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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. David

    Maybe if the show didnt depict the minority of muslim culture and seek to spotlight a fringe sect of islam, it would be more widely accepted in both the commerical and viewing public. TLC choose to pick the extreme side of Islam for its obvious shock value when compared to mainstream america. Too bad the editor is a bigot himself otherwise this might have been a well written piece of jouranlism.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Real

      GOOGLE Muslim Atrocities and see what the cult of Islam is all about.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • cosmo

      One Muslim Family out thousands that believe in American values doesnt make the rest loving Americans. Those of us against Muslims cant be racist because Muslims come in all different colors. Muslim is not a race, its a religion. So why do they always pull their race card.

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

    we dont need Cults in America. whether its muslims or any other.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • antireligion

      I like you....

      no to all religions!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  3. trinablogs

    I do not agree with them at all but it is their right to do what they want to. Just like a Muslim based company has the right to pull their adds for a christian based show...

    December 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • antireligion

      I like your argument too.....

      but no to all religions would be a more prudent thing to do in the modern world we are living....

      December 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  4. antireligion

    No to all religions... listen to John Lennon more....

    December 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  5. moeen

    Lows' has show its' true color. Now it has show its lowest point. I will never spend one single dime there again.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  6. antireligion

    no religion in the present day is doing anything to better mankind.. all they are doing is push for their stupid agendas and pouring LOTS of money into converting people who are looking for answers.....the money they put into increasing the number of followers of their doctrines should be used on: finding cures for cancer, or stem cell research, or ironically finding the God particle.... the list can go on forever. Way to go Muslims and Christians.. your time in this earth is UP... understand it for once....

    December 13, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  7. Mohammed

    Go back to your country? Why who says this is your country? This land belongs to Natives so people of other faith, religion, or race have the same right as you do to live in it. When you say go back to your country, you might as well start packing up and see your self out of here as well...Ignorance will not get you anywhere in life but if it helps you feel safe and happy in your little bubble then enjoy.

    You could focus on Islam all you want, but keep in mind every other religion out there has "Good" and "Bad". People read portions of any holy book and take the parts that they like and leave the parts they don't like. And some take parts and stretch them to the extreme (Taliban, Jim Jones – Jonestown Massacare, Polygamist, etc), while other parts warn against that as being against the religion.

    The intelligent people will look beyond the people representing the religion and actually get to the source (Torah, Bible, Quran, etc) and read it to see what the hell is going on! If you do read it with an open mind you will understand that religions aren't the problem but its us as humans, we modify the religion to our liking.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • trinablogs

      I agree with everything you say but in this country we have the right to do what we want to. If they want to pull their adds they are within their right. They also can take the hit of losing people's business that fell it is wrong. But they have their rights like we have ours.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Gurgi

      You are wrong. It doesn't matter what the source says, what matters is what the people of the religion do with it, for example mutilating women? regarding/treating women as property? etc.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Real

      Google MUSLIM ATROCITIES and see what the Muslims are doing worldwide and have been doing for decades. Wake up America and don't become like we were in the 1930's when we allowed Hitler to flourish and discounting him as nothing to worry about.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • antireligion

      One more time Mohamed... religion sucks... !!!!! either Christiansm or Islam...they both suck.......!! They are not doing anything for this world to advance in present day.
      Religions only serve one purpose... turn human against human.....FAITH is possible without religion... and FAITH should always be part of the human spirit. Actually I consider that faith is actually the human spirit itself. Religion actually has managed to somehow kill faith... the objective and real faith that is born within every human....organized religion is a crime against humanity...
      If in doubt, check some 'rules' the two major religions (Christianity and Islam) impose in their followers and you will see that nobody in their right mind wants to live in societies subject to such crap. The ten commandments are a different subject because they are common to all religions and they were listed long before any of the two crappiest religions ever even existed.
      I'd go a little further and would encourage any corporate sponsor to pull money off advertising anything that has to do with religion...

