.

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

      Yup.....me too!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Mighty7

      You know ot...Luckly, we have no Lowes where I live, so that is an easy choice...

      December 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  3. Deb

    Shame on Lowe's for it's knee jerk reaction in response to the Florida Family Associations objection to the "All American Muslim" TV show. Americans, by definition, come from all different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Our soldiers have fought and given their lives so that ALL Americans can live freely. And our soldiers fight now to help other countries embrace democracy. Bigotry has no place in our democracy and I am appalled at some of the comments I have read. In the end, we are all human and really not so different from one another. Yes, there are bad people out there, but they come in all colors and religions and ethnicities ... you would think we would have learned that lesson by now.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • ConservativeOne

      Blah, blah, blah.

      This show is going to tank, anyway. It is centered around following a family as they go to a mosque each morning, come home, eat dinner, poop, brush their teeth, go to bed, and repeat.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  4. dudlio

    Lowe's marketing blew it. That's the only story here. Muslim terrorists attacked and continue to plan attacks against the US, sorry but we have no choice but to keep an eye on you, and we are. The USA is a free country, we can say what we want and companies can decide how they want to spend their advertising budget. A marketing blunder though. And if you don't like it here then move to another country. Let me know if you find one that's any more accepting of Muslims then the US, outside of the middle east that is.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Akhan

      Actually, if people don't like it, they are free to say what they want. Which is what Arsalan is doing. Try not to contradict yourself when you are spewing ignorance – it only makes it more obvious.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  5. Captain America

    Lowe's is an equal opportunity retailer. They sell box cutters to all....it's up to the customer(s) what they do with them!

    December 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  6. Mike, Cleveland OH

    Lowes is a free to advertise where they choose.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Mighty7

      ...and we are free to tell Lowes to go and fkcu itself.

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

      Mighty7, I bet you are just some Liberal turd that deep down could give a rat's ass about Muslims, but because you're so feeble-minded, you read an article that enflamed you with such rage that you feel compelled to hate Lowe's.

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

      @conservativeone – "you read an article that enflamed you with such rage that you feel compelled to hate Lowe's."

      Sort of like how you hate Liberals?

      December 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  7. 53percenter2

    What the author has forgotten is that we live in a free country. That means we are free not to watch shows we don't agree with. We are free not promote our businesses on programs that some of our customers do not agree with. And you are free to write a one-sided article.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  8. ConservativeOne

    We live in a country where we can politically align ourselves with whomever we want (Right, Left, Center).

    Who are these "activists" and "human rights lawyers" to say that Lowes can't pull an ad they don't want to affiliate themselves with? Essentially, they would rather FORCE Lowe's to put back the ad. Right?

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

      Besides, I bet you this show doesn't complete a single season.

      NOBODY watches this crap. Would you sit down on a couch every day and watch a show that followed Christians around as they go about their daily lives?

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

      No one is saying they should be forced to do anything... Just as I can choose not to purchase anything from this company again.

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

      If you are going to be so politically correct with the companies you choose to shop at, here's a list of companies you shouldn't be visiting:

      1. Apple – child labor in China
      2. Wal-Mart – child labor in China
      3. Target – knock-off designer brand clothes

      I could add more.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  9. Coach

    What's wrong with just being American? Why do people feel a need to put a label on the "type" of American you are?

