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. Sonia

    Are you kidding people? Lowe's has the right to advertise wherever they please.

    Oh and by the way, Anti-muslim sentiment does come from somewhere and it's a valid feeling. To think about the Christian relatives I have lost and died at the hands of Muslims because they would not convert, well....which peaceful all American Muslim is addressing THAT?

    Face it.... these people contradict themselves, shove their rules down our throats and will not rest until they make us look like WE'RE the BIGOTS. Seriously?? Who are they fooling? Obviously....a whole lot of peolpe.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Observer

      "these people contradict themselves, shove their rules down our throats and will not rest until they make us look like WE'RE the BIGOTS.'

      Did you switch the subject to Christians?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      Lowes could end up losing government related contracts if they continue on a pattern of discriminatory advertising. 😉

      December 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • leonid7

      Demonizing an entire group because of the works of a few is never a valid sentiment. And basing such sentiment on a feeling is basically the definition of prejudice.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  2. John Wright

    Just like everyone else so do conservative, patriotic Americans as myself see Islamic Fundalmentalism as it is, against the ideals of America. The Mullah's of Islam all across the world and here in America treat women as objects and second class citizens and members of the gay and Jewish communities as non human. That's a fact and that's discrimination at it's zenith! Good for Lowes!

    December 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Sonia

      Amen to that!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • nuetral

      ...because objectifying women never happens in America. And there are those words again...."those people".... I guess every other race or religion share one brain, but not here.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Observer

      John Wright,

      So do you support gay marriage and equal rights for gays?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • leonid7

      Don't claim a monopoly on patriotism. This is a free country, with liberty and justice for all. Patriots don't all think like you.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Tea for Clowns

      Many people see Christianity as being against the ideals of our country – and our founding fathers who were fleeing oppressive religions in Europe.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  3. phos

    @ Sharref
    I'll assume that your comparison of Muslims to "Skinheads" is due to you being Jewish.

    The odd thing? Muslims and Jews share very similar beliefs, more so than Christians and Muslims. Why can't you put your hate aside for a minute and stop being completely rash and illogical?

    December 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Wendy

      and exactly WHERE did you come up with that conclusion? Jews only believe in the OLD Testament, Christians believe in the OLD and NEW Testament. Muslims believe the word of God did NOT come from Abraham where the OLD and NEW Testaments were formed from....if anything each is their own indepenent set of believes all with a belief in ONE TRUE GOD. They are ALL alike. How about you stop trying to blame Christains for all the worlds problems!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "Muslims believe the word of God did NOT come from Abraham where the OLD and NEW Testaments were formed from"
      They are all Abrahamic religions. I think Muslims believe Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed were all prophets from God. Only Mohammed (sp?) had the last and least adulterated version.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  4. s

    Lowe's is the place to go. Home Depot already supports the gay movement. But as a business Lowe's should have every right to spend their money any way they want.

    And there is no such thing as an American Muslim. They same as there is no Afircan-American, Mexican-American, or Irish-American. You are either American or something else.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Observer

      Good that you realize that they are Americans who practice their religion here.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • jb

      I can't believe the bigots that say there is no such thing as Muslim American!! I'm a Jew and I'm shocked by Lowe's cowering to a bunch of right wing bigots!! good bye Lowe's hello Home Depot!!

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

      Muslims have as much right to call themselves Americans as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, or Atheists. Those are faiths, not races.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Busted

      Idiot Islam is a religion, not a nationality.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Observer


      By your lack of reasoning, there is no such thing as an American Christian or an American Jew.

      Our educational system has some major failures.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • leonid7

      Muslim is a religion, not a country or continent. So yes, there are American Muslims. Especially if they were born here.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Matthew

      Being Muslim is a religious affiliation not a national one – so are you saying there are no American Christians and no American Jews? It's not written Muslim-American like Asian-American it's simply American Muslim.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  5. Patrice Hunter

    I am neither Muslin nor American but I for one will not be shopping at the new Lowes they built in Kingston, Ontario due to this decision. I love the show and have learned a lot about the religion, just as I have learned a lot about FDLS (Sister Wives) and other the bible as other people see it (19 Kids and counting). Once again the American Right Wing Christians have shown that they are ignorant and don't believe in freedom of Religion, which if I am not mistaken, was one of the reasons Americans broke away from British rule.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Wendy

      WOW, American Right Wing Christans must be the devil in disguise! Burn them all....I guess there are no other Christians anywhere in politics or America for that matter. They must use a different bible...or MAYBE you have been drinking too much koolaide!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  6. Victor Schramm


    Damage Control time. America is for all people. But BLOOD AND WAR BREED HATRED THAT ISN'T EASILY FORGOTTEN. My country of origin knows this all too well. Embrace your freedom. Its what this country is founded on and why God has truly blessed America in the past. Whatever name you wanna call it (or if you don't believe).


