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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. Jimbo

    It would be interesting to see a poll from muslim americans around the country to see if they actually approve of this show, to see if they feel like they are being portrayed acurately.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      You're going down the wrong path with your assumptions. This show would be good for educating all viewers on how an average Muslim family feels in our multicultural society.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Go down this path with your assumptions - here's one of our allies, a Saudi Prince, stating how he feels about us, how he feels Bin Laden is alive, and how Americans are the real terrorists:

      http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3229.htm

      Now that is Muslim reality television! You can't say it's just the Gazans, or the Egyptians, oh those wild-eyed Magrebis!

      People oppose the ridiculous TLC show because it is not real.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Assumptions? I did not state any....what were thinking my assumptions were? That some muslims would be irrate that the mother pictured above is showing her beautiful hair and her chest is exposed, that men think she is hot and imagine themselves in bed with her, that she allows her daughter to wear a dress that shows her legs.....I would 'assume' that some american muslims feel this way and it would be interesting to know how many.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  2. TD

    The simple fact is that all religions are about mind control but with what has happened with the Muslim lead terrorist initiative in the U.S. as well as many other western affiliated countries, can you blame people for being leery of Muslims? Do we really need to be educated by yet another mind numbing group of people, I personally think not...

    December 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  3. xpxpxp

    Where do people keep getting the idea Lowe's is a private company and therefore do what they want? Lowe's is a publicly traded company, they are not private.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Publicly traded is privately owned. As opposed to publicly owned, or government organization, I think. "Private company" is a bit slippery.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  4. Bo

    Too bad, I liked Lowes, until today.. Im shopping OSH or Home Depot from now on.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  5. sherridbw

    It's nice to know that bigotry is still alive and kicking. I guess when it comes to civil rights we really haven't come that far. As for that so called Christian group they seem to forget that Jesus opens his arms to everyone. If you don't like the show then CHANGE THE CHANNEL. As for Lowe's they should be ashamed of themselves for caving in to a bunch of hateful bigots. Yes there are Muslim extremists right next to the Christian extremists (the Crusades anyone?). All religions usually have some type of nutcases. If you are curious about Islam, go to your local Mosque and ask for some info. You might just change your mind.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      Judgmental Christians might have a trap door surprise in store at the Pearly Gates. Judge not, lest ye be judged. 😉

      December 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      This is a recent Muslim sermon in a mosque, and it was standing room only.

      http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3227.htm

      No one is depriving Muslims of their rights. It's not opponents of this show that are calling for death "to the Jews and to America."

      People oppose the show because it's so obviously a stretch from how Muslims even define their own belief system in much of the world. We can't make Islam step into the modern age by squeezing our eyes shut and blowing out the candle. We can't wish it.

      It has to be something Islam does on its own. How likely does that seem?

      http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3227.htm

      December 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  6. RyshusMojo

    Hmmmm....that muslim in the photo is wearing a Star of David over his heart

    December 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Hahaha, that is funny...made me laugh.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      True. Obviously he's not as hung up about religion and zealousness as most of the rabid, frothing Christians posting messages of hate and intolerance.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  7. PhillyRN

    What no one is going to tell me how fake the video is, how it doesn't represent most Muslims, and is not true because it is not nice?

    http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3227.htm

    I'm still waiting for folks to comment on the kind of Muslim reality TV that most Muslims actually watch.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Freedom to choose

      MOST MUSLIMS??? Really I know of 6 that do not they work with me. So I guess it is not most. And a Muslim wouldnt wear the Star of David. *rolls eyes*

      SO i guess you think everything that you find on the internet is true. As many bad that you post I can post just as many that are good. Overseas they dont have as strick guidelines as to what is put on tv as we do here. If you trace the origin of that station you may find the type of person it is related to. It is not representing MOST Muslims.

      I have been to Saudi Arabia & Iraq....lived there thanks to Uncle Sam. The majority watch regular TV not hate tv, one area dressed just like me....

