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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. SuZieCoyote

    There are many wonderful Muslims, I am sure But unfortunately, we are at war with governments that are Islamic states. They do not allow/promote Christian (or any other religious) propaganda in their lands. Why should we promote or support Islamic propaganda in ours? This is a different issue than freedom of religion. I'm not saying Muslims can't practice their religion. Free speech laws protect against government sanctions against any religion; it does not protect against popular sentiment against a religion or a business's right to refuse to support a show that is controversial. Islam is at war with the west. We may not want to be at war with Islam, but their imams have declared it and muslims place Allah before national allegience. It isn't our fault they are talk to fight the infidel (in a variety of ways) to ultimately install Islam everywhere. And Islam, despite many words to the contrary, is not a freedom-loving philosophy. Get over it.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • TAK

      You answered your own question. They are islamic states. We are a secular state. American christians may not believe that but go and read the very first sentence of the First Amendment of the Bill of Right (the very first thing that the founding fathers decided to write when quill met parchment). We should not treat minority religions the way they treat minority religions. The islamic states suck, I agree. We are better because we are different.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • ORLY?

      We are a secular state, NOT a Christian state. I hope to God we don't become a Christian state.

      Get over it.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Fernando Perez

      Why should the policies of Islamic governments around the world influence ours? As a nation that prides itself on being the home of the free, and in doing so has invaded other nations to establish this idea abroad, we need to follow it ourselves. I think many people here are forgetting the horrors that Christianity has perpetuated, and continues to perpetuate, on this earth. Oops, I can already smell hypocrisy a brewing.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • toadears

      All of the arguments below are the exact same ones used by the English years ago who are now kicking their own butts for allowing these people to usurp so many of their laws. They are even talking about implementing Sharia law over there. They don't travel and they don't understand that the motive of the Islamic community is to infiltrate and conquer. Not co-exist. Conquer.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  2. Blake

    What bothers me about the opposition to the show is not just the bigotry of it, but the sheer pragmatic stupidity of it. The fact is there are fundamentalists among American Muslims who are a threat and might try to harm this country. However, this represents a very small fraction of the Muslim population. Most American Muslims love this country as much as anyone else. Fundamentalists lure people into their following by trying to characterize America and the West as persecutors against Muslims. The bigotry displayed by the opposition to this show just reinforces this view. If we understanding and accepting of Muslims in this country, it makes it that much harder for the fundamentalists to prove their case and bring in recruits. That's what I think a show like this does. I have not seen it but if people come to understand that Americans Muslims are Americans too, Muslims would feel much less ostracized and more a part of this country. Also how is Sharia law threatening to take over America? First, there are not near enough Muslims in this country to bring forth that agenda, and second and most importantly we do have something called separation of Church and State in this country. What bothers me most by this whole controversy is that in the name of keeping us "safe" these right-wing groups are actually making us less so.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Your children are far more likely to be buggered by a priest than blown up by a Muslim

      December 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Levi

      Muslims have the largest lobbying in Washington, wonder why?

      December 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
  3. Linda

    I first saw this story on Yahoo. Right under the headlines about Lowes was a story from Saudi Arabia executing a woman for sorcery. Enough said, that's Muslim's peacful way. I don't want it. Glad Lowes is able to use their freedom to advertise where they want to.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Your silly faith executed THOUSANDS for the same reason.

      Hell, you even believe in exorcisim.

      I mean come on, this is the 21st Century!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Patrick

      @Will
      Why do you assume Linda as a faith?
      Two wrongs don’t make a right Will.
      Pointing fingers at one group in defense of another’s wrongful actions is the tactic of a 5 year old.