    December 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  7. kermit

    Why is it that we never see Arsalan Iftikhar standing up for the rights of persecuted Christians and Jews in Muslim majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan? Oh yeah, It's because Arsalan Iftikhar is a hypocrite!!

    December 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • BinVA

      Why should an American have to explain or apologize for what another country does?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Nonimus

      What BinVA said!

      December 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  8. Bobb

    right on lowes!!!!!!!! I'm switching from home depot to lowes from now on!!!!!

    December 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  9. nuetral

    Who is the CEO of Lowe's anyway, Reed Hastings?

    December 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  10. Sunny

    Apparently it is extremely difficult for right-wing conservatives to see anything that might harm their carefully-constructed image of what a "Muslim" really is. Whatever they are looking for, it is obviously NOT to be found in America. It's time to deal with that and realize that the definition of "American" extends beyond white Judeo-Christians.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • dgth

      all right! wooh! say it like it is man or woman

      December 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      I oppose the show because it is a silly, incomplete portrait of Islam, a kind of Muslim Brady Bunch. There are real problems in Islam now that we are free to talk about that we must talk about. But any criticism of Islam now will not be allowed. No one can freely choose what they believe, we must believe that all Muslims are tolerant and freedom loving, even as the news brims with examples where that is not the case.

      I could write what troubles me about Islam, or I could let a Muslim cleric explain it for me in his own words:


      This cleric states that there is a reason to embark upon "jihad with Germany," and to "annihilate Israel." He also pledges to impose a tax on non-Muslims. Is he from Afghanistan? A Taliban? A cleric from the rural Magreb? No, he's Jordanian. He's a member of the Jordanian Tahrir party:


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

      Then I can hold you responsible for the views and opinions of Jerimiah Wright, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Pat Robertson, etc. (I think they are all Christian, right?)

      December 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Although this may be true, "...the show ... is a silly, incomplete portrait of Islam, a kind of Muslim Brady Bunch."

      December 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  11. Abdul

    Us as Americans need to take a really deep look at who we say we are and what we really are! Land of the free and home of the brave (are you kidding me?). What lowes is doing is straight bigotry and hatred. Funny thing is if the show was about Muslim's as terrorist Lowe's would be behind it 100%.

    Sorry Christian Right groups...99% of Muslim's in America are just like you in every way except two (1) they believe there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (s.a.w) is his messenger and (2) they don't hate you as you hate them! think about it..."He who is without sin, cast the first stone" "Love thy neighbor as you love thyself" Read your Bible!!!

    December 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Sunny

      Remember that part in the bible when Jesus organized a letter-writing campaign against people He hated? Funny, I don't remember that either.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Ranger

      Hey Abdul - Your Allah is a Moon Idol (Google it) and when are they showing the Honor Killing episodes?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Jim Stanek

      Jim Stanek

      @Sunny- funny, because he wasn't talking about Jesus. American Christian fundamentalism/evangelicalism is hardly, if at all, based on the teachings of Jesus. I highly doubt that Jesus would join one of those churches. They quietly pick and choose the verses out the Bible that support their prejudices and preconceived notions of the world, and build entire, straw-man theologies out of these few verses. Were someone to quote contradicting Bible verses back to them, their entire theology would crumble. Please don't align yourself with ignorant bigots by posting the kind of statement you did. Your snarkiness is neither funny nor intelligent.

      @Ranger- apparently you're one of the pathetic millions of Americans who have been hoodwinked by the slick teachings of charlatans such as Chuck Missler, Hal Lindsay, and Robert Morey who do nothing but pump ignorant hatred into the hearts and minds of uneducated evangelicals. You've been adequately equipped to make unsubstantiated personal attacks on people and religions that you know next to nothing about. You should invest the time to truly read and understand the Koran and the Islamic faith before you make such uneducated statements next time, not just spout what you heard in Calvary Chapel or some other den of vipers. Let's face it, the "God" of the Old Testament is a Bronze-aged baby-killer who COMMANDS his adherents to kill innocent women and children, and to commit countless atrocities. But you never hear Chuck Smith preaching on that, do you?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Sunny

