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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. Ted Fischer

    It is a free country Lowe,s can do what it wants to if you don,t agree with them don,t shop at Lowe,s . As for me I will do all of my CHRISTMAS shopping at Lowe,s . Thank God for a Freedom !!!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • michael khoury

      It is freedom of expression. You are correct. However, that is not the issue here. The issue is, notwithstanding if it is legal, was it the right thing for Lowe's to do. You seem to think so and I think you are a bigot for thinking that (that is my freedom of expression). Whatever nationality or religion you are, if you are going to place an entire ethnicity into one belief or thought, you are either a bigot or stupid. You choose.

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

      Yes, thank God for Freedom. I will do my shopping at Home Depot because I think Lowe's are a bunch of cowards.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • TNF

      I don't think you understand the meaning of Freedom.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • ASDF

      God doesn't give us freedoms, people do. Some of those people are actually Muslims that serve in the military. Perhaps we should not be letting them in because somewhere, someone who is also muslim is doing something you disagree with.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  2. geebs

    I really dont like the appearance of the bigotry that is being described in the article. I personally believe that its not right. The problem is this: If a reasonable person were to look around the world and focus on the immigration of various groups, they would see many examples (especially in the European Union) of where large groups of Muslims have absolutely refused to assimilate themselves into the country that they have immigrated to. There is a very concerted effort by these groups to form "mini – Muslim countries" within the country that they have chosen to move to. They try to set up thier own justice systems that over-ride the justice system of thier host country. This is a Fact.

    Where my problem lies is this: Even though I dont like the alleged bigotry being brought forth by this article, I like even less the idea that, based on multiple examples throughout Europe, there will be a refusal to assimilate into this society, and a creation of something of a system that will more represent the country that they came from moreso than it will the country that they are in. I am hard pressed to find another "group" (Latinos, African-Americans, Jewish people or gay people) that refuses to assimilate more than this particular group.

    That being said, where or what is our responsibility as American citizens to protect our heritage or way of life? Is it wrong to look around the world and see what is happening and refuse to let it happen here? This is where, I think, a large part of the conflict in ideology is taking place: Those that wish to protect that which is historically ours, and those who wish to create a one world community, where all efforts are made to accomodate everyone. while that notion is noble, it is also short sighted in that there are groups that have no interest in Co-existing with ANYONE else. It appears as though we (the west) are willing to accomodate everyone, but there are those groups (fundamentalist Muslims being one of them) that do not, or will not accomodate anyone.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Craig

      Gotta wisen up from the lesson learned from Europe!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      we call them Native Americas, they not only refuse to assimilate,.. there not allowed to

      December 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • VA_Curmudgeon

      For the most part, these are recent immigrants or first generation Americans and haven't had time to assimilate. Even then there are several examples of small communities that have not (and likely will not) assimilate with the general population. The Amish and Hassidic (sp) Jews are just two examples.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      but never mind that the earth does not belong to you. She is our mother, you cannot own a person. America is not your ether nor did it ever belong to Christians.
      why are you so Xenophobic

      December 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Curious

      Is it right for a nation that calls itself multicultural to call on people assimilate? Wouldn't that imply that what it really wants is for its society to be hom-ogeneous – without disquieting differences among its people?

      December 13, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • geebs

      Melting Pot? Melting into what

      December 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  3. Proud51

    Mr. Arsalan Iftikhar....you're a moron, stupid, idiot, anti-american, a terrorist supporter. the reality is we hate what muslims did to our country and we'll never forget you for that. You all should pack up and go back to the desert and caves.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Rachell

      Proud51, you are a retard. That is all.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  4. KareemCheez

    This article packs all the truth of a Bill Clinton testimony. NEWSFLASH!! There are many, real concerns that Americans have about Muslims, and this show blatantly whitewashes all of them. Why did this show choose NOT to discuss the honor killings that happened, oh, a few miles away from where the show is filmed? Why does the show depict a Catholic man who converts to Islam to marry his Muslim bride, but there is no menetion of what would happen if the woman were to convert to Christianity? And if I may. One final question. After listening to dozens of tapes of OBL asking Muslims to take up arms against non-Muslims, why the silence?? Where was the American Muslim Million Man March to show the world that the likes of OBL do not speak for them. Their silence is deafening...

