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. Andy in Atlanta

    Seems that most people opining here don't want a religion shoved down their throat. Thay want to live for themselve by the rules they see fit. That's what "freedom" is all about. Of course, then they denigrate Lowes for doing exactly that. This OpEd piece is just more noise from one more offended special interest group. While Lowes' choice may appear unfortunate to some, it is their choice. You don't have to buy from them if you don't want to.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Edwin

      I am baffled by your comment. I never felt Lowe's shoved any religion down my throat. They merely advertised on a show, an OPTIONAL show.

      I am mildly pro-muslim, and I have NEVER watched the show. No interest. So... how is this show SHOVING anything down our throats, if we don't have to watch?

      You have it backwards - giving people an option is not 'shoving' - but taking it away IS.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • ClearBlue2012

      either way. what Lowes did was F'd up. They made the decision to run those ads before the initial show aired. Why? To increase the revenue for the company. Once the right wingers threatened that cash flow they retreated. I'm catholic born and raised here but this is disappointing. Apparently Lowes wants nothing to do with a reality show that was created to try and show that not all muslims are terrorists, but they absoulutley did before the backlash. I don't know how you defend Lowes here or what this says about our culture. The show doesn't force anything down anyone's throat. Change the channel people.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • AndyB

      Just because you think someone should have a freedom, doesn't mean you aren't allowed to think less of them for employing it in ways you don't like.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  2. krispy kritter

    poor poor muslims......dang! gotta go.call to prayer again.....lol

    December 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  3. @Bobbleheadguru

    I heard about the show... but have not watched now. I heard it got good ratings. I suppose I can thank all of this controversy for boosting the ratings even more.

    I will wait on Lowe's final response to this.. but it does not look good now. I am sure the workers in the Allen Park MI Lowes are not too happy about what corporate did to them.

    I also think that it is likely that an alternate advertiser will capitalize on the good will that will come with sponsoring the show now. That is what smart marketers do.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  4. DSC

    WOW! All they did was decide not to sponsor it any more!! They didn't condemn it. They didn't talk bad about it! Companies make decisions all the time about sponsoring and not sponsoring programs. The show can keep on keeping on and Lowe's will not be trying to stop them. Now some are shouting that Lowe's should be forced to put commercials on a program. They decided that they didn't want to deal with the controversy. It's great to be an American, but this sentiment is Anti-American that a company can decide not to sponsor a show and get vilified. Amazing!!!! Next companies will be required to sponsor equal number of shows on different political ends of the spectrum. Calling Lowe's actions an affront on free speech in nuts!

    December 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  5. palintwit

    Women wearing burkas make the best shoplifters. Some of those fat muslim women can hide a small washing machine between their legs. I wouldn't want them in my store either.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  6. Scott

    Wow! I am surprised that those with such racist and religiously intolerant views would ever watch a show on "The Learning Channel."

    December 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  7. jane

    I love Lowes for their actions. Why are they being singled out? Smear campaign!!!!???!!!!!
    All American Muslim show should talk about Islamic honor killing in America so we know the truth about the culture. Not fake make-believe Westernization which is against Sharia.
    I'm going to Lowes to buy a fence to protect me against the encroaching Muslim population in America.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • David

      I agree. Westernized Muslims are a joke within their own religion. They are the westboro of Islam. No Arab takes them seriously.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  8. 2tired2care

    I have no choice but to stop shopping at Lowe's. Too bad, cause I really liked them.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • life5678

      Good, I don't like to be near Muslims anyway.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  9. Ian

    Hate is just wrong. It does no good. However, the author seems to dismiss what are, in the minds of many, concerns about an agenda (whether real or imagined) by a an apparently cohesive segment of our population. Fear is often manifested in hateful language and it is not entirely unreasonable for many in current day America to fear that Islam is a threat to their way of life.

    The show probably served a useful purpose, as the best way to address such fears is by increasing knowledge and understanding. Understanding is a two way street however, and the author shows very little. From the perspective of Lowe's, it seems to be simply a business calculation. Perhaps not one inspired, even in part, by moral courage, but a business calculation nonetheless. Unfortunately, until we all can value each other (something we are a very long way from accomplishing in this frightening world in which we live) companies will continue to make decisions based solely on which demographic has the greatest impact on the bottom line.

