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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. Christine

    Actually, this same group campaigns against LGBT people depicted as *SUBPLOTS* in TV shows and has been successful in getting others to cancel advertising.

    The thing is, I don't really think anyone cares...not even the campaigners. They just want some victories to generate their money to keep themselves employed.

    Bigotry is big business.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Dave in Portland

      Someone should secretly draw this group and the WBC together in the same place and let them loose on each other. That way you kill two lunatic fringe cults with one stone.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  2. anti

    I am the anti christ and I support lowes

    December 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • dreww

      No, your just stupid.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  3. GJ

    Mr. Iftikhar – your opinion is just as close-minded as those who posted on Facebook. From a corporate perspective, Lowes has an obligtation towards its shareholders to protect the company. If siding with the "muslim view" (for lack of better way to state it) would result in a 40% drop in patronage, that would be a bad maneuver. You are asking the company to stand up for Muslim rights. Not a bad thought– but really.... the problem isn't the company. It's the sentiment of 3rd-grade educated, right-wing, self-righteous trash-mongerers. (I especially like the FB comment about Muslims coming into our country and forcing their religion upon us. What an idiot that person is - and clearly knows NOTHING of Christian history.)

    In the end - don't blame the company for not wanting to take ANY side of such a hot political topic. I understand their maneuver here. It doesn't support the Muslim- no. But it's also not really supporting the anit-Muslim sentiment either. Not actively anyway.

    More important to the issue though is public tolerance and public education. If more people in America learned about the core values of Islam, they might be less inclined to take such opinions to the public forum.

    It's a shame that so few people can make such a loud reputation for a group as a whole.

    Wouldn't you agree on that, Mr. Iftikhar?

    December 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • insignificantScientist

      Does Lowes obligation to its shareholders outweigh its moral obligation to uphold basic human rights? I find your logic shockingly flawed. Despite your condemnation of the "3rd-grade educated, right-wing, self-righteous trash-mongerers," you seem fall prey to similar generalities that fail to accurately and intelligently address the issue at hand. Sure, Lowes has an obligation to its shareholders but as a major corporation with the ability to influence public opionion (see above article), Lowes has an even greater obligation to operate within the bounds of morality. It's ethical obligation should far outweight any profits that are to be gained or lost. Perhaps if Lowes wishes to remain neutral on such "hot topics" (the fact you even refer to the people affected as a topic, in spite of the above article, may be the most astounding aspect of your post), they should pull ads from any show depicting a particular race, nationality, religion or political party as some may view their support of these "topics" as anti-American.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  4. Guest

    When ignorant and narrow-minded people live in isolated communities and have no interaction with people of color or of other ethnicities it's a pretty safe bet that they will promote fear about those "others," that they don't understand and encourage like-minded people to jump on the bigot bandwagon. I live in a community where there are a lot of Muslim people. On Flag Day at my son's elementary school, all the kids wear red, white and blue and wave the American flag while dancing and singing patriotic songs about how great the U.S. is. Many of those kids are Muslim, and their head-scarf wearing moms are recording the whole thing on camcorders. Everyone is smiling. This isn't a fantasy–it's reality. The Muslim shop-owners in our community are nice people who love living in America, they know all too well the stoneage nation they escaped from would never give them the golden opportunities they have found in the U.S. I'm pretty sure not one of these people has ever toyed with the idea of strapping a bomb on their body and setting it off in a public place. This notion that all Muslims are terrorists is ignorant and fear-based. The extremists make up less than 1% of the entire Muslim population. To associate the average Muslim with al Qaeda is like saying the average Christian should be associated with the Christian Right. I am Christian, and I could not be further to the left than from that of the Right, if you know what I'm saying.