      For the record I’m an Atheist.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  4. DannyT

    Want to know how "nice" it is to tolerate all the baloney muslims bring to society......??? Go to Europe and see how they've completely worn down the very infrastructre built upon the ideals of freedom and democracy established there, all the while continuing to hide behind the very laws of those countries while living on the welfare and hard work of the other citizens. You like higher taxes?? You'll get them along with the removal of your rights to either practice any religion but islam, loss of personal rights, the rights of women, the rights of children, etc, etc. The example is right before your eyes. Take a trip to the middle east then to Europe, then back to the USA. You'll see the pattern.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  5. jschau

    This is just pure BULL. All religions advocate bigotry. There is no difference between muslim, catholic, lutheran, jewish, hindu, buddism, you name it bigotry. That is the foundation of all religions, bigotry.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Shovel Ready

      WOW somebody gets it!!! but it's not just religion its any kind of group or org. Dem and Rep both hate each other, hippies hate rich people, enviro's hate people that drive SUV's...... and on and on.... They all want to control you life in some way shape or form.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Patrick

      @Shovel Ready
      I agree is jscgau on this one. Sure a hippy my ‘hate’ a person for driving a SUV. Last I check though they didn’t stone them to death for it. That is one of the main issues with theists (not sure if you are, but thanks for bring up the point) no sense of perspective.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  6. stevetall

    Lots of paranoid morons on this board today. If you can't understand why it's important to allow religious freedom in America, then you don't know the first thing about the founding of America and you do not deserve the freedoms that so many of our citizens have fought and died for. If you're too scared to allow someone else to pray to whomever they want, then you do not deserve the freedom to pray to whomever you want. In the end, your lack of trust, love, tolerance, and understanding makes you a very poor candidate to get into Heaven. As a Christian, I can say that all the Lord wants us to do is LOVE EVERYONE as he did. If you can't do that, you're screwed in the afterlife. Enjoy the heat!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • MS oF NY

      Well Said man!!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Patrick

      @stevetall
      Hmm another Xtian with a threat of eternal damnation if we don’t believe the way he does.. I’m shocked… no really. For the record Steve I’m all for religious freedom. But maybe you should be more specific about what is bothering you. I haven’t seen any comments (yet) calling for a ban on religion. Mostly just Xtians complaining about Muslims and atheist complaining about Xtian hypocrisy. But I’ll keep looking, there is bound to be a few.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  7. Proud51

    Mr. Arsalan Iftikhar, the reality is that Muslims are the face of terrorism and TLC or you won't change that. There is not such a thing as Muslims-Americans. You people will never be. Your first loyalty is to kill anyone that does not bow to your alah. ALL MUSLIMS NEED TO GO HOME.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Let me guess?

      No teeth in your head, but a crucifix above your bed?

      December 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • stevetall

      You, sir, are a pathetic idiot.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • PROUD ALL AMERICAN MUSLIM

      CIVIL RIGHTS 101 – We just moved from Race to Religion. What was once said for 'Blacks' is now re-phrased for 'Muslims'.
      Sorry Proud51 – I AM HOME already!!! this is my country. If you have a problem with that, please go back to the country your ancestors came from....where I am sure you will still find narrow minded people just like you!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  8. Bobbie

    Sorry, but facts are facts. It is NOT possible to be an american and a muslim! Sharia is the ONLY law they recognize and obey. Good for Lowes!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Inigo Montoya

      "fact" You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Santa

      Will shop at Lowe's

      December 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Dippie.

      Commandments, you remeber those?

      You cult types are all the same. Acting like your wacko beliefs are some how less wacko than theirs.

      Virgin Palestinians and Zombie saviors? If it wasn't so funny it would be terrifying.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  9. PROUD ALL AMERICAN MUSLIM

    GOODBYE LOWES – I will drive 2 extra miles to HOME DEPOT for my upcoming home improvement project!!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  10. Family guy

    Watch family guy instead.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  11. Shovel Ready

    I support Lowes decision no big deal really, but the Group that filed to complaint in the first place reminds me so much of the libs that find stupid sh!t to complain about. I mean really how many people do you think really watched this show in the first place maybe 100?

    These F*ing uber libs and neo-cons really need to get a life.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  12. Dmac

    Sad. 1) That there is a so-called Christian "Family" group of people so blatantly religiously intolerant that they hate a show trying to promote tolerance, and 2) that this spineless company's leadership has tossed aside true American principles and stupidly sided with them out of concern for a nickel and their "image".

    Senior Lowe's management should fire somebody over this stupid decision. At least they would if they were true to their own motto: "Never stop improving".