      December 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Maggie

    Way to go Lowe's!! Makes me want to shop there even more!

    December 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Mymaria714

      Yes! I was going to say the same thing. Would it be such a big stink if they pulled out of a show promoting Christianity? A ton of people would be on here saying, "why should companies support bigotry?" You don't like what they did-don't shop there. I will be shopping there now every chance I get.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  9. Kristen

    I had no idea that this was happening and I'm pretty disgusted by the stunt Lowe's is pulling. This type of bigotry is appalling in an case, but I would like to point out that in response to the following claim:

    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."

    Right-wing groups DO mobilize againts TV shows all the time, and networks and companies regularly pull funding from the shows as a result. Many people in our country have a serious issue with thinking of anything and anyone outside the privileged white, Christian majority is inherently "less American" and less legitimate.

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

      Then you need to diss BET entertainment network and the Nation of Islam and it's racist leader, Louis Farrakhan.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  10. Jollygoodshow

    Regardless of anyone's thoughts or stance on the matter, We live in country that allows Lowes to determine their own way. If you don't like it, don't shop there. My guess is it won't even put a ding in their sales.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  11. xeno

    Ah, America. Now, I will exercise my right to not shop at Lowe's.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • dbrock010

      Me too. Home Depot's better anyway.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • antireligion

      You should witness western women trying to exercise the right to not wear a burqa while going to visit Egypt....educate yourself in the evil of religion before taking sides....
      If we are going to boycott I'd suggest you take into consideration what some people have done in the name of religion in the past and the present... some facts:
      The crusades – occupation of territory in the name of 'God'
      Inquisition – killing anybody that finds ideas that contradict the Holy Church's ideas
      Killing of cartoonists that depict Mohamed
      Blowing a statue of Buddha
      Do you need any more proof that both Christianism and Islam have had it WAY wrong all the time...??? Boycott religion itself and you'd be doing yourself and 6 billion others a great favor....
      I'd say no to religion and let other people that have in their power support one group or another to exercise their own rights....

      December 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  12. IRONHAND75

    The baseless accusations of racism and bigotry aside, when did it become socially unacceptable to be able to decide where a person (or in this case a business) puts thier money? I support Lowe's descision to pull their ads not because I am a bigot or because I think they are trying to send some sort of politcally significant message. They ran the numbers and it didn't work out financially for them. Now, you liberal crusaders for social justice are just going to have to live with that.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  13. dave

    Now if they would just pull the ads from lgbt stations, we could really have something to be proud of. The downward spiral of American morality feeds our decline.

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

      The race to the bottom continues and is being lead by the republicans and the lowest common denominator stooges that make up their voting base.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  14. Chris

    I believe that in the United States anyone has the right to advertise and not advertise on any channel (TV, internet, newspaper, journal, etc.) they want. What is wrong with Lowe's choosing to pull their ads during this particualr show. Companies have the right to choose and to not be controlled.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  15. BrianRetiredMilitary

    It is not bigotry. They pay for advertising, they choose where and when it is to be shown. It is thier right as a paying customer. End of conversation.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  16. Al Russell

    This is NOT a first amendment issue. No one is attempting to prosecute Lowes, or subject them to any kind of government action, so their "rights" have not been infringed upon in any way. Just as it is not illegal for an individual to be an ass, it is likewise not illegal for a corporation to act like one. What people are saying is that Lowes is acting in a way that promotes bigotry and discrimination, which is certainly true. What if Lowes pulled all of its advertising from the BET network because some white supremacists whined about them supporting an African American channel? That would NOT be OK and Lowes would never do it for fear of a tremendous backlash. That they thought they could get away with it in this case is baffling. The fanatical Muslims involved in terrorism are exactly like Eric Rudolph (Olympic Park Bomber, fanatical Christian). We don't blame all Christians for the actions of a few nut cases, and let me tell you folks, there are quite a few of them out there, so we shouldn't paint all Muslims with the same brush either. Bigotry is bigotry no matter who it is leveled against. To say that it's OK as long as it's only targeted at certain groups is rank hypocrisy and, frankly, a display of tremendous stupidity.