    Lowe's caved from the pressure that came from a paranoid group of people who insult my faith as that of a Christian. I'm disappointed that money was the inspiration for them to remove their ads. This was clearly a missed opportunity to publicly take a stand against bigotry–people would have respected them for their integrity as opposed to judging them for their ignorance and lack thereof. I won't be shopping there any time soon.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Salawah

      I agree 100% with you,there are always a "FEW" that want to push what "they" think is right. I lived in Egypt for a year, "Muslims" are just like we are in America, they want to feed their kids, live in peace, and believe in their "Faith", the " POS" who wrote in all that crap about "Oh I will shop at Lowes now", get a frigging life!! I look at a "person" when it comes to anything and everything, NOT skin color, NOT religion, NOT politics, NOT where you live, NOT how much money you make, NOT if your famous...ect..ect..

      December 13, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Dave in Portland

      Very well said Guest. Thank you.

      December 14, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  5. Brandon

    Christians sure like to judge....

    I like your Christ, BUT I DO NOT like your Christians.....Ghandi

    December 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Belarius Marek

      http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/13/world/meast/saudi-arabia-beheading/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

      December 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Brandon

      I don't see your point? Better read that Bible a little bit harder. BTW check a history book to see how many innocent people were killed in the name of your Christian God.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Guest

      Brandon, an attack on Christians? Really? As a Christian I will tell you EVERYONE falls. Whether you are Muslim, Jew, hindu etc no one is perfect. But I am happy you stated Ghandi – cos Jesus is the only one who lived a sinless life. That's why as Christians we strive to follow Him. If you do the same, you will point fingers less.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  6. JoJo

    Bigotry is a two-way street kids.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • JoJo

      Btw, their show just got a massive dose of publicity. They should be thanking Lowes. Lowes had a right to pull out of this controversial show. I'll still be shopping there.. love the place actually!

      December 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  7. Richard

    Yes, everyone who notices Muslims (1 million bomb victims in 20 years) cause death an mayhem is a "bigot." They should search old English spinsters at airports for bombs. Grow up, writer. Facts are facts and they are right to be leary.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Michael

      and where did you get your statistics? "Grow up." What kind of silly comment is that?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  8. Andy

    So DON"T shop at Lowe's. That's what those who oppose this were going to do. Why aren't you complaining about the thousands of companies that aren't advertising during this show? Aren't they all haters and caving to the VAST right wing conspiracy? Leftist hypocrits!

    December 13, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  9. James Olsen

    I am ashamed to call myself a Christian at points like this...These right wing nutjob groups give the rest of the religion a bad name, and we wonder why Muslims hate us.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Belarius Marek

      No, This – http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/13/world/meast/saudi-arabia-beheading/index.html?hpt=hp_t2 – is what gives their religion a bad name. And you want us to be tolerant? HAH!

      December 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Dan

      @Belarius Marek I lol'd because what you just said goes against the entire message of christ... way to go.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  10. Bob Dobbs

    Not surprised that a christian organization would show such intolerance. After all that's what Jesus taught them to do right?
    oh....wait...

    December 13, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Amom

      Don't think Jesus ever taught a sermon on tolerance, honey, but he did tell his followers to go and make disciples. He claimed to be the Son of God. He said that no man can come to the Father except through him. Jesus was full of Grace and Truth. By the way, Merry Christmas.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Brandon

      Amom, not sure who this "Jesus" guy is, but it seems to me like he has attention issues. I seem to remember something in the old testiment to the effect of "Thou shalt have no other gods before me". Anyway, Jesus said he didn't care about anything other than finishing my lawn before going to the next job.

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

      The Christian right is every bit as militant as Al Quida. Look what Christians did to the the Native population in the Americas, how many cultures did they distroy in the name of their God. Did God ask them to do that? They want to make everyone in the United States to bow to their way of thinking, I will never vote for them.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Belarius Marek

    Muslims are attempting to take over our country and impose Sharia law.. Why would we want to support a program pushing that down our throats? This is a war from within cloaked in the guise of "lets all get along".

    December 13, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Bob Dobbs

      If it means getting rid of christians, I'm all for it.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Belarius Marek

      Frankly, I'd like all religious types to keep their religion to themselves.. I'm not of any mainstream religion, and I don't go around banging people over the head with my religious doctrine. Or cutting off their heads, which seems to be the Muslim way..

