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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. laila

    they have the right to pull the ads and no one would care less...It is the reason beyond the add pull and the message they are sending that is troubling and unacceptable.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  2. Sam

    ....In 2011, do we live in a country in which an entire minority group can be dehumanized as a “topic?”

    Yes, and the list goes on. What about the other 'minority group'-the unborn- that is not recognized in this country and definitely dehumanized as a 'topic'?
    I don't even know where to start to comment on this story but would like to vent that America is filled with the most ignorant, polarized people on the planet. We have the most and take it all for granted. We are the laughing stock of the world. But recognize the beauty in each of us being free to state our opinion and being free to vote with our shopping dollars.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Steve in Denver

      Always back to abortion, huh? Why are you so obsessed with what goes on in other people's lives? Why can't you read what Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged?"

      December 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  3. james s

    my fellow Americans, have we all forgotten that this country was founded by immigrants on the basis to be able to worship as they see fit not as someone else tells them too. what's worse about this is we are talking about our fellow Americans, not someone who has committed murder and atrocities. if this show upset you so much, don't watch it. it's that simple.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • shane

      America was founded to get away from the control of religion. That's why there is suppose to be separation from religion and state but yet we see sharia law being used in courtrooms in the United States. Why is that I wonder? Research people. Start learning.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • PhillyRN

      That's all Lowes is doing - exercising its freedom to operate its business as it sees fit.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Quint

      Oddly enough, that sort of logic and reasoning only seems to work when people are in agreement i.e. "Isn't it great that we, as Christians, have the right to worship freely without persecution?" When it comes to actually allowing/accepting/tolerating those who are different, problems curiously arise.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Steve in Denver

      Shane: Because Sharia law ISN'T practiced in our courtrooms. You and some other narrow minded people make that stuff up.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  4. Mary

    I say boycott Lowes for being narrow minded and just plain STUPID. I will NOT shop there again.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Marcus Moore

      Yes you will.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • shane

      I think you're narrow minded and stupid.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • PhillyRN

      Many advertisers had already also pulled out. There is a list of about 20 advertisers that discontinued their support of this show.

      Plus, have you seen it? A Muslim woman makes her convert husband get rid of his 14 year old dog because of her religion. Is that a religion? It's evil. You don't dump a pet and call it religion. You take responsibility.

      There is an unclean unholy dog in that house, but it was not Wrigley. Save Wrigley!

      December 13, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Mary nibbles girlHole

      Mary, you GET YOUR ASS over to Lowes and buy something you ole battleAx.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  5. ObjectiveGuy

    To those who want to boycott Lowe's for pulling their advertising, all you are doing is discouraging other companies from advertising on potentially controversial shows, as well. They will look at the price Lowe's had to pay for pulling out, and determine that it is not worth the risk of ticking off nutjobs at either end of the political spectrum who may try to rope them into some kind of political statement.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Davis

      Ah-ha!!!!! You get it!!!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • PhillyRN

      If that were true, there'd be no such thing as cable.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      What ridiculously lame logic there, Einstein. Hey, the sky is falling, I guess that means no one will advertise anymore!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  6. Tom Jones

    Whats wrong with just being American? I don't go around proclaiming that I am an All American Catholic White Male.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Steve in Denver

      What is wrong with understanding other cultures, learning about customs that aren't the majority party? What is wrong with learning?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Hey Tom, haven't seen you in Vegas lately? Your idea is great, but it presupposes that people will keep their ideologies to themselves in public, without spouting out their pie holes. I was taught to not discuss politics and religion in public. I loved "Mars Attacks!" by the way.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  7. rainy day

    In the face of discrimination and hate, Christians are much more tolerant than Muslims. This is why it is so easy to say bad things about Christianity in public or on television. This is why Christ haters do it, and do it gladly, often laughing and mocking Christ in the process. They can do it without fear of revenge as the faith teaches love for enemies. In Islam, if you insult it in the public sphere, you'll be dealt with. That right there is the difference between the two faiths.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • shane

      Exactly true. When did Christians kill people because someone drew a picture of Jesus? Islam is vile and disgusting at it's core. I wish people would take it upon themselves to read the Quran and Hadiths and do some personal research so they could see for themselves. I'm so sick of arguing with the idiot masses that seemed to have taken over the planet. Nobody knows how to do personal research anymore. It's all about the, "well I seen that they're nice people on tv and Muhammed Muhammed down at the store told me so!!" ugh..

      December 13, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • livinginva

      I've never had any Muslim person loudly proclaim their indignation and offendedness if I say "Merry Christmas" to them the way that some "Christians" do if I say "Happy Holidays".