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

      I disagree. If that is the thinking then BET itself is racism. I dont see a WET (white entertainment television)

      December 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • guest

      very well said. a sad state of affairs in the country that was founded on a basis of religious tolerance.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • guest

      btw, very well said applies to al russell... not the retired military guy who sees everything non-white as reverse discrimination.

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

      Al Russell

      You pick a few nutballs like McVeigh and try to whitewash the Muslim culture of murder. How funny until you google Muslim atrocities and see what the Muslims are doing worldwide. Murdering men, women, and children ON PURPOSE, cutting off the heads of innocents, stoning little girls to death because they showed their face, bombing markets full of civilians ON PURPOSE, pushing crippled old men off a cruise ship while his wife watched, hanging dismembered American servicemen up on bridges and smiling underneath their bodies for the camera. Yea, the Muslims are worse than Hitler ever was.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • antireligion

      Religion sucks.....

      historically we've had religion going to extremes in the name of somebody they know, or at least have never had prove it even existed or exists.... take a look at the Crusades and the killing of cartoonists who have depicted Mohamed... people who once started either movement should be or should have been executed without trial.... FAITH is necessary but RELIGION is not.. most of all the religion that is organized and has leaders...... do come to terms with the fact that religion has held back human progress since monkeys got off the trees...

      December 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  17. Freedom to choose

    PhillyRN

    You do know they do female mutilation in Africa too and other places. So stop trying to post this as IF IT IS ONLY Muslims doing this. Tell the WHOLE truth not the part that you want to use to further the Hatred

    it is practised in 28 countries in western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa, in parts of Asia and the Middle East, and within some immigrant communities in Europe, North America, and Australasia.[2] The WHO estimates that 100–140 million women and girls around the world have experienced the procedure, including 92 million in Africa.[1]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation

    December 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • antireligion

      Religion in the world should be banned... listen to John Lennon more...most religious leaders are just a bunch of people that are not ignorant at all but they are making a nice living on the money they take away (tax free) from the believers that are really stupid and ignorant....
      the money they make should be put to good use trying to (ironically) find the God particle, cure cancer, do stem cell research, find new alternative sources of energy or whatever else. The list of good things to do would be too large but everything has to do with science and peaceful living and none of it with the stupid belief that some 'superior' being created us...

      December 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  18. Not All Docs Play Golf

    It seems that the Sunni Christian evangelicals can't get along with the Shiite Christian evangelicals.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • antireligion

      NO more religion in this earth.... Listen to John Lennon more...

      December 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  19. Jonathan

    It appears that CNN has blocked my original post – none of which included profanity, threats, etc. Let the propaganda machine continue to march ahead on behalf of these people...

    December 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Posts are never deleted because of position or content. You must have used one of the trigger words, and if you re-read your post, I'll bet you could know what got it deleted. Sometimes even words like "moron" are now flagged.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  20. Pat

    Lowe's has joined the bigots and bullies. I'll never shop there again.

    December 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Gurgi

      No big loss. You are one of the "blind." You know what the religion of islam is and what it represents and you still want to welcome it. I pity you.

      December 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Rick

      @Gurgi Ask yourself, what do you represent? Patriotism? Diversity? The American way? Christainity? I do not believe any of those at all... Maybe ignorance and intolerance.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • Gurgi

      @Rick, google muslim atrocities. I know you will bring up atrocities committed by other religions, but I ask you this, how many centuries ago were the acts done? It is what the muslims of today do in the name of the religion that I have a problem with, for example, mutilating women, and treating them as property, not to mention the terrorist acts. Yes I know all religions have their idiots, but the numbers of mulsims doing uncivilized things in the name of their religion today is much greater than any other.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:17 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.