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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. Rick

    Acts of attrocities can be found in all religions. To attemp0t to justify hatred,as some do here, because of such examples is a misleading notion and an erroneous belief.The old fallacy of composition we were taught in school which arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      No one is saying we must hate. I'm saying that we must be honest. As much as we'd like to see that a Disneyfication of Islam is real and true, the facts don't bear this out.

      As long as leading Muslim clerics, Muslim universities, and Muslims themselves endorse cruelty like FGM, we have a duty to reject it forcefully:

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

      December 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • NTHB

      The only relgion that is currently killing in the name of religion is islam.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Actually Smart.

      PhillyRN. Are you profitting off that site? You link to it on every post. You must be rich by now.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  2. R2D2

    YAAAAYYYYYY Lowes!!!! Maybe the CEO just doesn't like the show,maybe they'll air "All American Infidel" in muslim countries overseas? It is propaganda for a certain sect of religious beliefs. I'm sure they track the dollars of advertising to customer ratios to target audience members.Probably a poor performer comparitively.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  3. 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. You keep posting the link over and over as though that is the ONLY people that do this.

    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 3:40 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      FGM is widely endorsed in Islam by Muslim clerics who cite the verses in the Koran and Hadiths that support it. This is why it is still practiced almost unabated in Muslim cultures without change.

      See the cites of the religious text that refer to it, and read the clerics who endorse the practice. I dare say FGM would survive except that Muslims are so enthusiastic about it.

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

      December 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      The only patients I have encountered who were subjected to FGM were Muslims. Interestingly, though these women had extreme health problems resulting from the procedure, they all endorsed the practice.

      I wish this were not so, but that is the point - what we wish is not always the reality.

      As a nurse, as a human being, we have a duty to name this scourge and to call out those who endorse it. Those are overwhelmingly Muslims. FGM is not just practiced in nations with Sharia law. Muslims in the US also endorse it and continue it. The same is true in Europe and Great Britain. Just because FGM occurs in non-Muslim nations doesn't mean that it is not Muslims who do it.

      FGM would not survive if Islam would universally disavow it, if the West would only deal with one thing in Islam that is not PC, just this one thing. Instead Islam is made out to be the victimized sufferer by the lazy liberal press, and not the girls and women unlucky enough to be born Muslim in most of the Muslim world.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      It is predominantly Muslims that do FGM in the world. No other faith cites its religious texts as a source for this practice.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Actually Smart.

      PHILLYRN. Same link. Same old rant

      December 13, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  4. Terrie Catlow

    Well said Arsalan Iftikhar. I will not be shopping at Lowes. How sad that people can be swayed by such bigotry.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      How is it that Islam is the victim, and not the victimizer, in cases such as these?

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

      December 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Actually Smart.

      PhillyRN Oh look. Same link (again)

      December 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  5. Jarbeau

    Lowe's has every right to pull their ads from any show they choose. The consumer has the right to not shop at Lowe's if they disagree with that decision. It would be nice if people had less time to worry about what other people are doing and spent more time minding their own business.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • ale

      yep, that is why Lowe's is out of my radar now, home Depot here i come!

      December 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  6. The Guy

    I wish I could say I'm surprised.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  7. Roger

    I was headed to Lowes tomorrow. Not now. I'll be going to Home Depot from now on.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • nolazy

      good for you, you're excercising your freedom of choice, just like lowe's excercising it's rights to pull the ad out.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  8. kurtinco

    Imagine for a moment a show like this on the airwaves in Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Iran or Iran depicting wholesome Christian or Jewish families living in those countries. On second thought, that might work for TV in those places. The muslim heathens and blood-lusters would get a real kick out of watching as Christians and Jews are tortured and murdered live on PakiTV.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • nuetral

      ....so this is part of the freedoms granted to hard working American citizens. Hate runs deep little man. Oh wait, that's fear for you.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • nofoldems

      So you're holding yourself up to their standards? And what is so different with what Lowe's did and what you're accusing of these other countries would do?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • AnAllAmericanMuslimWomanByChoice

      Have you ever seen any shows from the Mid-East? lol I'm going to assume NOT. Most of the women in the shows there do NOT wear hijab and are infact Christian, or assumed so anyway. It's not a big deal over there. Not at all. Having lived, recently, in Egypt for 4 years I can honestly say that it's a wonderful place.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • ale

      mhhh, let me understand, so you are comparing the US with those countries? Is that what you are aspiring the country to become?....thought so, connect the brain before talking next time please...

      December 13, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  9. Brad

    "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?"

    What do you mean, "YOU people"?!?

