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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. Jilli

    What a shame – as evidenced by the comments, willful ignorance is the chosen stance. By all means folks, buy into the propaganda that all muslims are evil. How will you feel if your religion is the next one to be demonized? The feet in concrete mentality shown here is just laughable, but by all means righteous ones – self professed Christians and non-Christian – don't bother to educate yourself by actually watching the program, just continue to be lemmings, parroting the hate – I'm sure it's much easier than actually learning.

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

      Christians and Jews have been demonized from their birth and beyond. Enslavement of Africans, Jim Crow, the Dark Ages, Holocaust , Enslavement of Jews in Egypt for 400 years plus wherever they lived throughout history when muslims conquered the world.j AND even now!!! Just to get you to thinking and when ignorant Christians failed to recognize that their savior jesus, was a sabbath keeping Jew. So, I think they have suffered and been demonized for quite a while.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Do you know a thing about Islam? Did you know this is performed in the name of Islam all over the world?

      http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

      When is anyone going to start covering Islam as Islam is, not how they wish it to be? There is no Disney version of Islam, no matter how much liberals want there to be.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • BG

      No, Jilli. What's getting old is Muslims and their apologists thinking that they can simply throw ad-hom insults like bigot, idiot, lemming and hate, in an effort to avoid the tangible issues surrounding Islam in America.

      Your smoke screen is dissipating. The air behind it is crystal clear. America is finally catching on.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  2. Dmac

    Religious freedom is one of the most important and defining of all American values.

    Any fundamentalist group that opposes this freedom in ANY way is un-American. Period.

    As far as I am concerned, the "Florida Family Association" is just as bad as the Taliban.

    Shame on Lowe's for not standing up for what it means to be an American.

    .

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

      Amen brother

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

      Couldn't have said it better!!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  3. jmpgfoto

    As a fairly liberal Democrat I would have to say that THIS IS AMERICA, a country where people can express their opinions and where they can spend their advertising dollars wherever they want and that includes Lowe's. Mr. Arsalan Iftikhar, if you spent your advertising dollar in a place where it would cause you trouble you are an idiot and Lowe's is no different. Now you are dictating how and where someone else has to spend their money just to make you happy, do you think that is fair? It is a business decision for Lowe's and I suspect that pulling thier advertising from American Muslim will lose them fewer customers than continuing to support program. As for your ridiculous comment about singling out a group because they are muslin I say your knowledge of the American people is poor. We have always supported or opposed what we think is right. I would ask you why you think muslims are singled out as a group that many Americans don't like. Could it be because no other group (religious or ethnic) has waged a barbaric war of terror against Americans both abroad and in our own country? In myexperience most intelligent, humanitarian groups try to control the radicals within their group not only for the sake of humanity but for the sake of their own survival but Islam has never done this. Instead they cheer on the radicals and give them support and we have seen this time and time again in the news. Worldwide terrorism has become an everyday reality and that is in a large part due to the support of Islamists worldwide includeing American muslims.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Methinks you are not a 'fairly liberal Democrat'. If so, you are not a very educated one.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  4. Rob

    What was actually accomplished from pulling the ads from the Muslim show? Lowes will continue to profit from Muslim's shopping at their stores. So what's the point?

    December 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  5. Frank!

    Please name an Islamic business that advertises on CNN.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • MaxQ

      None, I guess.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  6. PhillyRN

    Arsalan, is this religious bigotry? If so, then why do Muslims do this all over the world today? Warning the content of female genital mutilation on little girls is graphic and disturbing:

    http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

    Why did TLC's show never bring up such a topic that is so commonly performed? Do the women on the show support it? Oppose it? Will they have this done on their own daughters? If this issue is not going to be covered in the show, are there any other controversial, troubling, or violent aspects of Islam as it is practiced in the world today that will?

    If not, why not?

    December 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Do similar non-muslim shows delve into male circumcision?

      December 13, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • MattyB511

      Are you purporting that it is the responsibility of those on this show to speak for the actions of the most extreme within their religion? Would you hold the same standards to any person portrayed in relation to their religion or some group to which they ascribe membership? Should a show portraying the lives of Catholics ask that the male leaders of the family address the topic of molestation within the church?

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

      I didn't write the pilot, but I believe the show is just to show you a side of life you didn't know. It would require you to step out of your bubble. Do you discuss the crusades and other atrocious behaviors of your fellow christians on sundays? Probably not. That's because in light of optimism, its better to focus on the positive aspects

      December 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Frank!

