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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. Along The Way

    Wow. Very, very narrow-minded ...no, close-minded thinking. I hope these ways are not being taught to children, too. Amerecans, legal Americans, have every write to work and live here - no matter what their religion is. Shame on any company that is swayed by pulling support or ads JUST because someone writes some letters against someone elses' religion(s). News Flash - we are not a solely Baptist or Catholic nation. Frankly, there are more that say they have a religion and simply don't practice it at all (unless it's convenient for that moment).

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

      NO one is saying they don't.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  2. NODAT1

    I guess the writer of this NEWS tidbit really doesn’t understand freedoms and that kind of funny seeing that he using one of them to get his point across

    I have never seen the show nor do I watch TLC with interest I don’t even know the in& out of this article
    I don’t care about the show
    I don’t care about who buys advertisement space
    and I don’t care about who complained about the show

    so let me get this straight about what occurred

    1. TLC exercised their rights and televised a program about mainstream Muslims and to cover the cost TLC offered advertisement space
    2. Lowes exercised their rights and brought advertisement space
    3. a group of people exercising their rights informed Lowes that they were not happy with the program and would no longer shop at Lowes if they continued to buy advertisement space for the show
    4. Lowes exercised their rights made a business decision and pulled out of the Show

    What’s the problem ???????? Seem to me everyone was exercising their rights

    If you are upset over this, then my question I would need to ask them is what did you do to support Lowes?

    Did the people who are complaining now write to Lowes telling them what an outstanding job for supporting the show? Did you flock to Lowes and buy anything? I highly drought it, but now you want blood you want companies to lose profit you want everything catered just for you but you don’t want to support it

    Heres a hint next time a major corporation supports a program. show your support buy buying product in that store an form a group that show your support the corporation.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Get Real

      Exactly!!! Agree 100%!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  3. bella

    This is not Christianity and these organizations do NOT represent Christians. This country is about Freedom of many things including religion. It is sad that "christian" is used for an organization with such right wing bigotry. Thank you for publicly showing the world how small we really are in this country. I would have gone to Lowe's as normal as alot of people would have. Why do some constantly show the right wing that they have some sort of power when in truth the only thing they demonstrate lately is pure ignorance and bigotry. People please listen to what you think and feel not what others say you should, freedom does still live in this country – use it.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  4. PoBoy

    The author is dead right. If the Florida Family Association had a problem with the show, they should simply change the channel. Lowe's this was a cowardly act on your part that will backfire. There are more Americans offended by your actions then FFA or other right wing fanatics that support it. It is organizations like FFA that make it sad somedays to be Christian. I thought Jesus preached love and tolerance?

    December 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  5. SnazzyGirl

    I am going to watch ALL AMERICAN Jersey Shore. Wow! Christisnity and ALL AMERICAN values at its best!!!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  6. LW

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

    Yes. They would. Racist and bigoted comments are all over the Internet about every religious and ethnic group you've ever heard of, and those you have not. You clearly have never read any comments on any news article. Try starting with the ones on CNN; it'll be all kinds of fun times for you.

    But don't take their comments too harshly. They seldom have the cojones to say it to other people's faces in real life.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  7. Furunculus

    Well, Lowe's Isn't ran by the government. it's their right to put their money towards whatever they want.. If you don't like it, you have a right not to shop there.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  8. Edwin

    The more I think about it, the more I think the author is incredibly naive. He states that christians in this country would never be so anti-jewish, anti-black, anti-latino... what country does HE live in?

    American christians, as a group, are incredibly prejudiced against people who disagree with them or look different - you only have to read web sites to see it. There are many who are not, but the vocal ones, backed by the anonymity of posts, show a vast array of bigotry against others. Sometimes it is hidden, or justified by the fact that the majority of Americans are christian (so we *should* use the christian bible as the basis of our laws, or so it is *reasonable* for public schools to offer christmas programs but not hannukah ones, or how it is *unfair* that signs in Walgreens use spanish in addition to english... and other languages). But it is there, and it has been growing dramatically in the last decade.

    There is a difference, though - most christians realize they should not advertise their prejudice about those other groups. They keep it quiet in public, only revealing it to those they trust, or in anonymous sources, until they find a *sensible* justification to back. With muslims, though, they feel okay advertising their irrational hatred all the time.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  9. T.J.