    December 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  10. brunokraiske

    I support Lowes. This show is stupid. Here is a next great idea for TLC reality TV: "all-American Neo Nazi". There is a lot of similarities between Islam and Nazism..... : conquest, intolerance, slavery, killing other people just because they are different. The show producer said: "not all muslims are bad people". Some neo Nazis are good people,b TLC will never make a show about good Neo Nazis.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • HellBent

      "There is a lot of similarities between Islam and Nazism..... : conquest, intolerance, slavery, killing other people just because they are different. "

      By your thinking, xtianity fits in nicely as well.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Actually Smart.

      brunokraiske, you're an idiot. Go back to yelling at your tv.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • john

      Actually, I think that reality show already exists – it is better known as the Republican primary debates.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  11. MJMP

    Read a F'ing history book, the muslims have killing billions, yes billions over the course of 5000 yrs in the wars against no muslims, they will never stop, only a fool thinks they are a non violent people.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • HellBent

      What history book do you read where muslims have been around for 5,000 years? To paraphrase Lincoln – it's better to be silent and be thought a fool than to post such drivel and remove all doubt.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Len

      I'm not muslim but you know....Christians have likely killed just as many, if not more people...

      December 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Actually Smart.

      What books have you been reading? The Turner DIaries?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • KLDGBB

      Christians have done plenty of killing as well – I think you may be living in a glass house and thus should not be throwing any stones!!

      December 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • MI Poo

      Awesome point, Hellbent. You're my hero!

      December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • vintage274

      If you read the history book you proclaim has the answers, you will find that Christians have done more to torture, maim, and kill than any other religion mainly because they believe that it is their duty to spread the Gospel. Muslims do not make attempts to convert; Islam believes that religion is between a human being and his/her God. Christianity held the Inquisition in Europe, wiped out entire towns of "Infidels" during the Crusades, tried women as witches and men who were great scientists as heretics, killed and contained Native Americans, and committed atrocities in Africa and Asia. The Americans in Dearborn, MI who also happen to be Muslims have more to fear from their fellow citizens who are Christians (witness this act of discrimination and hatred) than any of us do from them.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Well, Islam is the "youngest" of the Abrahamic Religions beginning in the 7th Century. When will we learn that religion does not cause atrocities? When will we learn race does not cause atrocities? When will we learn that PEOPLE cause atrocities.

      Violence has occurred amongst all people, all nations throughout the history of time. These horrible acts have nothing to do with any religion.

      Why do we have to play the blame game? Perhaps to fool ourselves in being able to cast off blame onto someone else? It doesn't work. There's an old saying, "Anytime you point a finger at someone, there are three pointing back at you."

      December 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • NTHB

      Just look around the world and see who is comitting acts of violence in the name of relgion? The only relgion today that is killing in the name of religion would be islam.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • vamp

      5000 years? Please educate me. I thought it was a rather correct analogy that mankind has been killing mankind. I think you are single ling out Muslims because you do not like them. I may be wrong.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  12. MJMP

    Lowes is doing the right thing, muslims have no place here and we should quelch them before they rise up, is everybody too stupid to see that all this pro muslim crap lately is propaganda, their trying to make you passive towards them.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • HellBent

      Wasn't that pretty much the nazi atti.tude toward the jews?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • MJMP

      Muslims have been killing non muslims for 5000 yrs, your an idiot to think they will ever change that.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • nuetral

      MJMP, your village is missing its idiot. Please report back immediately!

      December 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • MJMP

      The only idiots are the people who think muslims are not a violent people, their history proves you wrong, and always will.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Interestingly, Nazi propaganda for the Nazi family as the ideal was prevalent during Hitler's rule. It was not allowed to question it. No one could offer an alternative point of view that their might be cracks in the porcelain.

      Anyone who might say, but Islam allows and endorses practices like FGM would have been like the journalist in Nazi Germany you never heard from again. Just disappeared one night.

      Where is the media coverage of FGM in the Muslim world, in the US, and what are Muslims, yes Muslims, doing to do about it?

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

      That is why I oppose the show. We don't have time to coddle. We have work to do.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • nuetral

      you know, Idiot. KKK killed in the name of their good lord and guess what? They didn't fly planes to do it. Idiot.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • The Guy

      Three facts for you:

      1) Islam is less than 2000 years old, genius, so they haven't been killing "non-muslims" for over 5000 years
      2) Fact: More muslims are killed by muslim extremist than any other religion or ethnic group worldwide
      3) You're an idiot

      December 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • john

      Really? Seeing how the Muslim religion only began less than 1500 years ago, it is pretty amazing that they were killing people 5000 years ago, Imagine that! They were killing people 3500 years before they even existed!

      December 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • todd wittkamp

      Why I don't agree with everything you said, Lowes is doing the right thing. Not because of anything to do with Muslim, but when you have a show that is only causing rifts and controversy, why would you want to advertise on it? Any publicity isn't always good publicity anymore.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • MJMP

      Islam is actually close to 3000 yrs old, but the arabs have been around long before that, and they have never changed from what they were, they have been waring with the jews for thousands of years, longgg before Christ. It is over a birthright issue, who are the real sons of abraham.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • TheMatador

      You're wrong and your kind is, thankfully, dying off more and more each day. I look forward to a country without people like you.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Sarai

      Yes this is EXACTLY what was done

      December 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • TAH

      read a dictionary.... start with looking up bigotry then see if you still feel good about yourself

      December 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • MJMP

      Ok maybe I was wrong, thought it was 600BC, actually 600AD, even so, I am a bigot, I do not like muslims, do not trust them, and will never bow to them, my ancestors died to be free men, and so will I.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • TheMatador

      Please enlighten us to the history of the Arabs. Are these the Arabs that were under Roman control or those under Parthian/Sasanian control. What area did they live in? Were they around Petra, Bostra, Anatolia? Do you know anything about what you speak except for talking points from yoru white supremecist site?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • Actually Smart.

