The TLC reality show “All-American Muslim” premiered last month and chronicles the lives of five families from Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population. Chances are you might not have heard of the show if it weren’t for Lowe’s Home Improvement, which pulled its ads from the show “after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association complained, saying the program was ‘propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values,’” the AP reports.
***Spoiler alert: The Dad in one of the five families profiled in the show is a cop. THERE’S A TERRORIST ON THE INSIDE, YOU GUYS! The only reason he’s giving you a speeding ticket is because he’s trying to DESTROY YOUR WAY OF LIFE!***
Response to Lowe’s decision to stop advertising during the program has been mixed. California Senator Ted Lieu called the decision “un-American” and “naked religious bigotry.” Lieu told The Associated Press “he would also consider legislative action if Lowe’s doesn’t apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads.”
Meanwhile, average Americans have posted appreciative sentiments on Lowe’s Facebook page like, “Congratulations to Lowe’s for having the guts to stick up for traditional Americans!” (Visit BuzzFeed for more pro-Lowe’s comments made by less articulate folks.)
So in light of the split reaction this ad controversy created, where does Lowe’s stand now?
According to the AP, “Lowe’s issued a statement apologizing for having ‘managed to make some people very unhappy.’” The apology reads, ”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. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.”
Lieu says Lowe’s hasn’t done enough to try to make things right. He told the AP, “The show is about what it’s like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face. And that kind of discrimination is exactly what’s happening here with Lowe’s.”
Comedians Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad, who are co-producing, co-directing and co-starring in the comedic documentary film The Muslims Are Coming! agree. Obeidallah told me he’s disappointed that “Lowe’s has chosen to stand with bigotry and hatred over American values by caving in to the Florida Family Association – an organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.” Farsad says, “The Muslims Are Coming! addresses the issue of Islomophobia through the lens of comedy and just when I think the need for this kind of documentary might be on the downswing, bigotry rears its head!”
As previously mentioned, the families featured in “All-American Muslim” really are quite, well, American. Check out TLC’s description of the Bazzy-Aliahmad family: ”While Nina’s mother wears the hijab and strictly adheres to traditional cultural Muslim norms, Nina is her own person and very much walking to the “beat of her own drum.” She is married with a young son, Andre, 6. An ambitious businesswoman, Nina is determined to push past cultural barriers within her own family and the Dearborn community in order to open her own nightclub in a traditionally male-dominated and conservative landscape.”
Nina sounds pretty Westernized to me. Farsad balks at the way Lowe’s pulled their advertising support based on a few emails from a hate group without considering exactly what was being presented on the show. “What will Lowe’s do next?,” she asks. “Pull ads from an Animal Planet show because the animals are too cute? Or too accurately furry? It makes no sense!”
Indeed, it doesn’t. But it sure did give a show I’d never heard of a lot of press, and that’s the best advertising anyone can ask for.