    Are you kidding me, dude? Last time I checked this country supported capitalism. If Lowe's is losing business over their support of a show it is their duty to pull the ad and act in the best interest of their share holders. Also the term topic is not in my mind a "dehumanizing" term; and in this case I am fairly sure that "topic" is referring to the support of show, not the Muslim population of America. Obviously this show is a "lightning rod" considering you felt the need to write an article on it for a major international news organization. I have no problem with Muslims in America, but some people do and honestly they have the right to, and if the spreading of Muslim culture is against their beliefs why should they be discriminated against? You are writing a piece against a group of people, blasting the fact that they wrote a letter against another group of people. Idiocy.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  10. Manhattanslide

    I'm afraid/annoyed of any people where religion is (by far) their first priority. People here think christians are bad? Wait until we get a good amount of muslims in this country. It won't be pretty.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • seraphim0

      We already have ' a good amount of muslims' in this country, you dolt.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • ASDF

      so the devil we know is better than the one we don't? not a very convincing argument.

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

      Dolt? And no, compared to other western countries there are very few muslims here. Nice try tough guy.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  11. PostHocErgo

    Lowe's is a business. Their goal is to make money. I doubt they care what religion is spending money at their stores. It's not good business though to have your brand name in the middle of a social debate though, especially when you are going to be perceived as taking sides no matter which way you go. From a purely business standpoint, the smartest thing to do is put some distance between yourself and this raging debate. And as far as buzzfeed goes, if you really need to find and quote obvious idiots on the internet to support your position, your weak to begin with.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  12. J.W

    Lowes pulled an ad just because that one group didn't like it? That is silly. Maybe other people did like it.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  13. NorCalMojo

    If you want to learn about intolerance, try dating a Muslim girl and watch how her family reacts.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Or, better yet, be am african-american dating a WASP and see how her family reacts.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  14. Jimbo

    Last time I checked companies can pull ads whenever and from whatever they want. If Lowes was not hiring muslims than that might be an issue, this is a non-issue. Reality shows are a plague that I wish all corporations would pull ads from. Anyways, what is the answer, force corporations to place ads where you tell them? Lowes still has my business if they have the cheapest materials and tools.

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

      Thank you very much Jimbo. One of the wisest statements in this article. Thumbs up

      December 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  15. HolyChrist

    Let them back who they want and lean the way they want. Just be aware of what they actually support and whether you want to support THEM by buying their product or service. If freedom of religion is important to you, then maybe you shouldn't support Lowes. Another example is Chick-fil-a, who is an admitted religious company who does not support gay rights. If gay rights are important to you, then perhaps the consumer will think twice about going there. Which goes for any company or leaning, obviously.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  16. Jimbo Jim

    here's a thought – except for some of the really hot, doe-eyed, curvy-hipped, long black hair, smoking persian or arab chicks, how about all Muslims just leave America. It's just better that way. you are trying to ruin our country. Go live with your own kind in a cave in the middle east or south asia.

    (but leave your hot chicks)

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

      Nice try, troll.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  17. The Steve

    I find it interesting the both sides of this issue are the extremists of their side. Christian Fundamentalists are no different than Islamic Fundamentalist both think the world should be run in their religious theocracy. Both use FUD to try and make their points. Both believe in God as long as you refer to God in their verbiage. Both spend most their time parroting what someone else told them to think, instead of doing to research and thinking on their own. Study the other side, read some on the history of religions, see all the common threads there are.

    I think there are 15 people common to both the Bible and Koran they knew each other shouldn't you?

    December 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Nicole Chardenet

      Don't forget that some fundamentalist Christians, like some fundamentalist Muslims, are terrorists too – for decades now they've been blowing up abortion clinics and shooting abortion doctors, and let's not forget those "Jesus camps": (a/k/a Christian Madrassahs) whereby children are brainwashed to believe that violence is the answer to their extremist version of religion and where critical thinking is highly discouraged. And if they got their opportunity to rule America, I guarantee you that extremist Christians would have all women wearing Western equivalents of hijabs.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • David Stone

      @Nicole...please name a Christian Terrorist organization that is active in the US....please name one global Christian terrorist organization....McVeigh, the abortion bomber, both LONE NUTS that were NOT part of any organized branch of any Christian organization, or church. By contrast, muslim extremists are part of global terror networks, well funded by milliions of dollars, with their doctrine taught in schools in Saudi Arabia, with massive support in the US, and globally. There is no comparison between a few lone wolf nuts who are part of no Christian organization, and islamic terrorism, and I for one am SICK of that analogy. Its BS.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  18. Allen

    My wife loves these drama's. All of them. I, on the other hand refuse to watch shows that trys to polorize my thinking, as most of these TLC shows do now; its ok to over populate by having 20+ children, muslims are ignorant and selfish too just like you, its okay to have multiple relationships with many women as long as you pretend your married. I have worked with many hundreds of American muslims and have not had the fortune of working with any as polorized as this show protrays the muslim community as a whole. It is like trying to watch a show about KKK members and finding the common ground for thier strong beliefs. I too have left the curch because of thier strong beliefs and will not return to any organization that does not try to make peace despite ignorance. This show assumes that Americans are ignorant because they do not know of muslim practices and beliefs and it has been brought out as that by the men and women muslim belivers in the two episodes that I watched but what it shows is that the muslims in this community are just as ignorant and insensitive to the beliefs and practices of christians as the christians are ignorant and insensitive to the muslim belifes and practices. Ignorance begat ignorance and justifying it other wise is just ignorant. I feel sorry for the muslim men and women that I am friends with that do not wish to be in the lime light and just want to live a peaceful quiet life, as the majority of ones I do know want.

