The cable channel TLC may have thought it was promoting the cause of ethnic and religious harmony by running a program that sympathetically examines the lives of five ordinary American Muslim families. But now the show itself has become a source of conflict, with the conservative Florida Family Association urging advertisers to boycott it and at least one major retail chain complying.
Media critics are already issuing scathing criticism of the decision by home retail giant Lowe's to respond to the Florida Family Association's campaign against the program. Gawker, for example, writes, "American Muslim, a TLC reality show that depicts the lives of Muslims in dangerous anti-American professions like 'police officer' and 'high school football coach,' is obviously the most egregious example yet of creeping Sharia. So thank (the Christian) God that all-American retailer Lowe's has decided to pull advertising from the show!"
According to TLC, "All-American Muslim takes a look at life in Dearborn, Michigan--home to the largest mosque in the United States--through the lens of five Muslim American families. Each episode offers an intimate look at the customs and celebrations, misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community."
As viewed by the Florida Family Association, however, the normality and all-American quality of the families profiled is in itself a cause for suspicion.
"The Learning Channel's new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law," the group writes at its website. "The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish."
The FFA site reprints two articles condemning the show by the well-known anti-Islamic agitators Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller and concludes, "Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show."
The FFA keeps track of the number of advertisers it has targeted with emails who happen not to have ads running during subsequent showings of the program, but Lowe's is the only firm to have explicitly deferred to the email campaign. And that has now forced the big-box chain on the defensive.
The initial email sent by Lowe's to the FFA stated, "While we continue to advertise on various cable networks, including TLC, there are certain programs that do not meet Lowe's advertising guidelines, including the show you brought to our attention.
In a subsequent Twitter posting, however, the company appeared to be backpeddling. "It is never our intent to alienate anyone," they insisted. "Lowe’s values diversity of thought in everyone, including our employees and prospective customers."
And more recently, a Lowe's spokesperson attempted to have it both ways, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "We understand the program raised concerns, complaints or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show. We based our decision to pull the advertising on this research and after hearing the concerns we received through emails, calls, through social media and in news reports."
Lowe's actions are already being described as "a public relations disaster" and have aroused anger among the American Muslim community.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, for example, has issued a statement saying, “Sadly corporations, such as Lowe’s, have succumbed to the idiocracy of such garbage campaigns, which are orchestrated by groups and organizations which lack credibility, legitimacy, and are founded on the basic notions of bigotry and racism reminiscent of a shameful era in this country’s history.”
This preview for All-American Muslim was posted at YouTube on October 19, 2011.