    December 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  5. Sybaris

    Robert Niblock is Lowes CEO and chairs the Lowes Diversity Council

    Here's his email address:

    robert.a.niblock@lowes.com

    December 13, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Proud51

      Thank you Lowes CEO for standing against the terrorists being shoved into our living room from TLC. Now we need to boycot TLC for beeing a trator.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Um, learn how to spell and use your TV remote.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  6. Norman

    There was a time when Muslims were never in the thoughts of most Americans. We're kind of an introverted society after all. Over the years a few Muslims have sought to change all that through various acts of terrorism. Now Muslims have to live with the results of the assumption those people made that bad attention is better than inattention. Bigotry is probably most intractable when people come about it with some cause.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Sybaris

      There was a time when Europeans were never in the thoughts of the Cherokee, Miami, Delaware, Sioux, Seminole etc., etc. They were kind of introverted nations after all. Over the centuries millions of Europeans changed all that through various acts of terrorism. Now white christian America continues to wonder why the world regards their continued overt bigotry and drunken politcal swagger with such contempt, afterall it is probably most dangerous when people are motivated by ignorant assumptions.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • RealAmerica

      @Sybarus we don't wonder about that. We dont wonder why so many countries run up to lick our hands either.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Real America obviously you have never lived outside the U.S. otherwise you would know how ill informed you are.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  7. Alex in NJ

    I think most people in this country fall into one of two camps regarding Islam. Many, out of fear of being called racist or bigots, refuse to acknowledge the fact that worldwide, Islam does have some serious issues. I believe a greater percentage of Muslims adhere to extremist Islam, than do Christians adhering to extremist Christianity, or Jews adhering to extremist Judaism. The second group however, assumes that all Muslims are extremist, and out to impose Sharia Law. This just simply is not the case either. While I believe a higher percentage of Muslims turn towards the extreme, it is still a great minority of Muslims over all. Also, you can not discount the fact that there are absolutely extremist Christians and extremist Jews right here in the U.S.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  8. duklips

    For those of you who think Lowe's did a good thing, I've got news for you: This kind of bigotry is UNAMERICAN; it's the kind of thing we hate about countries that embrace Sharia. You disgust me.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Nonimus

      It is still a private company, so the comparison is not 100% accurate. However, it is a good point.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  9. BOB in Indiana

    I SUPPORT LOWE'S !!!!

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

      YAY ignorance and intolerance! Hooray for Bigotry!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Craig

      I will be shopping at Lowe's too!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • peaceman

      I'm a Lowe's employee and this is embarrassing as hell. I'd boycott us. Has anyone ever wondered why a little right wing group out of Florida can hold power over a Fortune 50 company? Do we care where people pray as long as they buy from us? Not a good business model

      December 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • no more

      TLC needs to stop ruining america...nobody cares about this show or 8 babys 1 mom no dad...TLC exploits mentally handicapped, physically unfit, and obese people.. in the same way that 16 and pregnant on MTV makes little girls think its okay to have kids, this type of pointless TV "muslims in america" is just asking for controversy and should be banned along with the rest of the channel

      December 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Fed-UP

      ME TOO!! I will be shopping at Lowes!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Well gee Bob, you didn't have to announce it. The country automatically writes off Indiana as a backwards redneck state anyway.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  10. peaceman

    Unfortunately Lowe's loses either way now. If they leave their ads up, and stand by their original thought of reaching different demographics of people by advertising on diverse programs such as "all-american muslim", the right wingers boycott them. If they fold to the right wing, the left wingers boycott them. Guess they should have put more thought into where they buy tv time.

