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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. anon

    Well at the end of the day I still need my fertilizer and random building materials so I doubt I'll be boycotting Lowes... But seriously, what's sad here isn't what Lowes is doing. It's how people are responding In that 10 years after 9/11, for some reason it's still "too soon" to point out that 1) muslims and muslim extremists are not the same thing and 2) by now everyone over the age of 5 should be clear on that point. ("Muslims all suck... I mean jihadists... same thing." NO NOT THE SAME THING!)

    Personally, I doubt anyone cares what TLC airs, who funds the show, and where Lowes advertises. I for one just want to see less ads period, thanks. But guys, this is bigotry. And comments like the ones Iftikhar pointed out are disgusting and I really don't think we need to go into why.

    As an additional fun activity, when pulled out of context, what religion does the following quote suggest?
    “How dare these people come into our country and try to take over and push their religion onto us!”

    December 18, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Pabs

      Agreed

      December 29, 2011 at 4:56 am |
  2. Muneef

    What ever is happening is foreign from the real Islam...there are people taking cover of Islam for their organized criminal activities...

    December 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Crap your hands!

      If you're muslim and you know it, crap your hands!

      December 18, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  3. Hiram

    For caving into the demands of these "religious" bigots who are trying to undermine our American Values, Lowe's should be utterly shunned. I certainly will never darken their doors again.
    If we as a People are too spineless to stand up against the far-right "Christian Talibangelists" for the anti-American slimebags they are, we deserve the wrath of God.

    December 15, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • anti muslim

      Do you live in Dearbon(istan), Michigan ???? These racist, dirty muzzies are try to turn Dearborn into beirut>>>HELL NO!!! Not in MY CITY!!!! Thank you Lowe's for being so smart to pull your advertising from that god awful show. My home improvement shopping will be WILL BE LOWE'S!!!!!

      December 15, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  4. RainnMakerr

    Look at you people. A lot of you. All emotional poetry but not reasoning. Let me try to get this in everyone's head. Number of Americans accepting Islam more than trippled AAAAAAFFFFFTER 9/11. Not because americans became unpatriotic nor because Lowe's took an action. Ever wonder why that number trippled? I mean really.... take all the emotion and 17th century typical hatred and throw it out the window and pretend we all live in a civilzed society where we respect people regardless of their race, religion and background. The only reason that number could tripple if people actually found a reason to read their Holy Book. Never before there was a bigger reason to read their Book but 9/11. So now that the Book was opened It actually opened the eyes of the reader. The reader thought ' wait a minute this is so close to the Bible but doesn't contradict itself anywhere(not a single verse), wait a minute ... it actually talks about Christians and Jews gonig to heaven if they follow their own laws? And their rulings such as adultery and eating pork are the same as they are in the Bible. And wait..... there is a Whole Chapter about Mary (mother of Jesus). Wow Jesus spoke in the craddle. Wait a minute. These people are almost like us.....except they are trying to stick with the rules (with the exception of the fundamentalists which exist in every religion).' I can go on for hours but the idea is that Freedom of Belief doesn't mean a person also has Freedom of thought (that is true also for muslims). Many muslims neglect their own book. But don't blame the book for that. I bet most people who blame Islam hardly open their own Holybook in their entire life and actually understand it. If the law of the Bible were to change according to time, then God would've written the expiration date next to the verse.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • kingpork

      It's easy to triple a small number.
      It's harder to triple a large number like 200 million.
      Perhaps you can tell us how many mus lim nations allow reli gious freedom to other reli gions ?

      December 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • RainnMakerr

      If they follow Islam they should give religious freedom. Still the point is that people are to be blamed. not the Book

      December 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • RainnMakerr

      Islamic Book was revealed 1400 years ago. It is the last of the abrahamic book. and the population is at 1.8 billion. I think it is a good pace.

      December 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • RainnMakerr

      Kingpork. I was talking about the number of people accepting Islam. not the number of muslims migrating to U.S. there is a difference. Nice nickname btw. Bible forbids pork. just an .f.y.i. But who cares right?

      December 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • kingpork

      Your words were "Number of Amer icans accepting Is lam more than tripled ". How many is that ? That's not 1.8 billion people.

      The Bible has transitions. The traditions change over different generations. For example, modern folks don't have to worry about the apple and the garden of eden. Certainly I don't expect you to understand the Bible so I understand your conf usion, but it also means you should not make outlan dish claims for things you know not hing about. Jes us coming into the picture changed a lot of things, that's why the Bi ble indicates a major milestone, called new test ament. pork is no longer forbidden. Ani mal sac rifi ces are not required either.

      December 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  5. RweEqual1

    I believe lowe's has every right to pull there ad if they want to it's there god giving right. But, I don't agree with them pulling it because of pressure from some outside group. So this All American Muslim show I've never seen it but by all this they got some really good PR for free. This country loves consroversy and this is controversy the ratings on this show is going to be high because of all the press it is getting. I have question for those who thinks that the muslim faith is a peaceful and non-violent faith. Read the koran it tells you what it thinks of non believers anad what you should do to them. Just read it adn make up your own mind. The family could be good people but there faith teaches them to see us who are not muslims and don't practice islam.