      December 13, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • livinginva

      shane: drawing pictures of Jesus isn't against the Christian religion, so that's hardly a fair comparison. I have heard of Christians killing doctors who perform abortions.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      It sounds like you're really mad...at yourself, or Christinsanity, or Islame, I don't know, but as an atheist, those "religions" are synonymous with each other; they are both a form of delusion that espouses the persecution and death of all non-believers in the "end times", which they're smugly waiting for, and hoping it will happen on their watch so they can laugh at us for not believing. Dude, it's the delusion that we ridicule, not the people, although we find it quite incomprehensible that anyone could actually believe that bull c rap.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Steve in Denver

      Right. The spanish inquisition? Northern Ireland? Salem witch trials? Yes, christians are so much better than any other religion. "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians, but I like your Christ." -Ghandi.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Arthur

    This is a great article. I'm glad that some of the journalists working for CNN still have integrity and, dare I say, bravery.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  9. batteryinme

    I guess Muslims don't shop for building supplies? The only thing that makes America operate, sadly, is money. And when a religion flexes its monetary muscles....things happen. When every group of religious (and us atheists who are steadily increasing our percentages) have an equal percentage of the population....then we can stop worrying about silly things like this happening.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  10. James

    I find it interesting that in defending the muslim group the author takes a misleading swipe at the Polygamist group by calling them Mormon. They are not affiliated with the Mormon Faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints). This article says lets try to clear of the Muslim characterazation, but mis characterizing other people. Tolerance needs to be exhibited by both sides.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  11. Lindsay

    As a Christian, I am ashamed of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters who have decided to spread lies and hatred. What happened to "Love thy neighbor as thyself"? I am sorry, Muslim-Americans, that you have had to put up with people who spread hate in the name of my God, just as you have had to put up with people who spread hatred and violence in the name of your God.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • shane

      Most of the negative things you hear about islam come straight from the Quran or Hadith itself. People can't seem to understand that. Most of us fighting back against islam are highly educated on the topic but yet once again... people can't seem the understand that. They rather argue with emotions and what people tell them rather than solid facts.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Freeman

      The bigger question is what does the koran teach the muslims about the infidels?

      December 13, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • rstout

      shane, unfortunately many people who consider themselves "highly educated" on the topic restrict their sources to anti-Islamic literature. Verses from the Quran are taken out of context and other verses are ignored. History is viewed very selectively, ignoring many examples of Islamic tolerance. There are plenty of violent verses in the BIble as well and there are many historical examples of Christian intolerance

      December 13, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Steve in Denver

      No, Shane. Most of the stuff about Muslims being a threat to us is made up by you and the faux news/limbaugh audience crowd. There are 1.5 billion muslims inthe world, virtually all of them want to practice their religion in peace. What is it that you don't get about the first amendment? Freedom of religion means freedom to practice the religion one chooses, not that you are free to practice Shane's religion.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Steve in Denver

      Darn well said, Lindsay.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • PhillyRN

      Please read the Koran some day, and talk to us about hate speech. Start with the second half.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • shane

      A study showed that 62% of muslims living in Canada wanted sharia law. I'm not sure the statistic in USA but I'm assuming it would be similar. Point being however that's a huge percentage wanting a very primitive law system which includes beheading, stoning and amputation.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Steve in Denver

      To the poster using the name "lindsay's [body part]" Isn't it time for your classless self to turn on limbaugh? Go back to faux dot com, or better yet, go get a job.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  12. GLMcColm

    I live in Tampa, and have watched David Caton's antics for years. I am surprised the Lowe's PR department did not advise their Marketing to steer clear of Caton's notoriously toxic politics. The guy is crocodile, and now that he's found that Lowe's will roll over, he will be back for more...

    December 13, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • PhillyRN

      Several advertisers had already pulled their support from the show before Lowes. I don't think Lowes not advertising on this show means that somehow this translates into not liking Muslims or wishing any Muslim in the US ill, or desiring to deprive them of their full rights.

      The criticism is that this is a fictionalized representation of real Islam as it is practiced in the world today, just read the headlines. CNN informs us that an elderly woman was beheaded this weak for "practicing sorcery." There are two mean on Saudi Arabia's death row for violating the "sorcery" sharia Islamic law ordinance as well, one from Australia, one from Lebanon. This is not how I want Islam to be, this is how Islam is, and trying to candy coat it or ignore it is a lie.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  13. juzsayin'

    The point of the show is to allow us to see that 99.9% of Muslims in America are pretty much like everyone else: they love their families, work their jobs, pay their bills, and worship God in their own way. Judging them based on the conduct of the .1% would be the same as judging all white people based on the actions of Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and the Unabomber.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • PhillyRN

      They behead a few sorcerers in Saudi Arabia this week, just like you and I. They marry a few child brides to old men because the Prophet did it, do honor killings, kill women who refuse to allow their 12 year old daughters to be forced into marriage, kidnap US citizens for ransom, perform female genital mutilation to maintain their Islamic purity, destroy schools, kill moderate Muslims such as Sufis and Ahmadis, and more All-American fun good stuff. Why we have so much in common now that you mention it.