      PhillyRN. Are you seriously linking to an anti Muslim site to prove your point? Maybe the neo nazis should like to mein kampf to make theirs.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • ale

      I wonder what natives think about Christianity coming here and killing most of them and shoveling down their throats our religion....ignorance is bliss but stupidity is not....

      December 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  13. Craig Davison

    I don't see why some people want to make this political. Opposing hate isn't a just liberal agenda. I'm a Reagan Republican (very conservative), but Lowe's racism is wrong. This sort of thing of pandering to racists, must not be tolerated. It's unAmerican. These hatemongers are trying to destroy our country from the inside. As a Christian Conservative, I stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters against this racism

    December 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      So are you OK with this? This seems much worse than Lowes not advertising on a show that ignores issues in Islam like these:

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

      I'm waiting to hear comments from people about this material. it is graphic, but these are medical photos. This practice is widely endorsed in Islam today. What show is ever going to cover this issue?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • tommy

      Craig you are a liar!

      December 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Craig Davison

      You people are an aberration. You don't represent the majority of American who want to live in a society free from racism. You're filled with hate, and don't have the intelligence to even form cogent arguments that support your views. You're an embarrassment to the rest of us.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • Actually Smart.

      PhillyRN. You obviously have an agenda. The comments are about the show and you're obsessing about FGM.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  14. john

    Thank God groups like the Florida Family Foundation don't govern America. If they had enough power, they would probably start persecuting and killing not just Muslims, but any Christians who hold religious views that are different from their own. It is sad to live in a country where so many people focus on hating people who are different from themsleves instead of trying to solve some of our real problems.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • pattysboi

      How very true, John. The "ffa" is nothing more than a bunch of BIGOTS.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  15. Hoot

    This is a sad day when one realizes their own country is full of uneducated beings. Maybe Texas should secede from our beloved USA to get rid of all the bigotry and hatred. They can have the hate filled critics as well. Religious freedom is what America stands for, not the hatred that is being shown here today.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  16. AchievementGap

    Guess I won't be shopping at Lowe's anymore.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • TAH

      me either

      December 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  17. Michael

    Sorry Scott. This is not about a double standard. The whole point is to show that Muslim's aren't a bunch of terrorists.

    What's wrong is that you see this as not treating every religion equally. I suppose that you claim to be a Christian? Well, if so, I suggest that you go back and re-read your Bible and learn about tolerance.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      I'm not requesting that Muslims be portrayed as terrorists. I merely oppose the show for not bringing to light a single problem in Islam that is worthy of some kind of honest treatment.

      As a nurse, I have seen the results of FGM, a practice that is continued all over the Muslim world, that is lauded and supported by Muslim clerics, including leading Muslim clerics in the top Islamic universities. See for yourself if it is right to simply ignore this so as to present a happy, trouble free view of Islam as merely one needing more understanding from the West:

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

      December 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • falconco

      Lowe's caved in to a bigoted group with 35,000 members....how much did they spend at Lowes? I daresay that American Muslims bought more items at Lowes than the bigoted group. I don't understand why so many people hate someone for being of a different religion, race, or political party. The sad thing is that most of the haters profess to be Christians.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Craig Davison

      PhillyRN – the premise of the show isn't to discuss hyper-political views on Islam. It's intended to give the rest of us a glimpse of mainstream Muslim families in America. What you're asking is similar to asking a show about Christians to spend some amount of time talking about how some Christians also engage in Militia and anti-government activities... that would simply be out of the realm of the show's purpose. And it's not like the activities of Islamic fundamentalists in foreign countries is never brought up. And we also hear about how some American Muslims are enticed by foreign Islamic fundamentalists... that message, that news is out there by the handfuls. Just watch Fox for a day (or another media outlet), it will come up.

      TLC show is a family show; about families with good American values; not terrorism.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  18. Religions are evil. All of them.

    Islam is the worst.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • nuetral

      So profound! I didn't know elementary schools allowed students on CNN.com

      December 13, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  19. Rojwilco

    I think if there was a show about Latino-american or jewish or african american families, and a major corporation advertised on it, that corporation would also receive letters from people wanting them to remove their support. And 50 years ago, that corporation would, just as they do today with the newest group to enter our melting pot. This is nothing new.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Patrick

      Nice try but not quite. Muslims are not a new group to the U.S. What is ‘new’ is the worldwide terrorist attacks by Muslims on anyone and everyone they disagree with. If you spend a little more time following this topic or reading other posts you’d see that MUSLIMS also complained about the show. So unless they are racist to themselves.. your argument is debunked.

      I’m sorry sir your race card has been denied. Would you like to try another?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  20. Down in the valley

    tra la la la lalley!

    December 13, 2011 at 3:27 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.