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. Tom

    Lowe's actions in response to this so-called Christian organization (I am a Christian, and their words and actions are decidedly NOT Christian!) are as un-American as it gets. This is a land founded on freedom of religion, and knowledge about each other can only help us be a stronger, freer nation.

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

      There are none so blind as those who choose not to see.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Real

      Just as we have the freedom to spend our money where we please without the intimidation that the Islamic cultists are showing...

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

      Tell that to the many Muslim cab drivers around the country who refused to provide the service to people with dogs or liquor. Or the many Muslim cashiers who refused to check out people buying pork products, etc..! Got to love Islamic tolerance.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • changomango

      Have you ever lived or traveled to any Islamic country? You'll find that THEY need to understand us! Their teachings, schools, newspapers, TV programs, radio programs, etc..etc...etc...etc...are filled with inaccurate, hateful comments about non-Muslims and especially Americans!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Tell that to the many Muslim cab drivers around the country who refused to provide the service to people with dogs or liquor. Or the many Muslim cashiers who refused to check out people buying pork products, etc..! Got to love Islamic tolerance."

      Does this really happen? You have links?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • changomango

      Nonimus–Google them. Incidents like this are common in the Minneapolis and Washington DC area and YES they do happen, I've read about them for years.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Nonimus

      If so then, don't patronize those cabs. What's that have to do with Lowe's and some TV show?
      Are you saying that we should fight the spread of Christianity because of the bombings of abortion clinics?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • changomango

      @nonimus–So you’re saying that’s it OK for Muslim cab drivers or cashiers or etc…to be intolerant of others using their religious beliefs as a shield? Imagine a Jewish or Christian cab driver, etc… refusing a service to a Muslim? And if you don’t like Lowe's canceling their advertisements, don’t patronize their stores. “Christians” (sometimes a lone religious zealot) bombing abortion clinics are extremely rare, well organized/supported terrorist’s acts targeting innocents in the name of Islam are common and much more destructive!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I do not like the idea of Cab drivers refusing service to people with liquor (carrying, not intoxicated) or dogs (service dogs, pets may be another story). But, there is a trade-off, I think, in business law between the rights of the business owner and rights of customer's to use that business. If the cabbie is an owner-operator then they may be able to "refuse service to anyone". However, larger companies, usually around 25 -50 employees I think, and public access companies, like restaurants or shops on the street, come under certain non-discrimination rules where they generally have to provide service to anyone within reason, e.g. dangerous, disruptive, committing a crime, etc.
      I would hope that if cabbies are truly refusing service to people with service dogs (not sure I'd want a dog that just got out of the mud in my cab either) or carrying alcohol (again I wouldn't relish the idea of a drunk in my cab) that the authorities are enforcing the common carrier laws, if they apply, or the people in that area are working on making similar laws. I think there is a certain responsibility for transport related businesses to carry most people, within reason, exceptions for safety, protection of property, etc.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  2. Sheila

    I will not support biggotry. I will never step foot in Lowe's again. Hello Home Depot!

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

      HD also pulled its ads. Moron

      December 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Chris

      Thank you... One less suicide bomber I have to worry about while shopping. 🙂

      December 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  3. angryblkman

    Good for Lowes! All of my xmas gifts will be gift-cards from Lowes.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  4. Rich in Colorado

    Lowe's you were wrong !!!!! No more business from this Black American. I REALLY thought that things had changed, only the group of people being discriminated has changed. As jrc said, not all Muslims are terrorist just like not all White people are members of the KKK.

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


      December 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • changomango

      Take your "black American" rear end to Somalia, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, Chad or the many other countries where blacks are murdered, persecuted or jailed by Muslims for no other reason than the color of their skin, even black Muslims are frowned upon by their Arab, white or Persian counterparts.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  5. changomango

    They've been several business that Muslims have targeted for any real or perceived insult to Islam! People have even been murdered because of it and this idiot pretends to be a victim? I've lived in Saudi Arabia and Algeria, even though I found many good tolerant Muslims in those countries, many are freaking nuts when it comes to "hating" others simply because they aren't Muslim.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

      Some of you people are really racists. it's just that simple. You guys need someone to be the boogie man

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

      Hay Sam Frost, to me a "boogie man" is anyone who hates for no reason or wishes me or my family harm for no reason. Most Muslims "hate" or are intolerant of others for NO REASON other than their religion.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  6. Mike

    The only problem here is that no one can make a business decision without having a group, or individual that wants to cry "discrimination", " give me what I want", "the people are not going to stand this". We have biger problems in OUR country. Why is it that most people with money think that they know what the every day Joe is thinking, feeling and going through. I for one dont care who is trying to gain publiscity for their show or who Mr.Thrump is endorsing.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  7. ali

    Thanks to all the people standing up for the muslims. Reading these comments shows that a majority of Americans are good hearted and educated. You cant compare the bigotry around the world and justify it happening in America. You people have to hold urself to higher standards and continue to be an example for the rest of the world. For the minority, learn to think for yourself, get educated and open your eyes to the world around you. Dont give in to the fear mongering which has overtaken the american media since 911.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Real

      Of course not..