      But I confess that this does not occur all over the Muslim world or where there are Muslim communities, only Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Europe, Great Britain, and a few dozen more or so countries. Really it is a small group of Muslims all over the world who have committed the 18,000 murders in the name of Islam since 9/11.

      How bigoted to notice the violence and mayhem performed in the name of Islam when it is clear they are all just regular folk! Fact check: thereligionofpeace dot com

      December 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  14. Stacey

    An entire business tainted by bigotry. I wonder what other groups are despised by Lowe's. But you know what's even better about living in this great country? It's that we have the right to choose where to shop. And my dollar speaks for me. I'd rather give my money to someplace other than Lowe's now because in no way do I want to be seen as a supporter of bigotry. I'd love to know the names of these other companies that the FL group claims to have heeded their message.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Marcus Moore

      Christians are discriminated against more than ANY other group in this country!

      December 13, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • PhillyRN

      Tolerance of intolerance is the true bigotry here.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Stacey

      Marcus, I'm sorry you feel that way. Discrimination in any form is not right. I was talking to a neighbor who is 72 now and went to a school reserved for African Americans because he was not allowed to go to a Whites only school. Things have changed for him now, just as I believe things will change for other groups. Yesterday, I chastised a child at a school for saying "I will smack the Mexican out of you." Clearly bigotry is still a problem here.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  15. ObjectiveGuy

    They are a hardware store, and I'm sure they are not in business to make political statements. If advertising on a particular show hurts their business, then this is the absolute opposite effect that they trying to achieve by spending big money to advertise, and is certainly their right to pull out. Cut them some slack–it's not their job to make political statements.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • mm

      Well said! Companies are not obligated to advertise in certain arenas or explain why they don't. It's a business decision plain and simple. Funny how when something happens that is offensive towards Christianity it's ok with the muslim community.

      December 13, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Stacey

      I would agree with you if it was a business decision based on their bottom line. But it seems to me and to many other people that their decision was made after a Florida Christian group put pressure on them to stop advertising because the show was showing Muslims as regular people (as most really are!) Tiger Woods lost sponsorship after his infidelity habits came to light because companies did not want to be associated with him (agree or disagree, that's up to you). These families on the tv show aren't terrorists as the group would like us to believe. But Lowe's can seem to make that distinction and appears to have based their decision on bigotry. Hence my problem with their choice.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  16. An exercise in futility

    Lowe's got it right.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  17. Get a Grip

    Lowe's can sponsor whatever they please. Geez, people, get a life. If you don't like Lowe's decision, DON'T SHOP THERE. If you do, then take more of your business to their store. You people are living in some fantasy world if you think that there will be 100% agreement on anything in this country. Vote your position with your wallet.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  18. Quint

    All of this "Forget Lowe's, I'm shopping at Home Depot" or "I'm spending every red cent at Lowe's from now on" nonsense blinds us from the real issue here: BOTH ARE BIG-BOX CORPORATE STORES RUINING OUR MOM-AND-POP SMALL TOWN WAY OF LIFE! ONE PERCENT! OCCUPY LOWE'S! OCCUPY HOME DEPOT!

    December 13, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  19. MiddleWay14

    Religion is the opiate of the masses. Still, people should be able to practice their beliefs in their private lives, regardless of how nonsensical they are. I appreciate the freedom of thought and expression, especially as an atheist. I respect others' right to these things, even if I disagree with the content of their thoughts, beliefs, and expressions. Lowes should not take sides here. They are being massive bigots themselves by bowing to pressure of other bigots. The greatest evil the world has seen has always been "...the indifference of good men [and women]." I will not support this evil as a freedom-loving citizen of America and neither should you.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • PhillyRN

      Tolerance of intolerance is bigotry. How can you call yourself a good atheist when so much wrong is done in the name of Islam today, yet defend a show that glosses over it? Lowes doesn't want to be involved in the controversy that Islam has created for itself, a kind of two faced version of itself, first as a "normal" sort of religion with regular desires, then as a religion of conquest and violence.

      It can't be both. Tolerating the way Islam is used to repress human rights in the world is the true bigotry here. Fictionalizing Islam as it is practiced daily in many Muslim countries is not the truth.

      How many Muslim countries have unjustly imprisoned people on the Amnesty International website? How many in the West? A woman was just beheaded in modern 21st Century Saudi Arabia for practicing "sorcery." Christians in Egypt are being killed. Christians in Nigeria are being killed, all by Muslims. All in the name of the Religion of Peace. Where is the outcry from Muslims? Where in the show does a Muslim criticize any aspect of his or her faith? It's not there.

      As much as we would like to be good liberals and ignore this, it is like ignoring the Nazi Holocaust. People are dying from Islam now. This is the truth we have to speak.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  20. Christian

    First Christian posting in this line is an idiot and not me.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:43 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.