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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. Don

    Racist individuals never identify themselves as being discriminatory or prejudice. They feel the term does not apply to themselves.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  2. Frank!
    December 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  3. Jonathan

    p.s. what do you feel about ESPN pulling Hank Williams from the air? Don't you think Lowes has the same right to choose?

    December 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  4. Jones33

    I think people want a more accurate description of muslims in that show. I have seen the show myself and the people on that show are lib sanitized version of muslims. We want a show which depicts a real muslim family in America. The women in that show should be covered like real muslims. The men in that show should have decent sized islamic beards and shout anti america slogans at least once a episode. It will be hard to find real muslims to appear on a tv show, that is why they should hire actors like all the other reality shows.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Wow, that's backward. The Muslim physicians that I work with are nothing like your prejudiced stereotype.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      You are right about one thing. It would be hard to find real people who live up to your fantasy of what american muslims are like.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Gary

      That is right – they are fake muslims.
      Islam is a HOAX FOLKS

      December 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  5. Kay

    I'm more afraid of the so-called Christians in this country. As soon as something happens that has been provoked by a Muslim they are the first to scream, "and this is the religion of peace". They need to go back and read the real Bible instead of the crap they're getting their facts from. Their Jesus and their God do not teach about hate. They teach about accepting EVERYONE. Not just those of their faith. I'd sooner live near a Muslim than a Christian. The Christians are the biggest hypocrites on this planet!!! Lowe's, you've lost my money. I'll go buy at Home Depot. Cowards.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • LoriPinCO

      Kay, I couldn't agree with you more!!! You said everything I was thinking. Lowe's really should be ashamed...they never asked me my opinion about pulling their advertising from the show! I don't shop at Lowe's as it is...maybe this made it a little clearer as to the why of that...I will shop at Home Depot from now on...but never Lowe's. These right wing groups that hide behind the word "Christian" better figure out what that word means...because they aren't living by any Christian standard that I ever learned!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Patrick

      I agree Christians have no ground to stand on when it comes to criticizing Muslims. That said you are wrong on a few points. God did not teach tolerance and love. He taught heavy handed worship more or die. It was Jesus who was the hippy. Secondly this is America and Lowe’s has every right to pull advertizing or not. They should not be forced to advertize on a show they do not support or a show that their customers do not support. So please… do go to Home depot.

      Forcing others to do what you want them to do is wrong, regardless of it is the back wood right wing nuts or the neo-con PC police

      December 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  6. AGeek

    I have an impending project requiring several hundred dollars worth of product. I have a Lowes close to me or two Home Depot stores at a slightly longer drive. Lowes is in the home improvement business, not the religion business. They've chosen to take their eye off the former and make a comment about the later. I'll be taking my several hundred dollars and shopping elsewhere. Ditto any other time I need small items around the house; light bulbs, garden hoses, fertilizer, string for the weed eater, whatever.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  7. wayne Erickson

    Yes, Lowe's has chosen to stand for some thing, and of course will be trampled by those who have never stood for anything. Its not bigotry to choose to not spend your money advocating for something you don't support. Lowe's can spend their money where ever they want, but their customers can vote with their feet. My next house will be built out of Lowe's.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • AGeek

      They WERE supporting the show. Some batsh-t crazy right wing group out of Tampa pressured them into changing. Don't go thinking this was their free-will choice.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Flipper

      AGeek, Lowe's has free choice to do what they want, just like you do. If they don't want to financially support the show over concerns they have, it's quite frankly none of your damn business. To suggest Lowe's doesn't have free will is the height of ignorance.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Gary

      I agree – it is Lowes money and I for one will stand with Lowes.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  8. floydy

    the most striking aspect of the debate on this is how evenly split people are between people espousing right-wing rhetoric ignorantly demonizing reformed islam, and blanket apologism from the left-wing representatives for islam in all its forms, extremism and all. both are extremely formulaic and ignorant.

    you idiots either can't even have an honest conversation about this issue so you spout things you've heard from other people, or you're ignorant of the real liabilities of your stances, on both sides. both are common gutter viewpoints and inhibit our nation and global society from progressing.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Slim Jenkins

      Well thankfully you're here to insult us all and set us straight with your bottomless pool of knowledge. Your existence is a pure blessing. Show us the way oh mighty one.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • floydy

      bottomless pool of thought, maybe. that's all it takes to not be an idiot.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  9. aiden

    I thought in this country, you could advertise wherever you wanted to.....I guess not in the new politically correct regime...

