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'All-American Muslims' Are Really All-American Americans

The "All-American Muslims" should really be called "All-American Americans," because the only controversy they may be accused of evoking is challenging the stereotype.

The home-improvement store, Lowe's, has pulled its advertising from TLC's "All-American Muslim," a reality series based on the lives of five American Muslim families from Dearborn, Mich.

Lowe's decision was prompted by the complaint of an evangelical Christian group known as the Florida Family Association, who threatened to boycott the company's products because they believed the show projected "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."

Lowe's customers are divided in their support for and against the decision, and protests have also started. Senator Ted Lieu has called the action "bigoted, shameful and un-American." 

This is a free country, one may argue. Lowe's is a private company and unless it is in breach of contract with TLC, it is entitled to making its business decisions independent of any outside influence or interference.

That would be a valid argument, except for a minor detail: Lowe's decision to withdraw its advertising from TLC's reality show is a direct response to the negative campaign against Muslim Americans by an interest group. Hence, it brings to surface a deeper debate – a debate about American liberties and consumer driven social order.   

So, what is this reality show called "All-American Muslim" about? Who are the "controversial" characters that are so out of favor with the Florida Family Association that they threaten their sense of civil liberties and traditional values?

A quick viewing of the pilot episode introduces one to the five American Muslim families. One couple deals with family drama while tying the knot, another welcomes their first baby; a third couple teaches their four children to balance religious and cultural identities, the fourth juggles an all too familiar balancing act of parenting and careers, and a fifth family features an independent and ambitious Muslim woman.

Their professions range from special education aide to respiratory therapist, federal agent, football coach and law enforcement – as diverse in their line of work as they are in the expression of their faith where hijab and low necklines make for an interesting contrast. What, one wonders, could be more representative of the American experience and less threatening to American liberties? "All-American Muslims" should really be called "All-American Americans," and the only controversy they may be accused of evoking is challenging the stereotype. 

When the producers at TLC conceived the idea of a show about American Muslims, it was likely to gain some good publicity and steady viewership, and challenging negative perceptions about a community that is openly vilified.

The five families featured in the show also aimed to discourage hate-filled rhetoric they encounter in public by allowing TV cameras into the privacy of their homes. A 2010 Gallup survey reveals that 63 percent of Americans acknowledge that they have "little" or "none at all" knowledge of Islam, and 53 percent have a "not favorable at all" view about Muslims. The FFA's complaint shows that many of us would rather continue to embrace their willful ignorance than welcome the opportunity to become better informed.

No matter how one analyses Lowe's decision, it comes out as irrational. Perhaps FFA and Lowe's should have read the 2011 Pew Research Study titled "Muslim Americans: No Sign of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism" to alleviate their fears. In the absence of solid evidence of the "Islamic agenda" that Muslims have been accused of, there can be no justification for FFA's insinuation.  

Business-wise, the decision seems unwise, and Senator Lieu speaks for many when he says, "As a consumer, I find Lowe's bigotry to be nonsensical."

When experts at Lowe's put their heads together to weigh their options, perhaps they should have done their research thoroughly.

According to the largest advertising agency in the U.S., JWT's 2007 study,  the combined annual disposable income from Muslim households in America is estimated at more than $170 billion, and for 70 percent of the respondents "brands play an important role in their purchasing decisions, compared to 55 percent for the average American." It is sad that Lowe's has chosen to embrace the bigotry purported by the FFA. Unless some steps are taken as redress, it is not hard to imagine where that disposable income will not end up.