    December 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Nicole

      God given right? to pull advertising? I think it may be a man given right...I missed that part in the bible... "and god said that any coperation shall have the right to advertise what they deem fit to advertise"...nope its not in there.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  6. hippocreet

    Freedom of speech means people of a certain religion can crash massive planes into the World Trade Center, but chris tians cannot feel offended nor speak against that certain religion. Americans are obliged to accomodate people and buildings belonging to that particular religion, but countries who have that certain religion as their national religion really don't have to accomodate Chris tians. In fact those nations don't even have to support free speech.

    big otry in reverse

    December 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • True American

      Exactly. Maybe if Jews or the LGTB community were bombing and beheading people and attacking churches, we'd not want them glorified on TV either. American Muslims have stayed all too silent until now. Now that we're speaking out, they suddenly have a voice. One which few of us, BTW, give a damn about hearing.

      December 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • anon

      There is a difference between muslims and muslim extremists... you do know that right? I don't go around the world telling people all American Christians are polygamists who wear white sheets over their heads and lynch people of color. Because yes, that would be the appropriate analogy of jihadists to islamists.

      I think the All American Muslims show is kind of lame but I will say that it's one of the first public attempts to show the world that moderate Islam folks are, oh, just to venture a guess, probably not with terrorist, and somehow people are still totally not getting that point. In this day and age that's kind of sad.

      December 18, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  7. I1ARUN

    It is the right of this store to advertise where it wants. It is foremost out to make money and if it feels like their profits are going to be threatened then there are plenty more shows it can advertise on. I've watched the show two or three times and have been entertained. I'm not ignorant enough to believe all muslims are terrorists any more than I am inclined to believe all southerners are members of the KKK. Lowes is not legally bound to maintain their advertising on this show. It is their choice. Shop there if you want or don't. That is YOUR choice.

    December 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  8. JJ

    Its about time this country gets off its a$$ and remembers that this is a CHRISTIAN NATION!
    SO QUIT TRYING TO SLOWLY TAKE OUR COUNTRY OVER WITH SOME P.C. TELEVISION SHOW!!!
    How about a real reality show...."american muslem cancer"?......

    December 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • RainnMakerr

      FYI. Muslims follow more Christian laws of the Bible than Christians do. According to Obama, faith is not something you have, it is something you do. For example , eating pork, apostacy(deutronomy 16:6-9, Levitacus 24:16, adultery (levitacus 20:10). Ever wonder why number of Americans accepting Islam more than trippled after 9/11? Take your emotions and hatred and throw it out the window and then THINK. How can that figure tripple after 9/11? Islam doesn't need American's persmission to spread, nor people are asking for permission. Islam will spread regardless.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  9. TemplarKnight

    Islam, the religion of the Flying Body Parts. http://www.thereligionofpeace.com

    December 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Peace on earth

      International Human Rights lawyer? Have you done anything for women in Muslim countries? I've heard that women there have the rights they want.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  10. TemplarKnight

    I am heading to Lowes right now to buy my Christmas presents. Thank goodness Lowes has the huevos to stand up to those whacked out 7th century throwbacks.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • RainnMakerr

      Nice words. Must've gotten from the Bible. You're So full of Jesus like character. Or was it the stupid roman pagans who change the whole book according to their needs and handed it to you.

      December 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  11. Jake

    I'm not sure I disagree with Lowe's decision. Just because you're a business, doesn't mean it's deplorable that you revoke advertising for a show that has been seemingly controversial in the news (whatever the reason). As a business owner, I'm not sure I would place my valuable advertising dollars on a show that talks about controversy in religion. Lowe's (and Kayak, for that matter) should have done a better job up front researching the show before pitching the money.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  12. Rex Roberts

    It's interesting the response this show has provoked. That's a good thing. As an employee of Discovery Communications, situations like this make me proud to work here. We need more TV where a response is generated rather than just a grunt or a laugh from the couch potatos of the world. This show has made people react and express themselves, for good or bad depending on your viewpoint. I really don't give a crap about Lowe's. There is always someone to fill the gap, which has happened. But if we can keep your minds open for just a little while, you might see that religious and political philosophies are human creations and that this show is first about the people involved, then it's about their beliefs. Put aside the Muslim issue a moment and listen to what these people say. Ignore their dress and pay attention to how they relate to one another and the community around them. If you can see yourself in them, even just a little bit, cool. You might come to understand them a bit more. Then go back to your predisposed bias' and see if it's still as strong. If so, okay. If not, even better. That's what makes America great. Stop worrying about the Muslim aspect and focus on the human aspect. These folks probably aren't as different from you as you want to think they are. And as for Lowe's, yeah, pretty weak response on their part – they aren't standing up for their beliefs, their responding to a POSSIBLE attack on their economic well-being which is just sad. I think the brass paint is in aisle 6, Lowe's. You might want to get some 'cause you have body parts that need it.

    December 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  13. Abufayruz

    Muslims are the most peaceful people in the world and islamic community the most organized. Do you have any doubt about that? read about islamic civilization and teachings for answers. Even though is what the (western world) don't want the world to know and it's the truth.