    December 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Al Russell

      Sure, that's true. You can also SHOP wherever you want and speak out when you think something is wrong. Great country ain't it?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  10. WhatsTheProblem

    Hey they don't share the beliefs expressed in the program, why should they be criticized for deciding not to sponsor it???!!

    December 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • AGeek

      They *WERE sponsoring it. Pressure from some a$$hat right-wing group out of Tampa caused them to decide to pull the ad. That's pandering, not advertising to your patrons.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      That's exactly the point. If they don't share the view that people living in america are human beings, then I don't want to give them my retail dollars. It's a radical view, that people are people and not monsters, and they don't have to support it, but they have allowed a bunch of radicals to bully them into publicly taking a position, and they took the wrong position.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  11. Andrew

    Wait wait wait... People are actually watching shows on TLC?

    December 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  12. Freedom to choose

    Here it is. You have a choice, you can watch or not watch. It's that simple. I watch this show and I enjoy it. I work next to a woman that is Muslim, though you wouldnt know it unless you asked her. If anything this show has opened up maybe just one person to ask those questions, learn about each other. As with ANY religion you have your "nut cases" you have catholic priests molesting little boys. I have learned hard core Christians seem to be the most judgemental and hypocritical people. Dont preach to me on Sunday with a club stamp still on your hand from Saturday. Islam has extremists. You can take ANY group and find wrongs, you can also find rights. I know many Muslims, none have tried to kill me, my sons debate partner is Muslim he has not tried to kill him. It was not a religion as a whole from 9/11. Matter of fact you may want to educate yourselfs a little on that topic and dig for some of the truths. Instead of ASSUMING you understand the religion and why they wear the hijab why not ask. The women are not MADE to do it. It is a choice. Why is this show so bad in peoples eyes? A woman having 20 kids is okay? Because her religion says "no birth control" but yet the father has said on the show, he does NOT support his girls going to college. Humm... Then you have the Mormons with plural marriages. Well, I guess he could just have one wife and 3 mistresses huh? Who are we to judge anyone? I have a choice. I just choose to raise my kids to be tolerable of everyone. If you dont understand something or someone ASK.

    Me, if I dont understand something that they talked about on the show, I prefer to come to work and ask my Muslim friend. When will the hatred stop? KKK hates anyone NOT white. Look at all the killings at the hands of them on blacks. Maybe if we just took the time to actually get to know the PERSON and not judge them for their religion. Some of the hatred can subside.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Kay

      Thank you. You said it much better than I did.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Freedom to choose

      Kay....it took ALOT of backspacing. LOL

      December 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Rebecca

      @Freedon to choose- I also totally agree with you. If people spent a little less time being blindly hateful or everything that they don't understand and took more time to learn about it, the world would probably be a peaceful place. This is America, and people (and businesses) have a right to say and do what they want but it doesn't mean that its morally right. I will never believe that because I believe in a different invisible man than the people in the Middle East or China or where ever else in the world that we all can't believe some core values like live and let live.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  13. MarylandMJ

    This Country is all about civil rights, especially "freedom of religion!" Some of you posters are stereotyping and generalizing.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • tensor

      And that extends to freedom from religion, as well.
      However, Lowe's has every right to fund whatever marketing endeavor it wants, and that's all this is. Personally, I'd rather they spend that money getting rid of all the signage in spanish all over their stores.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  14. Get a Grip

    christofascism at work...

    December 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  15. Jubril

    I totally understand all this hatred. People here have to hate someone to feel normal. In the old days it was the Africans. Now its either the Muslims or the illegal immigrants

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

      I feel quite normal today. I tried hard just now to think of who I hate. Nobody came to mind. Nope, hate isn't required.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  16. HellBent

    "I guess you are not acquainted with the term CONVERT OR DIE...
    You really should learn your religious history."