    I dont care if you're Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Irish, Mexican, White, Black, Gay or straight. American is American period

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

      Because the christians "claim" this country. We need to show them that this is not now and never has been a christian country. This is a secular country.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • ConservativeOne

      Defenders of "this country is secular" garbage use this as a weapon to further the Aetheist's agenda.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • DJL

      @ConservativeOne: Quote: "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

      -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

      Are you going to call Thomas Jefferson (a Christian) an atheist with an agenda? Hmmm? Atheists/agnostics don't have a problem with people believing in religion. It's having it forced down your throat by a bunch of ignorant f00ls who mistakenly believe they enforce ancient mythology as law, which would violate the 1st Amendment and over 100 years of Supreme Court rulings on the subject.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  10. Jesse

    This is America, land of the free. Not just freedom for the individual but also freedom for the corporations. If Lowes, a very diverse corporation who hires people from all walks of life be it Muslim Jew Hindu Christian handicap etc.., wants to pull advertisement from a program that is an obvious exploitation of the Muslim people anyway, that is their right. The true Bigots here are the people trying to blame Christians for Lowes decision. Just because you may disagree with a particular people does not make you a bigot, what makes you a bigot is vocalizing your detest and attempting to recruit more people into your hatred.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  11. MattinDC

    Wait a minute Arsalan...last time i checked this was a FREE country. Lowes can do WHATEVER it desires as can MUSLIM shoppers, Christian shoppers, Jew shoppers. This is a NON-ISSUE. Just boycott Lowes if you need revenge. Or let it GO.

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

      Perhaps you shouldn't read the article based on that premise....Or maybe we as Americans should stand up when hate and bigotry become common practice. Isn't that what you were taught in grade school?

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

      There would be NO PROBLEM if Lowes decided to pull a Christian ad.

      I

      December 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • DJL

      "There would be NO PROBLEM if Lowes decided to pull a Christian ad."

      Yeah, right.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  12. Sybaris

    Robert A Niblock is Lowes CEO and chairs the Lowes Diversity Council (oh the contradiction)

    Here's his email address:

    robert.a.niblock@lowes.com

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

      Thanks for that, I will write to him straight away. Listening to the reasoning of the so called "Christian" group that started this nonsense made me so darned angry and embarrased, I have to say something. These comments show the world how ignorant many Americans are. We as a society should not be held hostage by ignorant, intolerant fear mongers.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • DJL

      Well said, Courtney!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  13. QS

    Just saw that the FFA's web site was hacked yesterday! So they shut it down and have now put up this message....if the sheer paranoia and xenophobia is not clearly evident to you all in this message then I don't know how else to explain it to some of you:

    "No further proof is needed of the potential for vicious action then exactly what these folks are trying to do to this web site! The attack has been extremely mean spirited....Because of our real concern for the terrorism that is a way of life for some folks, we ourselves have become victims. Because we urge others to be vigilant we become the targets. Don't let it happen folks, take a stand before it is too late."

    Oh, believe me, some of us are taking a stand....against your brand of hate.

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

      No, you lose on this one. Lowe's is a FREE independent company = they can do WHATEVER THEY WANT.
      If you're a MUSLIM go to Home Depot. Certainly they sell that (Bomb) fertilzer there too....ha ha ha!!!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  14. Thenextstep

    LETS HERE IT FOR LOWES................. HIP HIP, HOOOORRRAAAAYYYYY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  15. Jon

    "I wonder whether these people would ever have the guts to say these same things about other religious and ethnic groups in America today."
    I wonder, why, we never hear the Musim population of the US, condemning the terrosit acts and acts of intolerance towards other faiths (how about the Coptic Christians for example?) commited by members of the Muslim faith?

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

      Jon, it's because you don't look hard enough. Turn off Faux News and do some actual research:

      http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn.php

      December 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Jye75

      We do. You just have selective observation skills.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  16. James PDX

    Thank God there isn't an All-American Christian show. I couldn't handle that much hypocrisy bundled into 30 minutes. As much as I dislike the Muslim religion and it's violent nature and founder, the history of Christianity isn't much better. Neither religion's followers are very good at following the rules of their religion. Christians only follow the rules that are not inconvenient to them. When was the last time a Christian stoning took place in America for infidelity? When was the last time a Christian woman was forced to marry her rapist as the Old Testament states should happen? And, let's face it, the average Muslim wants none of the violence that their holy book calls for. They want to believe in their religion and God, but only the good parts. It's the violent extremists who cling to Muhammad's call to kill or subjugate all non Muslims. Religion is just a placebo for those afraid of their mortality. But it easily becomes a tool for those who want to control others and gain power. It's time to just pull all tax exemptions from all religions and afford them zero special benefits. Then maybe we can finally have some peace when they start to fold.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • QS

      They don't need a "show" – there's an entire network that panders to Christian zealots 24-7!