      I seriously doubt TLC will go there. Most TLC viewers are way too vapid for such a heavy discussion as female genital mutilation. They need to stick with the hijab debate. (Leah, I said "most," not all.)

      December 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • William Shelton

      RN, the answer to your rhetorical question about genital mutilation is quite simple: the show deals with Muslims in the United States, where this is not an issue, as it is a cultural (not religious) practice that does not exist in the United States. Are you satisified now? Somehow, I doubt it.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  7. Fadinsky

    I love how "Low" we can get ... trashing each other over nothing, getting offended over nothing and claiming we are free and fight for freedom. Nobody's right if everyone is wrong... what's wrong with you people? you have the right to be whomever you want to be as long as you respect others and just reading what Lowe did or did not do and what Christians think vs what Muslims think and what Blacks think vs what Whites think is a proof that the world we live in is regressing. one of the best things said ever is that your freedom stops when the freedom of others begin and that goes for everybody whether you're jewish, christian, muslim or atheist. wake up people! wake up!

    December 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  8. The Man

    Thanks to Lowe's for supporting America and detaching itself from anti-American propaganda.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  9. Critter Don

    " they came for the Muslims, and i was not a Muslim and i said nothing....."

    December 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Casey

      Critter Don – Well said.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      They came for the little girls, and I said nothing....

      http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

      December 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  10. GrouchyKat

    There was a time when someone could exercise First Amendment Rights in this country and it not be called bigotry. It may be wrong, but it's someone's opinon and those of you who are screaming that people agreeing with Lowe's decision need to realize that someone can have a different opinion than you and not be wrong.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • MattyB511

      The fact that you have the right to say something and voice an opinion does not mean that that which has been said does not meet the definition of bigotry.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • GORT01

      co true

      December 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      When are the Muslims and their new liberal besties going to protest something like this?

      http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

      December 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      Where do the First Amendment Rights come into this? Who is trying to deny anyone their First Amendment Rights? This is about a group who used the power of a boycott (threat) to advance their own bigotry. It is very childish and ignorant, but they can and did do it. I for one will now NOT be giving Lowes my business for folding to racist religious zealots.
      And that is my right.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • MattyB511

      PhillyRN, why do you believe that it is the duty of every Muslim to protest every violent act of every sect within the religion? There are extremes of everything and yet we do not expect people to denounce extremism in their religion on a consistent basis.

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

      Its not against the law to be a Racist,

      December 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  11. trippp

    As an Atheist I think we over at Reddit.com should start our own letter campaign to Lowes get this series back on the air.

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

      Maybe as a humanitarian, you can organize a campaign to stop the practice of this:

      http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

      Here's the ugly part of Islam that never made the cut on the TLC show. This is why people were not OK with it.

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

      Redditors Unite!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  12. petercha

    Remember 9/11.

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

      Yes, it was a bunch of Saudi Arabians. But we have no problem buying there oil. Try again.

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

      Everyone remembers. Doesn't justify Lowes and the bigotry any more than the actions of what happened that day.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  13. 2tired2care

    Time to boycott Lowe's.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  14. rancholazer love

    Religion = The biggest trick pulled on the human race

    December 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  15. MattyB511

    I am saddened to read so many comments here degrading an entire religion and its people. In what way is TLC's show or the integration of Muslims into American culture at large denegrating American values? Some of the cultural beliefs that so many hold dear are built upon the foundation of open-mindedness, acceptance and specifically the freedom of religion. As proud Americans we must not let the actions of the few alter the greatness of the many. We should pride ourselves on the fact that may live next door to someone we do not understand or even agree with. But as long as those with whom we differ work hard and occassionally attempt to make their communities a better place then who are we to judge them. We must embrace the real ideals upon which our great nation was built, not cower behind stereotypes and fear. Being brave enough to accept all ways of life is the true American way.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Rtuon

      By integration you mean those muslims who have tatoos and who married an irish catholic?

      December 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • MattyB511

      I'm not sure I know what you mean by this.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Matty, what do you do when someone claims "freedom of religion" to practice something like this?

      http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

      I look forward to reading people's responses.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • MattyB511

      PhillyRN, despite the fact that I believe the article you continue to post has little to do with this discussion I will reply. I believe that if you are dealing with issues in which choice of the individual has been eliminated and physical and/or emotional harm are possible or probable freedom of religion is not applicable. THat is a long ago set legal precedent here in the United States. However, the case of which you speak does not occur in the United States does it?