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

      Lowes may have lost either way but they should have done the right thing.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  11. Craigers T

    I am a lifelong atheist and extremely, socially liberal. I applaud any organization that pulls away support for ANY religion. Of all religions, Islam disgusts me the most. Mainly due to their treatment of women. I want to start seeing Muslim men wearing Burqas and Head Scarves in 95 degree Miami weather. Like they expect of their women.

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

      Christianity is more disgusting to me.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • svr600

      Very true. Whether Islam promotes terrorism or not could be debated all day long. However, to renegade women to lower level of society in today's day and age is undebatable and unforgivable. There is no other religion who supports such social mandate anymore. Islam should start with cleaning their fundamentals before looking to gain respect.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  12. AmericaIsfullOfBiggots

    The country that was founded in a land stolen from the original habitants by immigrants based on the premise that all people are created equal, is full of individuals that fail to understand that simple content. When people in the US wonder about why other countries hate us so much, take a look in the mirror. Are you even worse than that which you criticize?

    December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • RealityIsNotYourGoodSuit

      "The country that was founded in a land stolen from the original habitants" – who, you only go back a short time in history, every country was in some way stolen from the so called original "habitants". I can't even read the rest because the first sentence proves your ignorance cannot be fixed. What the people from EVERY country on earth, did to the Native American's wrong. However, I did nothing to them, or to take it further, the African American's who were slaves. I live in the now, what the people of the past have done cannot be changed. I don't really care whether or not Lowes sponsors the show. I have nothing against Muslims or their way of life, it is not my way. Who's to say what religion is right or wrong? We have the luxury in this country to believe and worship as we please. I actually fought for this country and the right to have religious freedom. I applaud them for their attempt to educated those who may not understand their religion and way of life. Time we get over the past, time to look to our future and diversity will continue to be the future of this country.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  13. EGB1

    Boycott Lowe's for giving in to right-wing nut jobs.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • BOB in Indiana

      I SUPPORT LOWE'S !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  14. Jennifer Wheeler

    I will never shop at Lowe's again and will never have anything nice to say about them until they reconcile this.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Fred

      You're simply a terrorist supporter then. Get the hell out of the USA!

      December 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Krreagan

      Fred, Do you support christian terrorists only then?

      December 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  15. Rodney

    This pales in comparison to the bigotry openly presented every day towards Tim Tebow and his religious beliefs. This has been the sentiment shared openly from many of his colleagues and media alike. If there is no outrage for that, then why should islam and muslims be sheltered or protected from this behavior such as this? Do not do for one what you do not do for all. I admit it is a shame and should not be tolerated in either case, but do not cry foul here and not on the other.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • HellBent

      Careful, your xtian persecution complex is showing...

      December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Rodney,
      "This pales in comparison to the bigotry openly presented every day towards Tim Tebow and his religious beliefs."
      Exactly what business has pulled support for Tebow, NFL, or Christianity, because of a letter writing campaign?

      December 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • floydy

      does it pale in comparison? are sponsors withdrawing their placements on his football games?

      no, they're not.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • bobbyfrank

      I don't see anyone pulling ads during the time that The Broncos are playing - so your comparison is bull.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  16. sarah

    Well Let's tell Prince Talal of Arabie saudie to pull his stock and support from Fox, ABC and NBC ..What about that ???

    December 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • bobbyfrank

      EXACTLY!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  17. Byrd

    ..and I just pulled all of my business from Lowe's. I much prefer the mom and pop hardware store down the street anyway.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  18. Frank

    All you need to know about Islam is captured in this TLC show. What a farce!

    December 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  19. VA_Curmudgeon

    This all-american, main-stream protestant will be shopping at Home Depot more often.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  20. Darrell Fox

    Amen, Mr. Iftkihar.

    December 13, 2011 at 1:46 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.