    Which religion are we talking about? Because this was pretty much how christianity was allowed to grow and prosper under the roman empire. A practice that continued well into the middle ages.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Get a Grip

      I guess you're not familiar with the Bible that prescribes "stoning to death both adulterers" in Leviticus? Maybe you should read more....

      December 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      The Crusades were all about Christians converting people "by the sword." Unfortunately, modern U.S. evangelicals get most of their religious education in their own churches, and know little about true religious history. Most don't even know that all 4 of the main Gospels were written about 100 years after Christ and the apostles lived, by people who never personally knew them. One of the best courses I took in college was "comparative world religions."

      December 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  17. jj

    Fundamentalists of all religions are dangerous, including the rightwing Christians that incited Lowe's to pull the ads.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • RealAmerica

      I understand christian extemists captured a Lowe's lawyer and beheaded him on a video to get them to pull their ad.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Flipper

      Those rascally fundamentalist Christians! How dare they write letters & express their opinion. Freedom of speech is only for those who agree with you!

      December 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Quality

    http://democratherald.com/business/local/article_d195a764-0766-11e1-a4b7-001cc4c03286.html

    Lowe's is not prejudice when it comes to business. Take a look at the URL about one of our U.S. soldiers vs Lowe's.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  19. Clark Kent

    GOOD FOR LOWES!!!!!!!!!!!! Who cares about the rest of the trash in here talking about hate and ignorance....they're probably islamist pigs anyways. Islam is poison.....The Crusades, 9/11, Iraq, Lockerbie, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Beirut Barracks Bombing is freaking proof. Yet there are still retards out there (especially on CNN) that think we can just "get along".

    December 13, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Jon

      You're right. Honestly, to really get along with someone different than you takes love, patience, intelligence/wisdom, and kindness. Things most Americans just simply don't possess. This is why Scandinavian countries don't have these problems – because they are all white; all the same. In fact, if you don't like the whole America is a melting pot thing, perhaps Finland would be better for you.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • On the Crusades

      They were instigated by Christians not Muslims and some of them were attacks against other Christians. Why don't you go take a medieval history class, you might actually learn something.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • BG

      " This is why Scandinavian countries don't have these problems – because they are all white; all the same."

      Like Sweden? The Netherlands? Or... Norway?

      Thanks for today's comedy relief, Jon.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • The Truth

      It really is sad to see that Lowes buckled under the pressure of a few right wing nuts. I can say that I will no longer shop at Lowes. The idea that people will boycott a show based on the fact that it shows that not all Muslims are terrorist is just plain stupid. Its odd that Christian fundamentalist can forget about the Inquisiition, Witch burning, burning Crosses on yards, Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing, the rampant Pedephiles in the churches raping children and the history of Missionaries bringing small pox infected blankets to the Native Americans. With this being said, should we accuse all Christians of being Terrorist? Of course not! Lets stop blaming the entire Muslim community for the actions of a very small few. The real problem here is the lack of education. Do these "Christian Fundamentalist" realize that what they are doing by boycotting Lowes because they have an ad on the show are actually contradicting their own ideological values.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Joe

      Wait, the Crusades were a series of wars that were blessed by the Pope and the Catholic church to restore Christianity to the holy land. The christians were the agressors and you can't pin that on Muslims.

      We can't judge religion based on their extremists. Otherwise we would need to use Anders Brevick, the KKK, and abortion clinic bombings as the ethical litmus test for the Christian religion. One of the points of this article was to demonstrate that there are many more muslims that are productive members of society and nobody should judge a religious group based on their extremists.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  20. UVPtxs

    After reading this insightful article I (an Irish Catholic) will not shop at Lowes ever again. I value my faith and was taught that Hate is the root of evil, and I have the right not to participate. Thank You very much for writing this article, we are currently renovating our kitchen and We Will NOT be Shopping at lowes!!! Happy Holidays

    December 13, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • BG

      The you'd better start looking for a sink at Billy's Bargain Outlet, because HD pulled their ads, too.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Nel D.

      Totally agree w/ you...thanks for the positive comment

      December 13, 2011 at 2:45 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.