Tolerance for Intolerance Bruises Lowe’s

Poor Lowe’s. The do-it-yourself chain made room in their budget for TLC’s “All-American Muslim,” a reality show about life in the Muslim American community in Dearborn, Mich., but the company ended up catching some focus for supporting a show that depicted Muslims as something besides terrorists. As it turned out, the protest was hardly broad based, with most of it coming from one guy. Still, the Florida Family Association, as David Caton’s Web site is called, claimed 65 companies agreed to stop advertising on “All-America Muslim.” That didn’t turn out to be precisely true.

But Lowe’s pulled back and jumped directly from the frying pan and into the fire. This weekend, Muslims and many non-Muslims in Dearborn showed up in force to protest the decision, according to The Detroit Free Press.

‘About 100 people of various faiths gathered at the Allen-Born Shopping Center on Outer Drive to chastise the hardware giant for what they described as caving to the demands of a right-wing Christian group who said TLC’s “All-American Muslim” does not include depictions of beliefs that appear to promote an anti-American agenda.’

The Florida Family Association ended up with a hacked Web site and the chief executive of Lowe’s is now in receipt of a letter from Congress asking the company to stand up to religious intolerance. And, perhaps worst of all for Lowe’s, a few people came to its defense at protests over the weekend: Armed members of the Michigan Militia.

Kayak Defends Cutting Ties to ‘All-American Muslim’

Another company has pulled its ads from TLC’s controversial docu-series “All-American Muslim,” saying it did so because TLC “was not upfront with us about the nature of this show” and was deliberately “trying to pick a fight” over the series. The online travel company Kayak.com also says that its chief marketing officer watched a couple of episodes and thought they were lousy.

Kayak.com got swept up in the story about the decision by the giant home-improvement retail chain Lowe’s to yank its ads from the series, which is about five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich. Lowe’s had become the target of a campaign by the conservative Florida Family Association, which said the show is “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

But on Wednesday, Kayak’s chief marketing officer, Robert Birge, sought to distinguish his company’s decision from Lowe’s: He savaged the Silver Spring-based TLC over its handling of the show in a “We Handled This Poorly” blog post on Kayak’s Web site.

“When TLC pitched ‘All-American Muslim’ to advertisers, it was characterized as a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim. However, what was not disclosed was the preexisting controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.,” Birge said in the statement e-mailed to The TV Column.

Becoming all-American Muslims

It took Muslims a full three months to figure out a strategy to counter the campaign against Cordoba House, otherwise known as “the Ground Zero Mosque.” This time around, it took about three hours.

I’m referring to the lighting-fast organizing that took place once word got out that Lowe’s had pulled its ads from All American Muslim, pressured by the Florida Family Association who were disappointed that the show didn’t offer enough airtime to Muslim extremists (That’s true by the way. You can’t make this stuff up).

The hashtag #loweshatesmuslims lit up the Twitter-sphere, thousands of people threatened to boycott, mainstream television channels started reporting on the story, star power in the form of Perez Hilton and Russell Simmons jumped on board.

Lots of other people have weighed in on the bigotry at play here. I’d like to comment on a somewhat different dynamic: the Americanization of the Muslim community, especially the immigrant segment. A community that not long ago wanted only the comfort and confinement of its own bubble is learning the great American art of building bridges.
The anti-Ground Zero Mosque campaign showed that it’s not enough to have a bridge to the influence-centers in American society, we needed the ability to respond rapidly. If the #loweshatesmuslims campaign illustrates anything, it’s that Muslims will never be Ground Zero Mosque-d again.