    December 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • toadears

      I agree. Let's sack anybody who disagrees with us over anything. Let's start with you and this reporter.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Choice

      Disagree. Lowes has the right to advertise or not to advertise.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Dmac

      Choice – I never said they didn't have the right to advertise or not – they certainly do have that right. I said they chose extremely poorly.

      Toaders – Someone should be fired not because they disagree, but because it was a very stupid business decision. In the quest to avoid controversy and prevent bad PR they failed miserably. A much better strategy would have been to just ignore the letters as the bigoted trash they are.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  13. Genericalolll

    Kudos to Lowes for pulling their advertisements from this show, and I hope more follow suit until this pile of trash gets cancelled. Also, I love how you compare them pulling ads from a latino , african american program to muslims. It's not even the same. I refuse to embrace a lifestyle that treats their women like second class animals. This series is garbage, and the sooner the plug is pulled the better.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  14. Cedax

    They kind of favor the Addams family.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  15. mastermappert

    I don't understand, they have the right to promote or advertise where they want. I don't blame them for pulling the adds, in fact they made me a happy customer and I will spend my money there before the other company that slams Christianity and promotes gays and lesbians!! God Bless Lowes!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  16. cepyoung

    There is no such thing as bigotry against muslims. They want you DEAD. Lowe's should have pulled their ads, good for them. The religion of Islam, Muslims, and Sharia law should all be exiled back where they came from. This is America, there is no such thing as hyphenated Americanism. You are either one of us, or not, American or Muslim, not Muslim-American.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Mr Redneck it would actually be Arab-American, not Muslim-American. Muslim denotes affiliation with a religion.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • niceone

      You do realize that American is a nationality and Muslim is a follower of a religion, right? Logic, try it some day.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  17. Hmmmm

    Observer – to quote and make points from a book you should first read and UNDERSTAND it. You can pull lines out of context from about any book and spin them to make a point. I won't quote questionable lines from the Qaran because I do not know the book or contexts. Reading and understanding are very different! But thats what our culture does now. SPIN everything to suit themselves. Led by our popular media (TLC and others). We have no truths. Your truth doesn't suit me. So, I will make my own truth. No one can tell me I'm wrong or they are intolerant and a hater! Thats where we are heading in the land of the free. You can't disagree with anyone or else you are ia bigot and hate them. Because your view makes them feel bad. Is that freedom of speech hmmm? Hate speech laws in themselves are the government starting to constrict your right to speak openly. We have started down a very jagged path!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  18. MaxQ

    I wonder how a TLC show about Christians or Jews would fly in Saudi Arabia,Iran or Syria? I dont think so......

    December 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Osama

      So you are saying that the USA is a christian version of the KSA? what happened to seperation of church & state? What happened to minority rights? But if the KSA can do it, so can we???

      December 13, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • MaxQ

      I'm saying" do you think TLC could do a Christian show in a islamic country".

      December 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Sam

      Is your point that we are no better than Saudi Arabia!?!? They let bigotry control their society, but we shouldn't.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  19. muhammed

    We will come to you with open arms.

    Use your own laws to our advantage.

    Rise up from within and turn you christian nation into Another Islam Nation.

    Islam is the worlds largest religion, we are doing it to Europe and we will do it to you.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • toadears

      Look people. An honest Muslim who tells you their real intentions.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Osama

      I am muslim, and I could care less if you guys convert! Actually, I prefer idiots like you guys just stay away from Islam, we have enough idiots as it is!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • muhammed

      If you stop us, we win. If you don't we win.

      There is more of us who are willing to die islam. And more being born every minute.

      You are very luck your country is an Island.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • Proud51

      and we will remove the nests off your heads and the blankets from the women. Shave your dirty beards. After that we will destroy you we all our power.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • muhammed

      2012 will be the year of the Muslim

      December 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • niceone

      The United States of America is not an island by the way.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Sue

      You Paused as a Muslim, but I do not think you are a Muslim, Muslims do not do evangelical or missionary work.Christians are the ones who are trying to convert others

      December 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  20. JMA

    Lowes' leadership lack courage.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
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About this blog

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.