      December 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Patrick

      RN: I reply to that by stating that the person making the religious freedom argument is invalid because the nature of the act of religion interferes with another individual's right not to be maimed. Religious freedom does not give one person rights over another. I'm not permitted to punish someone else for violating my religion.

      I appreciate that you are trying to raise awareness about a terrible issue, and one which deserves attention. But by demonizing Muslims as a whole, and holding all Muslims up as being responsible for addressing all these issues is likely counter-productive. Not all doctors should be judged by what the Nazi eugenics scientists did. Not all Germans should be judged my what the Nazi's did. Not all Christians, or even Catholics should be judged by molesting priests. There are many violent and poor parts of this world, and a number of them might be predominantly Muslim. But you should ask yourself is the place violent because of religion, or is religion used to justify the violence? Europe used to be a violent place with many religious leaders running the different nations as well. At the time, Christianity was the dominant religion of the area. Now, I don't think it's too controversial to say that Jesus was probably against violence against others. That doesn't change the fact that throughout history and still today, his name is co-opted to justify terrible acts. But thankfully, that doesn't happen as often now as it did in the past. Just because we're a few hundred year ahead of the curve doesn't make Christianity virtuous and Islam evil.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  16. fedupinNY

    It is astonishing (and disheartening) to see how many bigots there still are in this country, and how many fools who judge something they have obviously never watched based on something their cousin's wife's best friend's neighbor told them. Lowe's is, of course, free to do as they choose in regards to where they put their advertising, but I think they're wusses for giving in to some fringe group's demands based on ignorant prejudice.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • mm

      AGREE!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Casey

      Exactly.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      I didn't base my impression of female genital mutilation on what someone told me. I saw the results in my practice as a nurse.

      See the results of FGM for yourselves, and judge which is the bigotry, criticizing Muslims, or defending them?

      http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

      December 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Ivan D. Ursery II

      If my religion calls for me to slap all Caucasian people in the face, are you a Bigot if you speak out against it?

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

      PhillyRN, it isn't only Muslims who practice female genital mutilation, and it isn't all Muslims. I seriously doubt there has been anything about that on the show the rest of us are talking about. And yes, it is bigotry to lump all people of a particular label in a hateful category based on limited (if horrible) experience.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  17. mm

    WOW! Difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that this country has so much hatred.
    Our history shows that to be the case with many other religions, ethnic groups, etc. I guess the Mexicans can take a breather. And you hate in the name of "your" God? NEXT?!

    December 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • MaxQ

      Read this...some hate.

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/07/australian-man-faces-500-lashes-in-saudi-arabia-for-blasphemy/?iref=obinsite

      December 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • GORT01

      "this country has so much hatred" seriously???? check into the hatred in their muslim religion, their country's, then come back and say that again. read a little, you might learn something

      December 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • mm

      GORT01...Not only do I read, I LIVE! I hate you because you're an idiot and should be banned from the internet. You're ugly and should be banned from public view. Sounds pretty pathetic, doesn't it? Yup, pathetic.
      Can't argue with stupid. With that being said, POOF...you're gone!

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

      Hatred is as hatred does:

      The hate I have is for barbarism like this to be practiced in the name of any religion, and to see this religion defended as though it was somehow a victim, rather than victimizer:

      http://sheikyermami.com/2007/05/31/female-genital-mutilation-is-part-of-the-sunna-of-the-prophet/

      I look forward to your response.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  18. End Islam Now

    We don't have Lowe's stores in Canada but if we did I'd race over there and buy something just to show my support!

    December 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • mm

      And since YOU are a foreigner, you have no say and no one cares!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • ali

      we do you idiot

      December 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  19. MaxQ

    Headline from above:

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/12/07/australian-man-faces-500-lashes-in-saudi-arabia-for-blasphemy/?iref=obinsite

    Ouch!!!

    December 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  20. John

    This writer just does not understand that most Americans don't want to listen to Islamic women say. "All women should have their heads covered" or "I wish everyone in America converted to Islam" or "You are not worthy of living in this world if you don't worship Allah". I hate prosyletyzing of any kind, but the openness with which the muslims portrayed on the TV push their values onto other people is the main problem. I hate it when Christians prosyletize as well. Shut up and keep your religious values to yourself and don't talk to me about your religion because I am agnostic and I don't give a crap.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:08 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.