    December 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Kyle

      The muslim community has not been peaceful and organized since before the first Crusade (this is your opening to blame the catholics should you choose to stoop)

      December 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • TemplarKnight

      If you want to know Islam, see http://www.thereligionofpeace.com and see how peaceful Muslims are.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  14. Tim

    Really? The Florida Family Association? Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but are they not listed as a Hate Group by the Soutnern Poverty Law Center? And Lowe's has caved to their demands? I will never shop at the store again and encourage all that I know to do the same!

    December 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Jim

      The Southern Poverty Law Center IS a hate group-as are the many Muslim organizations they choose NOT to list...

      December 15, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  15. Shawn D

    Nicely done article. As Americans we should in no way alienate our Muslim American brothers and sisters, where is our national pride that has made America so great? And what better supporters of freedom could we gain by encouraging and supporting those Muslim Americans that clearly believe in it, such as a federal agent and a sheriff, who voluntarily support our free society. We as Americans can buy into the simple notion that everything is black or white, but what makes America great is the "blend" of grey instilled by all cultural backgrounds to make it stand out as the premier prosperous nation among all other nations, which has only been accomplished by encouraging all Americans to join in the process.

    December 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  16. Daniel

    It's almost a relief to have the heat off of blacks for a while. But I'm sure the bigots and racists will be back shortly.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Christopher

      When did Islam become a race? It's not a race. It's not even a religion. It's a political system that goes against everything in which this country believes.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Caline

      I agree with you. It affects every single race. This is a religious matter. While Lowe's has the right to pull its commercial from what ever programs they want, I personally think they shouldn't caved to such pressure. Who or what are they going to cave to next? They have lost me on this one. I won't be shopping there any longer.

      December 14, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Christopher – apparently you are one of those folks who are all for freedom of religion, as long as it's your religion that's free.

      December 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
  17. snowdogg

    Lowe's has the right to support paid advertising programs of THEIR choice... period.

    December 14, 2011 at 7:18 am |
    • hounddog

      I will no longer shop at Lowe's since they have caved to bigotry.

      December 14, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • Alan

      No question that any company may choose to spend its money as it likes but it's equally correct to say this decision reflects an unfortunate and spineless willingness to cave to bigotry from those outside the company. The company deserves the criticism it is getting and Lowe's' customers have the same freedom of choice which affords them the right to pull their patronage.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:13 am |
  18. TomG

    With all due respect to the author. At least in recent memory, no religion has been so closely related to terrorism and unadulterated hatred of the US than Islam. Furthermore, even in "advanced" societies such as Saudi Arabia, you have cases such as just this week of people being beheaded for "sorcery" which many believe is merely a way to deny people their right to freedom of religion. As such, many Americans are wary of a people that so fervently hate us because we don't believe in their take on religion, yet want to "integrate" into our society.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:51 am |
    • Christopher

      TomG, you are correct. They only want to "integrate" to the extent that they gain a foothold to the point at which they can increase their demands. It has happened in every single country in which they have achieved a certain percentage of the population. Ask Denmark. Ask the Netherlands.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • Primewonk

      Tom & Christopher apparently have issues with a religion that demands:
      Witches be killed ( You should not let a sorceress live.  Exodus 22:17)
      Nonbelievers be killed ( They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.  2 Chronicles 15:12-13)
      Gays should be killed ( If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives."  Leviticus 20:13)

      Hmmmmmm. Seems like your cousins, the Muslims, are just following the commands of your god.

      December 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • TomG

      Prime: It's one thing to have crap like that written in a book, another to have an entire country (Iran, Suadi Arabia, etc...) believe in it and base their government on it. Last i checked, the US isn't beheading witches like they did this week in Saudi Arabia.

      December 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Tom – a few hundred years ago, we were burning, hanging, and drowning women we accused of being witches.

      The point is – those fundamentalist Muslims are doing these things based on what they think their version of god wants them to think.

      Have you seen the current crop of tea baggers candidates? Fundamentalists who seek to establish the Christian version of Sharia law here. These folks seek to turn us into a right-wing theocracy.

      What's to stop these fundamentalists from acting like their Muslim cousins? It's right in their bible commanding that they kill gays, stone women, kill witches, etc.

      December 14, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  19. Laurel

    BTW, love the Muslim father with the Jewish Star on his chest!! Wearing it proudly, too, al hamdu lilah!

    December 14, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • EDenver

      His police badge?!

      December 14, 2011 at 2:12 am |
    • Schamb

      Yeeaaah, pretty sure that is his police badge, but good try!

      December 14, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • GrouchyKat

      I would call that Star of David a Sheriff's badge.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • Nerrhuhdurr

      You've just made me lose all hope for this country Laurel.

      December 14, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Lulz

      Hahhahahhahahahahahaha!!!

      *deep breath*

      Bahahahabahahabahaabahahahhahhhahah!!!!!!

      December 14, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  20. j-ubed

    Thank you, Arsalan. Keep holding up that mirror; someday, perhaps, we'll recognize ourselves in each other.

    December 14, 2011 at 1:16 am |
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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.