The home improvement chain Lowe’s has been hit with a popular backlash following its decision to pull ads from TLC’s All-American Muslim, a reality show centering on the lives of Muslims living in a Detroit suburb. Though reps for Lowe’s have said the company pulled the ads due to “strong political and societal views” from many individuals, a conservative Florida group is at the center of the controversy.
Last month, the Florida Family Association sent a series of emails to supporters, asking them to petition several of the companies advertising during All-American Muslim. According to Association’s website, companies including Sweet ‘N Low and The Home Depot have also pulled their ads from the show. The Association has said that Lowe’s is the 66th company to remove its advertising from the show, but is the only to release a statement about its decision.
Though the show aims simply to show the lives of American Muslims living in a post-9/11 world, the Family Association has claimed it 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.”
“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,” reads a post on the Association site.
This isn’t the first time the group has concerned itself with television shows. The group also launched petitions against the advertisers of VH1′s Ru Paul’s Drag Race, NBC’s The Playboy Club (which was cancelled after only three episodes) and the Teen Nick show DeGrassi.
California Sen. Ted Lieu has said the ad pulls were evidence of “naked religious bigotry” and are prime examples of the discrimination often faced by Muslims in America.
In addition to penning a letter to Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock, in which he expressed his distaste for the company’s recent actions, Lieu told the Associated Press he might consider legislative action if Lowe’s doesn’t apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads.
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., has also spoken out against Lowe’s, which he says is choosing to disregard the First Amendment. ”Our nation’s history is full of examples demonstrating how we have repeatedly torn down false divisions hate groups choose to create,” Ellison said in a statement. “But the struggle against bigotry and hatred must continue so we never give in to intolerance like Lowe’s Corporation has done.”
According to a 2010 Florida Family Association financial statement (.pdf), the organization received around $172,000 in gifts and contributions last year. According to the mission statement posted on its website, the group was formed in order to ”educate people on what they can do to defend, protect and promote traditional, biblical values.”
Haris Tarin, the director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s D.C. office, says he anticipated that the show would be controversial.
“From the beginning, our organization was anticipating that there would be a few campaigns launched to use the show to push the discourse to an even more extreme position against Islam,” says Tarin. “There’s an entire industry that doesn’t want to see any portrayal of Muslims without terrorism or without an extreme narrative of Islam being pointed out.”
Tarin says his organization has launched its own campaign, to counter the attacks by the Florida Family Association. In addition to meeting with the Council’s interfaith and civic partners, the group plans to put pressure on companies like Lowe’s to ensure that it apologizes and reinstates the ads.
“We’ve been getting Americans of all backgrounds to call Lowe’s since last week and we are initiating meetings with Lowe’s and some of the other advertisers to have a conversation about this, because it sets a very disconcerting precedent,” says Tarin. “There are a large number of Muslim-Americans who shop there, as well as many Muslim employees, and this decision [to pull the ads] could prove very problematic for our democracy.”