      Now you can start a post condeming all the Muslims who kill, maim, behead, stone to death, and practice bigotry on the Christians or anymone who doesn;t support the Koran, right?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"You cant compare the bigotry around the world and justify it happening in America. "

      Ok, can an American Muslim female marry a Christian man?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • ali

      No she cant. Can an American Christian Male marry a Muslim woman

      December 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Then Ali, bigotry does exist in parts and aspects of Islam. There are Christian male and Muslim female couples around the world so it is your personal interpretation of the Koran that brings you towards your intolerant view. Its not that much different than the church that voted the interracial out of their church or the ones that do not allow Gay or Lesbian couples in their church.

      By the way, what do you feel the view of Islam and Lesbians and Gays?

      December 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • ali

      The same view as other poeple of the holy books have. Thats not the point. This is a discussion about discrimination, were not going to have the same views on many things but that doesnt mean i dont treat you with respect like other human beings.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  8. Chris

    Thank you Lowe's.... You now have all my business. 🙂

    December 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  9. 2cents4free

    Much like islam christianity has been hijacked by nuts. Same way moderate muslims watched their religion taken over by nutcases now it's the christians turn to stand by and watch nutcases define their religion. Stay tuned to see which is the biggest NUT!

    December 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  10. jane

    This show was conceived because of anti-Muslim bigotry yet there are 10 times more hate crimes against Jews then Muslims. Anti-semitism and anti-Asian bigotry have been rampent among African Americans for decades, egged on by people like Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan. Yet there would never be a show that went out of it's way to combat negative stereotypes of Korean grocers or Jews that Blacks and (in the later case) Muslims have fueled the fire for decades

    December 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Real

      Jane, so true. But you don;t see the liberal loonies going on TV to protest, do you? Nor do you see the so called "good" Muslims (LOL) condemning them as well...


      December 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  11. Cathy

    Name another religion that wants to kill all the American infidels. American or not the Muslim religion requires it's followers to be at war with anyone that does not practice their faith. So you would be hard pressed to convince the non-Muslim Americans that this show is anything other than trying to paint a pretty picture of what is actually a very UGLY religion and people. If these "American Muslims" were truly Americans then they couldn't truly be Muslims.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Curious

      No true American would be Muslim? No true Muslim would be American?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • J.W

      Well maybe they aren't 'true Muslims.'

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

      What an ignorant, uneducated statement by Cathy. Don't believe everything the media spins at you. Muslims follow the Quran. Where in the Quran does it say "kill all the American infidels." You won't find such a statement at all. This is NOT what the Muslim religion is about.

      "American or not the Muslim religion requires it's followers to be at war with anyone that does not practice their faith." Where do you derive that statement from? Again, that is NOT what Islam teaches at all. It is so frustrating when people just read something on CNN and think they are an expert. Study for yourselves people and educate yourselves. Don't listen to what the media tells you. The Christian church I went to for years taught us about the Muslim religion. After I got curious and started studying for myself, I found out their spin was nothing by lies, lies, lies. I'm still Christian but have a more open mind toward others because the churches and media all LIE. Open your eyes sheeple!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Nonimus

      No true Scotsman...

      December 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  12. JP

    "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?"

    Umm, well like it or not (despite your blinding liberal views that will not accept any other explanation) the fact is that NONE of those groups you mentioned have the stigma of being associated with terrorism. Right or wrong, I am not making a judgment call. But I am saying that for the majority of Americans there is that perception. So your argument is weak at best.

    As for Lowes, I do not think they are bigoted. They simply realized that this could become a hot topic, a controversial one as well, and simply decided they did not want to become part of it. You have to realize companies are out to make money. They do not like controversy, which can anger this base of customers or that. It was simply a business decision, nothing more. And I personally find it disgusting to see so many race to conclusions and cast aspersions without even thinking about perhaps a real reason for them pulling their ads. But I should not be surprised, like our politics, extremes from both sides start jumping into the fray and villainizing the other side or others who do not agree with their own viewpoint.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Kenny of Salt

      Actually, there have been and are terrorist groups associated with ALL those groups. Except maybe LGBT...

      December 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
  13. Real

    Want to see real bigotry? Try going to the Arab countries and wear a cross around your neck or a shirt showing one. Try that and see how long you might live. Then again, they would probably be too busy in the courtyard stoning some little girl to death for showing her face.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  14. Bill Dadmun

    It seems to me that Christians such as Scott have a new found persecution complex. He should watch FOX and get all the strokes they get there. In the meantime, let those of us who are interested in learning more about our peaceful neighbors have our opportunities. Instead, the narrowminded few are controlling the rights of all others. Shame on Lowes for caving in to this malicious bunch of religious zealots......and I am a Christian, just not that kind oc Christian

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

      WHAT! ARE YOU BLIND! Muslims live on fear of their fellow Muslims in their home countries! THEY ARE THE INTOLERANT ONES!