      @Jim Stanek – I agree with you wholeheartedly....until your last two sentences. I don't think it was really necessary to insult me.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Jim Stanek

      @Sunny. It wasn't an insult. Your snarkiness is NOT funny. Also, I did not call you a bigot, I recommended not aligning yourself with bigots by commenting the way you did. Your comment is very bigoted in its nature.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  12. Observer

    It's really tough for bigots to have a show with Muslims where they don't go around killing everyone. Reality is tough for them.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  13. Geoff

    I agree that Lowes did a cowardly thing by pulling its ads. I certainly won't be shopping there anymore. But I do feel compelled to point out that the LGBT community faces a *lot* of organized opposition, even if you still see ads on Logo. People just don't talk about as much because it's so assumed.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Brenda

      of course your opinion, however I stand with Lowes and their decision to not be bullied by the PC left.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • leonid7

      So it's OK they were bullied by the right.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Nonimus

      When were they bullied by the left? They may yet be, but so far it's been the right, this FFA group.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  14. AnAllAmericanMuslimWomanByChoice

    I am so sorry that so many of you harbor such hatred in your hearts for not only myself and my family as American Muslims, but for entire races/religions due to the actions of a small percentage of people who claim Islam. If you are a Christian, should I judge or dislike you because of Timothy McVeigh or Westboro Baptist? I should think not.
    I'm not a big supporter of the TLC show itself, but to read all the hatred here makes me fear for my own family and our future. Want to tell me to go back to my country, as I've seen on a few of these comments? Well, I'm sorry, that's just not possible since I'm already here. My lineage in America goes back many generations, perhaps even longer than your own. Does that make me more American? Of course not. Does my being Muslim make me less American? Of course not.

    Please tell me what my family or those that are on the show did to you to make you hate us so much. I would really like to know so that I can make things better for all of us and help future generations in this country we all love become good people who live side by side in peace.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • PhillyRN

      No one who opposes the show said we oppose it because it does not represent terrorists, or include terrorists in it.

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

      I'm sorry PhillyRN, what does that have to do with my post? I will pose this question, since you brought it up, why, then, are "they" so against the show?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Jeff Roe

      If you are proud of your heritage, as are most Muslims, why aren't all of you – particularly more prominent Muslim leaders and organizations – publicly denouncing the terrorists that claim they are killing people (including other Muslims) in the name of Allah? Start doing that – publicly and resolutely – and we non-Muslims will actually believe your righteous indignation about the stereotyping of all Muslims.

      Good luck with all of that.

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

      @Jeff Roe,
      I think more importantly where is your public and resolute denouncement of discrimination against your fellow Americans? Not just Muslims, but Jews, gays, hispanics, etc.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Gurgi

      Actually it is not such a "small percentage." It is much larger than the single family in the Phelps church, the other examples you mention are single individuals, whereas there are millions of "radical" muslims.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • MaryAnn

      Most Americans didnot lose their minds when 9/11 happened. Those of us with a brian realized that there are muderers present in every society/walk of life and religion. Don't fear for your children. Cooler heads will prevail and these ungodly,unchristian,hypocrites will be judged on their last day for spreading such hatred and untruths. I am a proud Chritian who tries daily to improve my walk with Christ, not for me but for him.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • AnAllAmericanMuslimWomanByChoice

      @Jeff Roe, My heritage? My American heritage? I'm a proud American, happy to live here and be a productive part of the community. I was not raise Muslim. As my "name" projects I am a Muslim by choice. I read, talked to other Muslims, went to church and asked questions and finally came to the conclusion myself that Islam was the best choice for me.
      Aside from that, how do you know that we don't find those who claim Islam and terrorize others DISGUSTING? Perverting Islam, in my opinion. People have to learn, especially those in Islamic countries, to seperate cultural garbage from Islam. So many people(and I'm talking about those in Muslim countries specifically) don't read their Quran, don't try to learn what it really means. Instead they take other's word for what to believe due to ignorance and flat out deperation they turn to what they know. It's a horrible cycle. I am disgusted by those who perpetuate the terrorist beliefs and I feel sorry for those ignorant fools who fall prey to them and believe the lies. It kills me when I hear of or know that so many innocent lives are being taken and those people doing it claim the religion that I so love as the reason. Theirs is a completely different take on the religion and texts.
      Also, every single day I play a small part in seperating myself and those like me(the majority) from those sick freaks. I explain what I believe. I happily tell people that I love them all, and my religious beliefs are partially behind that. I've gone to the Cleveland Pride Parade with my brother and plan on marching in it next year. I've been looking for the perfect rainbow hijab to wear, even this early. I volunteer in community projects as I can and am online in many forums condeming hate in any form.
      Shortly after 9-11 I was part of a candle light vigil held in a small town here in Ohio. I was asked to give a small interview for the local news channel and was so happy. They took me apart from the larger crowd, asked me a few questions to which I gave good short answers that absolutely condemned the horrible act of that day. Know what happened? It never made it on air, instead they took all of their shots without the single Muslim woman in the vigil. I cried. I wanted them to see that I cared. I wanted to convey that we were also hurt by what happened when those disgusting freaks did that. Not only because of the reprecussions that came later where even a Sikh man coudn't even walk down the street without being assumed he was a terrorist, but because that ripped our safe fabric of our community wide open too. Muslims died in those towers too, Fellow Americans first and foremost.
      I'm rambling, and I apologize for that. Point is, I HATE them for what they did. I HATE that they use Islam as their excuse. It disgusts me.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  15. CommonSense