      In every religion every culture there is good and bad according to someone.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  8. Observer

    “Whoever does any work on a holy day: put to death”
    “anyone who blasphemes: stone him.”
    “worship other gods: stone the guilty ones to death”
    “stubborn and rebellious son: stone him to death.”
    “man is found lying with a married woman: both of them shall die”
    “virgin engaged to another man and he lies with her: stone them to death”
    “Whoever strikes his father or his mother: put to death”
    "Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother: put to death.”
    “anyone who curses his father or his mother: put to death”
    “man who commits adultery with another man's wife: they shall be put to death.”
    "man or woman who is a medium or a fortune-teller: stone them to death"

    From the Quran? Nope. This is from the Bible

    December 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Critical difference - no one is calling for that to be done today. Contrast this with the Muslim world:

      http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3227.htm

      December 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      The Bible is a violent book. It condones slavery, murder, incest, animal sacrifice, blood atonement, etc, etc

      December 13, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Observer

      PhillyRN,

      That is the way that God wanted the world run when he set up the laws. Supposedly, that's how God ran things for thousands of years until Jesus got God to change his mind.

      Radical Muslims are following much of the Old Testament of the Bible.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  9. Joe

    I like how people say free speech but when Lowe's a private company decides to pull its add every one gets mad they can chose to do what they want with their money. It is their choice and their money this is America not Saudi Arabia where a women was recently beheaded for being a witch. These people live in the dark ages WAKE UP !!!!

    December 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  10. Marsia Powers

    I posted the following on Lowes FB page: "I'm a Jew and a member of the National Association of Realtors and am horrified that you pulled your sponsorship of this program because a few prejudiced right-wing christians (notice the small c). When will you start pulling your sponsorship of all shows that are about non-Christians?
    I have been using the Realtor Benefits program for years, buying gift cards for clients and no longer will I use this program. I will work to have the National Association of Realtors pull their affiliation with Lowes. You do know that if a Realtor refuses to do business with a person due to their religion or ethnicity that's against the Fair Housing laws? Which puts any Realtor or association affiliated with Lowes in non-compliance with Federal and State law."
    I then wrote to NAR asking that our affiliation with Lowes be cancelled.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      I hope you don't have any affiliations with Gaza:

      http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3227.htm

      I think that Lowes is not citing Hadiths that call for "death to the Jews" in a sermon given only on December 2, 2011. Just a fluke? Which is the more real reality TV, TLC or Gaza state TV?

      December 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  11. KarolInCA

    30 years ago we had the Cosby show presenting the lives of a black American family. I don't remember any group of people having the nerve to complain about Bill Cosby trying to pervert the American life.
    Anyone arguing differently really is a bigot. I will not be using Lowes. My money will be spent in companies that espouse the American way of life – in all its differing religions, colors and beliefs.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  12. Jimbo

    I just want someone to teach my mulsim malaysian physics lab instructor to brush her teeth or use mouthwash, I almost puke every other day when she talks to me.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  13. Dani

    In general it breaks my heart to see ridiculous things like this. These people are just like everyone else in America just trying to make a great home for their families. I've watched the show, I am not Muslim, and I think it gives a great insight into how Muslim Americans truly are. It's about understanding one another. To state that Muslims in Muslim countries are exactly alike is a ridiculous as saying Christians in America are exactly like Christians in Rome.

    How we are brought up, and taught to learn and live with one another always comes through. It's very sad to me that these "Christians" are so against doing the Christianly thing of loving their neighbor. So much for being good Christians.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Who says don't love they neighbor? I'm saying know thy neighbor:

      http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3231.htm

      December 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  14. Denise

    Lowe's actions are disgusting. Since they seem more interested in catering to the bigots, I guess I will have to shop somewhere where I feel welcome as a non-bigot.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Try shopping in Gaza:

      http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3227.htm

      December 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  15. MsH11

    Prould resident of MI....lives less than 30 minutes from Dearborn... they don't push their religion on anybody, they live their lives and keep it moving and work hard like any other American does.. Not one of you (my guess) has ever talked to a Muslim, picked up a book to read, researched, etc. just all assumptions and we all know what the frist 3 letters spell...The hateful things that you so called Christians say is not what a true Christian does and says..not all Muslims are radicals, violent, or want death to all Americans that's ridiculous.. love thy neighbor.. how can you just put one particular group in one category and think that's how they all think? That's what's wrong with America...everybody wants to hate one another but not one of you have actually sat down and talked to a Muslim and treat them like a human being like you would want to be treated.. sad

    December 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Ron

      I have read many book regarding the Mulims religion, and most if not all express the very thing that make for what you people are calling xenophobes, the fact that they will not respect any other religion, will not in a Muslim country even allow another religiion. And as their Koran say they feel it is ok for them to kill anyone who is not a Muslim, if you don't want to pay them a bribe to stay alive. I just can't get a real warm feeling being in the same country with people who want me, my family and all of my friends dead. They have one idea for the whole world making it one giant Muslim calaphat.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • andyk

      Amen to that!