      December 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Real

      Yea, and I am the Shah of Iran too...LMAO

      December 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  15. Viesczy

    No matter what country, if you're on the religious right you truly only stand for suppressing others and finding all ways to justify your hate. Throughout recorded history, religion has been only the breeding ground of hate. What a terrible invention religion is.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  16. Chris

    That reality show has nothing do with reality. The real face of islam is in the love they having been showing the infidels over all these years. Look around in the world and see the acts of violence comitted in the name of this religion-islam.

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

      Just visit any Islamic country! They are some of the most racists, violent, totalitarian and intolerant bigots in the world.

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

      Yeah, and Christians have never persecuted anyone, right?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Jay Man

    Bigotry would require a hate or intolerence. For myself i have neither, but a belief, that is of Christianity and Discipleship; so given a choice i would rather not support stores, charities, churches or showes that do not promote the same value, to support a Muslim show or mosque would be doing the opposite of my beliefs. So basically for those who are callig this bigotry, hate etc, then why don't donate to white supremacy movement? Oh you dont believe in what they do ( and one should not bad group) but becuase there is a different belief, we do not support them. A filter is a filter and we all filter things out of our lives.
    God bless the missled

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

      "to support a Muslim show or mosque would be doing the opposite of my beliefs."
      So you don't believe in loving thy neighbor as thyself?

      December 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • don't quote it if you don't know it

      Since when does loving mean having to accept and be slient? Loving them doesn't mean you have to agree, support, tolerate, or change your beliefs to agree with them.

      Also, do you love everything about yourself? Likely not, therefore, you probably don't need to love everything about your neighbor either.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Do you support equal rights of your fellow Americans?
      You may not feel the need to help their efforts and I would agree, but as an American I would think you would support equality under the law, due process, etc. Why should anyone be condemned, defamed, whatever, for the actions of another? No Muslim is a terrorists, unless proven otherwise. Just like you are not a terrorist, unless proven otherwise. Or do you not agree with innocent until proven guilty?

      Assuming you are a Christian, I would assume that you would support "fair" treatment for all neighbors, not just Christians. The ads were, apparently, pulled due to pressure from a group that claimed that the show didn't portray Muslims in the "correct" light of dangerous to America. This treatment breeds hatred, which I thought Christians were against. That same logic could be used against Christians, Jews, Hispanics, blacks, Asians, whomever. Why would you support it being used against Muslims?

      December 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  18. Real

    Want to see some REAL bigotry that you never see on the mainstream commie news channels? Go to the Araba countries and try wearing a cross or wear a shirt with one on it.

    Let's hear the "outrage" at those "bigots" of the Muslim faith. Ah, sorry, they are all busy stoning the little girl to death in the courtyard for showing her face.

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

      Some of their behavior is outrageous, but what the hell has that got to do with Lowe's, FFA, and All-American Muslims?

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

      So you're suggesting we should behave like them?

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

      Where is your outrage at them? Of course not....

      As far as what it has to do with Lowes? We don't go out and stone someone to death becuase they violated the "Koran" nor do we tell others how to spend their own money.

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

      My outrage will have no effect on Saudi, Kenyan, or French laws, but it may have an effect on Lowe's policy.

      "As far as what it has to do with Lowes? We don't go out and stone someone to death becuase they violated the 'Koran' nor do we tell others how to spend their own money."
      Nor do we rationalize our own behavior by comparing it to 3rd world countries, like Saudi Arabia.
      Nor do we, as a rule of law anyway, convict someone because of their association. (guilt by association)
      You cannot blame someone in America because of the behavior of some other country's government's behavior. (Unless, of course, there is material support or incitement etc., which you are not claiming.) I thought that would be obvious.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  19. Keith Watassek

    Personally, I thought the controversy over President Obama was a Muslim was ridiculous as being Christian is not one of the requirements for holding that office. That being said, I am a gay American and am curious if the Muslim community supports the Boycott of Target for supporting candidates with anti-gay agendas?

    December 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  20. Nonimus

    Forget Lowe's! And boycotting Florida Family A.s.s. won't do anything.

    Let's boycott Florida oranges until Florida stops being so freaking stupid. Family As.socications, Koran burning preachers, butterfly ballots.

    Shape up, Florida!

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

      Nevermind, they'll never learn.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Pointless1

      Never mind.. you'll never learn that 30 nut jobs don't represent a state. You're a freaking tool. Useless tool at that...

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

      Yeah, it was a bit much. You're probably right.

      Although, it's not really the 30 nut jobs, but the hundreds or thousands (I don't know) that complained to Lowe's.

      December 13, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • BG

      Nominus said: " I don't know"

      Good to see that he's finally found the courage to acknowledge it. Now that he's come to terms with it, maybe he can start to move forward.

      Honest self-disclosure. It's a gift to be cherished.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Not sure what you are referring to specifically, but I agree with @Pointless1 that my idea was out of line. The "I don't know" was a reference to the exact number of complaints that FFA managed to get sent to Lowe's. If you are trying to make it into something else... enjoy your games.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:10 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.