    It isn't fair, but Muslim Americans are going to have to inspire trust and compassion if they want to fit in America. I don't think this authors perspective advances that goal.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  10. eve

    I've had it with people of any religion using their beliefs to divide people. Seriously, the Jesus freaks who who say that those who don't will go to hell no matter how good they are, and believe the Charles Mansons and Jerry Sanduskys of the world will be scott free if they accept Christ. Or who look down on Jews when Jesus WAS one. Muslims who move to America and think we're all heathens since we don't worship Allah. Jews who won't date anyone who's not a Jew. Religion is no excuse for this rotten behavior. One God, one love, people respecting people's beliefs and religions, and accepting one another. Anything else is narrow-minded intolerance and IGNORANCE. Spare me the people who propagate this garbage.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  11. krispy kritter

    change the channel.........

    December 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  12. Chicago Michael

    Wow, Arsalan, not the repsonse you expected, huh? And 99% of them don't sound like bigots, but people with a view of rights and choices. Nice thing about tbis country is our constution-you should read it.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  13. Paul

    By the way: no longer going to buy a thing at Lowe's

    December 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • David

      You prob never did anyway so they are not going to miss you

      December 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • REH

      I will and I'll buy more. I wonder why CNN placed this article in an area where people can not like entries. Maybe they don't want replies or 'Like' clicks.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • snuffyandmerlin

      Enough with this show already. If you are a bleeding heart liberal then stop buying from Lowe's I am sure they will survive without you. The reality is that Lowe's doesn't want to be associated with the happy go lucky face of Muslims. Their religion breeds extremists which breed hate. This show is not about true Muslim culture. If they were filming this in the middle east I may have more respect for its content however this staged reality TV at its worst. I am waiting for a guest appearance by Flavor Flav.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  14. life5678

    Author is histarical! bigotry refers to race (including all the examples given) which people and choose, this issue is about religion/beliefs, which is a choice. So lets say Lowe's pulls it's ads from "All American KKK", or "All American Nazi". would you complain then? Islam is far more suppressive to women, racist and bigoted then KKK or Facism. It is responsible for far more deaths to non-believers. Check it out – FACT: every war in the world today was started by Muslims -Africa, Middle east, Russia and on and on.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • David

      I concur heavily!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • life1234

      Really, like the one in Iraq?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • G D

      Wars are fought for control of resources. Ironically many of the resources we want and need are beneath the ground occupied by Mulsims. Another fact, most Christians are killed by other Christians (or those claiming a Christian heritage.) We do it to ourselves, in cars, with handguns, the civil war, world war I and II. The God of Ishmael is also the God of his father, Abraham, who is the Father of many Nations. People who drink and drive pose a more immediate threat than do the people featured on the TLC program. WHile I know that Matt 3:16 provides the way for Christians, I do not know that God will not, does not provide other avenues for salvation. I am commanded to love my neighbors, even those who harm me. Therefore i will pray for all who have commented here to be open to God's love and to lover their neighbors from all walks of life and faith traditions.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • life5678

      especially the one in iraq, or were you on the side of of the MUSLIMS who killed 3000 AMERICANS on 9-11?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Nalynat!

      where do you get your facts from??? clearly you are not cultured enough to even know the religion before judging,.. here is a suggestion for you, this should be easy for you given your obvious mental capacity,... just google Islam you might learn a thing or two.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • AnAllAmericanMuslimWomanByChoice

      Actually bigotry is the correct word here. The reason is that MOST Americans make the association that Arab=Muslim by default. Even the show sadly seems to perpetuate this, but that's another discussion.
      Also, how is a show about something equal to shoving that something down people's throats? What a small minded way to think. I guess Dora the Explorer is shoving Spanish culture down my children's throats. Oh wait, no it's not I choose to let them watch it, no shoving going on here.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • life5678

      Hey Nalynat! You are clearly have very low mental abilities so i will spell it out G O B A C K T O MECCA! BTW, I've read the Koran many times over, bet you haven't ever opened it, or the new testiment for that matter. CLUELESS!