Interest groups are at liberty to push for their agendas because this is a free country, but we have a civic responsibility to reject what damages societal harmony. To suspend rational thought and give others the power to exploit us leads to social chaos, and we inadvertently become enablers of hatred. That only makes for a fractured community, not a strong cohesive one. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sharla Allard December 19, 2011 at 07:44 PM
What a well written and well-thought-out piece, Tahera. Might some store have withdrawn their support of the TV series "Touched by an angel" because it stood Christians in a good light, what with various angels coming to help find solutions to people's problems? "Good will toward men," one oft-repeated message of this season, is a good one to act out if, as you say, we really want "peace on earth."
Dave December 19, 2011 at 11:27 PM
It is most unfortunate that Lowe’s has chosen to cave into the pursuit of the all mighty dollar, but it’s not terribly surprising. It is however surprising that they apparently did not do their due diligence when it comes to the Florida Family Association. The FFA have long protested programs that portray Christians in a negative light. Prior targets of the group included a protest of the 70s program All in the Family, for portraying Archie, a self professed conservative Christian, as an ignorant bigot. And that’s just one example. They can’t have it both ways. Did Lowe’s investigate what the FFA stood for before they aligned themselves with this hypocritical organization and took this backwards step, I doubt it. In an article I read recently social media expert Liz Strauss, made the following quote. "It's not possible for the world to hold a meeting to decide your value. That decision is all yours." Well we certainly have learned what Lowe’s values.
Tahera Sajid December 20, 2011 at 02:36 AM
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Sharla. Sadly, peace on earth is not everyone's goal. The Christians I know would never conceive such bigotry, and I choose to see them as representatives of their religion, not one who uses the name of his religion to further his own agenda.
Tahera Sajid December 20, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Thanks for sharing your views, Dave. The gain of one group does not have to be at the cost of another's. Muslims and Christians - and other groups, for that matter - do not have to be in conflict, but can work in collaboration to contribute to the larger good of their society. Lowe's seems to be having a tough time facing critics now, and there is always the boycott. Obviously, Lowe's did not contemplate the far-reaching consequences of its decision to side with a consumer with total disregard for social values.Liz Strauss has a point! I doubt any other sponsor would want to be in the same boat with Lowe's now.
Marc Theriault December 20, 2011 at 05:13 PM
The Florida Family Association's argument that "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values." is missing the point of the content of the show. We are all, unfortunately, too well aware of the agenda of the extremist Muslim's in our world. That "series" aired ten years ago and has been seen in "reruns" many times since. TLC is attempting to show what the non-extremist, trying to survive like the rest of us in America, Muslims are like. This is what TLC does. And if there was propaganda being put forth to hide the intent of those who would do evil in our world, do they really believe that TLC would be the method chosen do send it out? The sad thing is it is always the extremists who get the press, and consequently, become part of the general public discourse of the day. The mission of those who truly follow Christ's teachings is one accomplished by relationships between individuals. Believers are to act as he did, showing concern and compassion for those he encountered each day; the lonely, the sick, the tired and weak, the orphans and widows. He always dealt with the physical and emotional needs of people as they were at the moment. The spiritual issues were for later, after the relationships were formed. Lowes' problem is now they're reacting instead of acting. All they will accomplish by waffling back and forth is offending everyone.
Tahera Sajid December 21, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Well said, Marc Theriault, and I couldn't agree more that " it is always the extremists who get the press, and consequently, become part of the general public discourse of the day." The question probably is, what can we do to change the discourse?
Elisabeth McGregor December 21, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Thank you, Tahera, and thank you, Dave, for your well-documented and reasonable views. It's unfortunate that Lowe's would succumb to the hostile and paranoid views of a group who assume most Muslims are terrorists or at best anti-American despite evidence to the contrary. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease; thus I'm sending messages to Lowe's via Change.org that squeak back and protest their action, and I hope many others are too. Of course Lowe's is free to advertise (or not) where it will. But it's sad if they believe that the FFA represents such a large segment of American opinion that there would be a major negative economic impact of their sponsoring the show. (I sure hope that's not true--if it is, our country is really in trouble.) And it's too bad they don't have the gumption to stand up for inclusion and open-mindedness.
Tahera Sajid December 23, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Thank you so much, Elisabeth, for your comment and for signing the petition - that will certainly send a strong message: http://www.change.org/petitions/lowes-home-improvement-apologize-and-reinstate-advertisements-on-tlcs-all-american-muslim It would be interesting to know why Lowe's thinks FFA's compliant matters enough to comply - as you so rightly question: "But it's sad if they believe that the FFA represents such a large segment of American opinion that there would be a major negative economic impact of their sponsoring the show."

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