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.

TLC ‘All American Muslim” controversy

Special Coverage: Lowe’s pulls ads from TV show about U.S. Muslims

A decision by retail giant Lowe’s Cos. to pull ads from a reality show about American Muslims after protests from an evangelical Christian group has sparked criticism and calls for a boycott against the chain of home-improvement stores.

The retailer stopped advertising on TLC’s “All-American Muslim” after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Assn. complained, saying the program was “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” The series, which has been on TLC at 10 p.m. Sunday since mid-November, follows the lives of five Muslim-American families in Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a sizable Muslim population.

The organization says 65 companies have left the show since it began urging advertisers to withdraw their support. Among those that have were Kayak, the travel Web site, and Lowe’s, the home-improvement retailer.

“All-American Muslim” has drawn an average-size audience on TLC on Sundays, typically a very competitive night on television. The series started out in mid-November with 1.7 million viewers, but subsequent episodes have been seen by about one million viewers. There was no noticeable bump on Sunday, a few days after Lowe’s decision first made news.

TLC declined to comment on the matter, other than to say that “there is strong advertiser support for the show.”
A number of politicians have denounced the decision by Lowe’s to withdraw its ads. On CNN on Monday, one of the two Muslim-Americans who have been elected to Congress, Keith Ellison, said the apparent decision by Lowe’s “has demonstrated a degree of fear that they don’t have to possess.”

“They don’t have to be afraid of a fringe group,” said Mr. Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat.
Ted W. Lieu, a California state senator, went further, stating in a letter to Lowe’s on Saturday that “if Lowe’s continues its religious bigotry, I will encourage boycotts of Lowe’s and look into legislative remedies.”
Celebrities including Mia Farrow and Russell Simmons have also supported “All-American Muslim” and criticized the decision by Lowe’s to withdraw from the series.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Lowe’s said it had “a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion” but had pulled its spots from the show because it “became a lightning rod” for “individuals and groups” with “strong political and social views.”

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.

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.”

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.

Reality TV Goes Where Football Meets the Hijab

“All-American Muslim,” the latest from TLC (the channel behind “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”), starting Sunday night: “Through these families and their diverse experiences, we will explore how they blend their values and traditions with everyday life in America.” The author Reza Aslan, whose media entertainment company, BoomGen Studios, has been helping TLC with publicity, calls it “a groundbreaking, intimate look inside the lives of a group of Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich., who are struggling with the everyday issues that all families deal with.” He adds, “Except they are doing it at a time of unprecedented anti-Muslim hysteria in America.”

The new TLC show, ‘All-American Muslim,’ offers up plenty of characters for a look at the everyday lives of a community much the same as any other.

TLC orders ‘All-American Muslim’ reality series

TLC — the network of “Freaky Eaters,” “Hoarding: Buried Alive,” “Extreme Couponing” and “19 Kids and Counting” — announced Thursday it is going to do a reality series it promises will be a compassionate look at what it’s like to be Muslim in America, called “All-American Muslim.”
Call it “Muslim Modern Family.”

Cable channel TLC is hoping to do for Muslims what it did for polygamists and Sarah Palin — put a new spin on controversial subjects that people often make judgments about without knowing the whole story.

The reality show “All-American Muslim” will follow the lives of five Muslim American families, some of whom are related, who reside in Dearborn, Mich., a suburb of Detroit that has a large Muslim population. The show will debut in late November.