      December 13, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • GJ

      Maybe you should study the history of Christianity. Do you recall the Mayans? Or they Incas?? Genocide in the name of Christ. So– before you wave your cross against a simitar, perhaps you should reflect on your history.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Kyle

      aw, someones scared! lol
      put on a nightlight on, and quit being afraid of the dark

      December 13, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  12. Amom

    Lowe's is doing us all a favor by not advertising on this show. Rob below says that the terrorists are "fringe nuts". Fringe nuts are not highly sophisticated individuals with access to international funding and executing plans that take years in the making. Islamic terrorists, on the other hand, are. Note to the friendly American muslims on the show: Islamic terrorists hate you as much as they hate the typical non-muslim American. In their depraved minds you are not practicing true Islamic beliefs and are worthy of death too.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Kyle

      So do Christian terrorists.. Oslow norway... kkk... roeder... mcveigh... koresh...

      December 13, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  13. chris a.

    You ask what if there is a new reality show about "Latinos, African-Americans, members of the LGBT community or Jewish Americans".... but there isn't! There are shows which include these groups, but not one as a focus. I'd like to see if one each and see how it flies.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • what

      Ummm...what about "Becoming Chaz"? This is a reality show all about transgender. I don't see companies in an outrage about this. I don't believe that anyone on the All American Muslim show is "shoving their religion" down anyone's throats. If you don't want to watch the show, then don't. Freedom to make choices is what this country is all about, correct?

      December 13, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  14. Kim

    I wasn't going to watch the show because it looked boring. Not boring because they were Muslim but boring because they seemed like every other regular, average American family that had their little issues but otherwise weren't that interesting. If I'm gonna watch reality TV I want to see problems and catfights, as sad as that is, but average people with average lives aren't something I want to see on TV. I know people hate to admit it, but most Muslims are like most people, average, boring, and going about their everyday lives. They don't sit around all day planning to infiltrate government or picking targets to blow up and anyone who thinks that they do is just an ignorant bigot afraid of something they don't understand. I go to Lowe's about once every other year, I don't really have much use for anything they sell, but now when I need something I can find at Lowe's I'll just go to another home improvement store.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • leah

      i live in dearborn, mi...it is just everyday, normal life. No different from what the Christian right does everyday...time with family, school, shopping, church, etc. only difference is the name, and the cultural background. we're all american... stop letting religion create such a barrier..

      December 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  15. Yankee doodle

    I think we should all show our patriotism by waving the American flag. The same flag that's manufactured in the USA by the proud American Muslim owned company that has made them for years.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • 2tired2care

      Ouch, that digs deep.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Real

      And the same one that sends them to the middle east to be burned? Yae, keep taking up for the murdering cult of Islam. LOL

      December 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  16. Larry

    Where is your outrage when Islamists kill Americans and others they have branded as infidels in the name of Islam? Haven't ever seen you write about that issue, but of course it has to be a grave insult when a company decides to pull advertising from a propaganda show on TLC.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  17. humans sadden me

    It's interesting how some the most devout Christians are the least like Christ...

    December 13, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Richard

      And how would you know?

      December 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • leah

      Because Richard, your words and actions make it show how intolerant and unchrist-like you truly are.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  18. ART

    Damn I just bought my X-mas tree from lowes, if it wasn't already decorated i would take it right back. To let a bunch of red neck right wing religious freaks dictate to you who you can and cannot advertise with is truly stupid, and the ones who wrote letters to Lowes are the terrorist.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Dee G.

      Thank-you! My thoughts exactly!

      December 13, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • bubbatroid

      way to take a stand against bigotry, ART!

      December 13, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • mm

      Art – You should buy real trees for Christmas. You'll support local farmers and the tree can be turned to multch after the season. Very good for the earth.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  19. Luis Wu

    Thank you Lowes for showing your bigotry. I'll shop at Home Depot from now on instead.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  20. gwen

    Can't believe Lowe's bowed to bigotry... I will not shop there again.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:11 am |
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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.