      December 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Al

      Lowe's has a commercial interest at play. 12,000 letters are against the show. So they are afraid of loosing customers. So, if American Muslims are upset with this they should write letters to Lowes also. After all, there are almost a million of practicing Muslims in the US: a lot of customers. As far as the situation in the middle east, Africa, Russia, etc. for the ignorant, it is recommended to read a recent book A WORLD WITHOUT ISLAM (2010) by GRAHAM FULLER, the retired vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  15. Paul

    Stupid people, meaning stupid American people, that is something the USA is not lacking.
    There is a significant minority in the USA who live driven by fear. These are the kind of people who would cheer the beating of a black man, ... "as he must have done something" , these are the people who really think God is watching and will punish you if you do something wrong, and yet they don't think it's wrong to beat a black man. These kind of stupid people are the basis of the GOP and Tea Party. They truly believe to be superior to other people in the world, even though their children repeatedly flunk school tests while the other lesser people around the world, despite often times being poorer, have been scoring better for the best of the last 30 years. Prove of it, economic recovery is well advanced in South America ... the latinos are so much lesser than they are having a better lives than American.
    The good news ...:what you see today, as it seems to be a return of bigotry in the USA is nothing but a last spike before final extinction, they call it "the improvement of death". These bigots are mostly old and middle aged, so they will soon be gone, their children in an overwhelming majority are better thinker. A really insignificant minority is young, but those will simply be too little too weak and frankly too ignorant to be of any relevance.
    The real America is a progressive culture that leads the world into higher standing. It's not there yet ... we need first to allow the bigots to die off ... just a matter of time. IN the meantime, let's educate the youth of this country.
    The most important thing to do now is kicking the bigots out of the school boards

    December 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • life5678

      Talk about bigoted, hateful speach! Man you are whats wrong with this couontry. Go back to Iran dude! Waa-Waaa

      December 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Tyrone Hogglegg

      So, you do realize the very thing you say you revile...you are pretty much reflecting in your tirade here....right?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • Johnny

      How long is your beard Paul? And where does your wife shop for her burgua?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  16. Josh

    It's funny how the christians seek out people to victimize. They beat on women as long as it was socially acceptable. They beat on blacks as long as it was socially acceptable. Then they beat on gays as long as it was socially acceptable. Now it's Muslims' turn. What would christians do if they didn't have someone to victimize? It might put an end to that religion.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • eve

      LOL true, but you forgot how they beat on EVERYONE to force them into converting to their beliefs! Well, and the Catholics. Spanish Inquisition, etc. Gosh, converting the Native Americans. Just disgusting, their intolerance. Well, except for the ones who ARE tolerant. They're OK.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • life5678

      Not sure where you get your info Josh, but using Christians as scapegoats makes you come off as silly and childish. Just pointing fingers. Christians were the ones that rebeled against slavery and fought the Cival war. So don't blame them for everything that goes wrong.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Yes, Christianity has been responsible for some atrocities. But please don't put your blinders on here. I reference you to the recent actions in Saudi Arabia, a MUSLIM country run by Shariah law.

      I can't recall a woman in any Christian area who has been beheaded for witchcraft in the last few hundred years.

      Seems there's something to people disliking the Muslim religion after all.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  17. luvstotravel

    Why is this being blamed on Christians. Maybe some of us on here are Jewish or Buddists or Athiests or Scientologists?

    December 13, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • jth

      American Family Association IS a Christian advocacy group

      December 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  18. Nina

    Muslim propaganda??? I am a Christian and cannot believe the number of trashy evangelist programs that have been on TV soliciting pledges by using Christ. I will never shop at Lowes again and they are across the street from me. This show is a great way to see the real Muslim culture. I understand that we are all judged by the worst of our people. The terrorists are terrorists. No doubtl about it. But we have also never seen the devastation our bombs have done to innocent civilians, because we really don't have freedom of press in America. I hope God can forgive us. I don't think Cheney and Rumsfeld will be forgiven. Our government declared these wars but we as citizens did not do enought to stop them.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • life5678

      You need to read the Koran, then say that. You'd be better off advocating Facism.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm |


      December 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  19. visitor

    Hmm, So I guess for an unbiased and fair opinion, CNN assigns this story to.... a Muslim Advocate.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • katori

      There is a difference between Opinion and News story. Even if most news orgs have blurred the line between the two. but as this is a Blog entry, it is most certainly an Opinion Piece. Not bound by the laws of being neutral.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  20. jth


    complaints about 'Sharia law' from a group that wants to shove 'Biblical law' down our throats.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
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About this blog

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.