      December 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  16. Tea for Clowns

    We have a painting project, roofing project, and a fence staining project next year on one large property alone. I'm guessing in the $15,000 to $25,000 range. But Lowes won't be getting a dime. 🙂

    December 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Patrick

      Take it to Home Depot .. O wait they pulled their ads too! lol

      December 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      Lowes was the first to buckle so that's who I'll boycott. I'll boycott Home Depot too if I have to.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      Don't forget to boycott the other 64 companies that pulled out.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  17. Mikej

    Lowes has the right to do what they want with their money. If they had never supported the program there would not be a problem. When is Iran, Iraq, saudi Arabia going to have Arabian Christian on one of their channel. Only in America does the freedom bell ring. But one day we will be out of freedom and we can be only Muslims who do not assimilate.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • nuetral

      So Mike, they're going to skip right over that democracy thing and jump to American programming? Now that's progress!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      Lowes should've calculated how many non-Muslim customers would boycott them; and what the spending patterns are for "liberals" with college degrees versus the right-wing extremists.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      You are correct that Lowe's, or anyone else, gets to decide where they spend their money. The problem here is that Lowe's changed their mind because one religious cult complained about another. OK, technically the christians complained about how muslims were being portrayed, but that's just a smokescreen as no show, not even ones about christianity, are likely to be completely unbiased. Lowe's could have said they're just purchasing air time, not supporting any view, or pointed out that they advertise on a spectrum of shows, but no, they caved into a right wing religious group's claims, thereby causing themselves to be perceived as discriminatory – dumb, dumb, dumb!

      December 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  18. Nonimus

    Perhaps we ought to consider writing all companies that support any "reality" tv show. They are all crap anyway, right?

    December 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Believer

      You are absolutely correct, I have yet to find even one GOOD reality show on television. Most are just people being paid to look and act like fools in the name of the almight dollar!

      December 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  19. NatSteele

    I for one am ready for WSN (White Shopping Network), WET (White Entertainment Network), and the White Movie Awards. Now your all going to call me a racist, but before you do please explain to me why I have to watch the Hispanic and African American networks but the white community cannot have their own. I have never and will never understand how that works. By the way my wife is African American.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • nuetral

      I believe some of those networks are ABC, CBS, NBC.... When groups have to fight their way into the mainstream, what makes you think they wont establish a way of their own?

      If I had a white wife, could I sound stupid too?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Bill Fargo

      Nat - someone's putting a gun to your head and making you watch shows you don't want to watch? If not, I'm sure the remote control is just inches from your hand ...

      December 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • radioguy

      um you do..its called MTV of all the major networks ABC-CBS-NBC-EVEN FOX but if you truely want white programming go what fox news

      December 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • MsH11

      It's called turn the t.v.... and you can rent movies of your choice, you can turn the channel to your choice.. no one forces you to watch BET and the last time I checked the majority of merchandise sold on HSN are of Caucasian decent...Use your common sense.. turn the t.v. plain and simple are you smart enough to figure that out or do you need a white man standing in your living telling you turn the t.v.? Your comment was really stupid

      December 13, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Patrick

      @ NatSteele
      I agree nat.
      If ABC, CBS, NBC ect.. broad casting was that of BET we’ve have riots in Oakland. But you waste your breath. The PC police are as hypacritical as the right-wing religious nuts.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  20. Pat

    Lowe's, I really had no interest in this show, but you just lost this Christian's business forever for your cowardly caving in to racist, bigoted xenophobes. I hope Home Depot has more integrity.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Patrick

      They pulled their ads same day. Good luck.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:04 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.