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

      "And, let's face it, the average Muslim wants none of the violence that their holy book calls for. They want to believe in their religion and God, but only the good parts."

      Then why don't they publicly proclaim/support it,(non-violence) instead of quietly supporting and espousing (violence) it by not speaking out? Is it a media issue/problem? If so, then the Muslim community as a whole needs to speak up.
      Otherwise, all they do by inaciton, is perpetrate discrimination...

      December 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  17. gregg

    What a joke.
    If you do not like it, turn the darn channel. One of the freedoms being exercised here is the freedom of stupidity.
    In the Good ole USA we have many, many exercising this right on a regular basis.

    Christians are such a violent, self serving policical party.
    Once again, if it werent for Christians, Christianity might be attractive.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • James PDX

      Nothing as hypocritical and full of contradictions will ever be attractive. The entire religion was failing, so they rebooted it with the New and easier Testament. Yet Christians still can't follow their own rules. But why should they? The reboot states that some guy died for all of their sins. Since their sins are already paid for in full, they've got a free pass. What a deal!

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

      "Christians are such a violent, self serving policical party."

      And Muslims aren't? Get a clue dumba$$!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Mighty7

      Just look at one of their original "leaders" Ralph Reed: The guy run a racket with the Abramoff crew whereby he publically attacked gambling while AT THE SAME TIME using his position in congress to extort money from indian gambling casinos via the "Abramoff Loop": Either pay up or we will make sure laws get passed that forbid you from running a casino.

      Evangelical Christians are, by all accounts, one of the most morally corrupt, twisted and evil groups in the history of the US.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  18. Richard

    The reality is that bigotry on the part of the right wing is alive & well. The only acceptable religion to them is evangelical christanity. It is sad that Lowes supports this bigotry, but it illustrates the power of the right wing, in sheer numbers.

    I'm sure Lowes did a business calculation & concluded that losing right wing customers would be a bigger business blow than losing a few Muslims and anti bigtory people.

    So it was a busniess decision, pure & simple.

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

      The wonderful American religion of capitalism!

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

      Richard: did you sleep through PR class? The appearance and reputation of a company and the consumers it loses by aligning itself with certain views matters.

      Lowe's doesn't have to worry about being "politically correct" because some cry-baby liberals throw a temper tantrum.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  19. Guest

    What this opinion piece proves is that both Arsalan Iftikhar and some of Lowes customers are bigots. Big surprize. That will never change.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  20. Akhan

    The lesson I have learned, as a Muslim raised in America, is that individuals can be swayed to hate 10x easier than swayed to love. And once they hate, their hearts are hardened even when faced with Truth. I guess this is why Jesus said that many will seek to enter into Heaven, but only a few will be allowed.

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

      What? Jesus is an Indian Giver? He said he died for my sins and now he's saying that I have to pay for them? Worst religion ever! (next to Islam)

      December 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • ConservativeOne

      "Swayed to hate?"

      I don't recall a handul of angry, violent Catholic nuns hijacking a plane and killing thousands of innocent people, in the name of Jesus Christ.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @ConservativeOne

      Yeah, I can't remember that either. I remember the guy in Norway who killed people in the name of Jesus though. Or the IRA, a catholic terrorist organization...... yeah, .....

      December 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Akhan

      First, hate takes on many forms. Second, comparing the (politically motivated) hijakers of 9//11 to Catholic Nuns is ridiculous and third if you have never heard of violence in the name of Christianity than perhaps you should to some reading.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:21 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.