    Maybe they just didn't want their Company being associated with a controversial program. In this day and age, companies have ad agencies to sell their advertisements to different programs and sometimes it doesn't work out. Did you ever think for a second why would a home improvement store want their stores ads to be run during a TV show such as maybe... 'The True Story of 911, how home improvement specialists help bring down the towers'. How would that look? No matter what show is being run on a TV Network it has the potential to cause some people to not like it and try to stir up some anti-insert store here involvement. You can't please everyone for sure, but you can certainly limit your risk by not advertising on programs that, and lets be honest, has absolutely no tie in to home improvement. TLC has been known to air questionable judgement programs ranging from all sorts of life, but then again, maybe they subscribe to the old viewpoint of, if you don't like it, don't watch it. I would think Lowes would ideally want to advertise during episodes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but then again, maybe they don't have that choice. No matter what, anyone that chooses to expend energy on pointing out the shortcomings of a business without having all of the facts deserves to have themselves put up on the block and have all of their shortcomings pointed out as well just the same.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  16. Jess

    "I wonder whether these people would ever have the guts to say these same things about other religious and ethnic groups in America today."

    Yes. Our american anti-islam sentiments are a direct result of our ignorance, lack of education and continued segregation. The unsensored public hatred this country dispenses on our minorities is horrifing and Lowes' inability to take a stand is hardly the tip of the iceberg.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  17. Karl

    If you don't like it, don't watch it. I, for one, have yet to see an atrocity committed on the show. And for all those spewing fear of sharia law or heinous crimes committed on our soil, please provide one example, just one, where these crimes have been committed here, and the government has not acted swiftly.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  18. Donald in CA

    No more going to lowes for me. Bigotry is alive and well in america. Can a bigot still be a christian?

    December 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  19. PhillyRN

    Alright, here is another site, which is of an Egyptian Salafist recently broadcast on Egyptian TV. The Salafists did well in the recent Egyptian election.

    Who sounds like they have hatred in their hearts? Is it critics of this show for being a shallow and silly portrait of Islam in the US and in the world? Or is it clerics like this one:


    Note that he is defending jihad, and making the case that jihad is necessary because it is the West which is attacking Islam, and not vice-versa.

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

      Westboro Baptist Church on Fox News. (Not some other country)


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

      Sorry, didn't intend to embed the video. I hate that.

      Also, it's only Hannity & Combs (sp?) not Fox News per se.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  20. Sharref Nazaret

    No organization should be supporting any of these "reality" shows. It's false ratings generated by creating a controversy. The problem facing the US is that the majority of the Democracy is not ruling. A majority of Americans find difficulty in excepting the teaching of Mohamed, when they directly contradict their own values and survival instinct.

    So in short unless you want to see the next show "the Happy Skinhead family" I suggest you consider the repercussions of your complaining. – I mean its logical right? you get your "Gay is normal", and the "We don't want to kill your kids" Muslims, So then the Skinheads get their own "bigotry is rational" show.. If not we are not all equal then are we..If you say no, then you are the illogical racist.. See how this all works..

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

      Sorry, no. The critics of the show say that it glosses over any meaningful treatment of all of Islam as it is practiced in the world today, the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this way it distorts Islam, and mutes controversy.

      This is not honest. There are problems in Islam, with Islam, caused by Islam. It is OK to admit it. It doesn't make you an infidel. It doesn't make you a bad liberal. It makes you an independent thinker.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      PhillyRN, which show goes into the atrocities committed in the name on a non-Islamic religion?

      December 13, 2011 at 4:30 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.