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

      Sorry Allen, gotta disagree....I think Americans are VERY ignorant about MANY things, other religions being just one of them.

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

      Not sure what you are disagreeing too. I stated that Americans were ignorant to religious beliefs but that if you watched the show you will see that muslim Americans protrayed in the show are as well. The show fosters ignorance. Not sure what your debate witht the comment is.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  19. palintwit

    One time while vacationing in the middle east I saw a muslim by the side of the road with his arm all the way up a camel's butt. "Car Trouble?" I asked.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  20. Observer

    “Whoever does any work on a holy day: put to death”
    “anyone who blasphemes: stone him.”
    “worship other gods: stone the guilty ones to death”
    “stubborn and rebellious son: stone him to death.”
    “man is found lying with a married woman: both of them shall die”
    “virgin engaged to another man and he lies with her: stone them to death”
    “Whoever strikes his father or his mother: put to death”
    "Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother: put to death.”
    “anyone who curses his father or his mother: put to death”
    “man who commits adultery with another man's wife: they shall be put to death.”
    "man or woman who is a medium or a fortune-teller: stone them to death"

    From the Quran? Nope. From the Bible.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • ONE TRUTH

      Your point is???

      December 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • QS

      It's sad that the ones who need to get this point the most are the ones who say "Your point?"! LOL!

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

      Pick and chose O
      Your fellow atheists on this site believe we should trash the Bible also. This way you can all be "free" and create your own morality for today. What is your desire? Pederasty was very popular with the Greeks and mothers would give their young boys over to the old men of logic.
      What should we do if one engages in a desire that does not meet your fancy O

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

      The radical Muslims seem to be doing just what God wanted in the Bible when he set up all the rules. Supposedly, that's how the world was run for thousands of years until Jesus got God to change his mind.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • seraphim0

      Fred- Morality is not dependant upon religion. Take an athropology course some time. Moron.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • Get Real

      Where in the bible did you get these quotes? Please put the reference – scripture and verse.
      For all I know you could be just babbling!!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Observer

      fred,
      "Pick and chose O. Your fellow atheists on this site believe we should trash the Bible also"

      First of all, I am an agnostic. Secondly, I don't speak for ANY one group. Reality is that no one can speak for ALL atheists, agnostics, OR Christians.

      Everyone should be free to practice whatever religion they want in their homes and places of worship as long as they don't try to prevent others from doing the same or deny them of equal rights within the law.

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

      Get Real,

      Obviously, you haven't read much of the Bible. Here's just a few:

      [Deut. 13:6-10] “worship other gods’ . . . Stone the guilty ones to death
      [Deut. 21:18-21] “stubborn and rebellious son . . . stone him to death.”
      [Exodus 21:17] "Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother must be put to death.”
      [Lev. 20:27] “man or woman who is a medium or a fortune-teller . . . You must stone them to death"

      December 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • HellBent

      "This way you can all be "free" and create your own morality for today."

      So, fred, you'd really rather us stick to the morality of the bible which has us stoning disobedient children? That's exactly why we NEED to question the bible. I shudder to think how awful our modern world would be if we relied on ethics and morals from 2000 years ago.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • fred

      HellBent
      seriphimO
      The list presented by Observer was to give a false impression of the truth in the Bible. The Bible does not say to do those things today and even Jesus blasted the religious laws that Pharisees and Sadducees put out. Life is about much more than you can do in the darkness of a hidden bedroom somewhere. The real sad thing is how many people will sacrifice to the illusion of forbidden joy in bedrooms. Talk about brainwashing. Hollywood has this society adopting all manner of desire and the deception has not changed since the first man in garden. Deception means you do not know you are being deceived. I pray someday that deception or your denial is lifted from your lives.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Observer

      fred
      "The list presented by Observer was to give a false impression of the truth in the Bible. The Bible does not say to do those things today"

      Please correct me if I am wrong, but aren't all the penalties from the Old Testament still valid from the "unchanging God", but are not dealt out anymore because Jesus accepts taking the punishment for our "sins"?

      December 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • fred

      Observer
      God does not change but, man changes all the time. Many laws were man made and the Bible records them. You can ask were the laws right at the time and place given but, do not imply that the bible says to stone away today. Jesus did not allow the woman to be stoned for adultry for example

      December 13, 2011 at 2:33 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.