The Jaafars and their children form one of five Dearborn families featured on “All-American Muslim,” a reality show, on TLC, created by some of the same team behind “Real Housewives of New York.” The show has become the target of an ugly campaign by a group called the Florida Family Association, which calls it “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” That someone, somewhere, would yell at the television when presented with images of Arab-Americans getting married or ready for school or running a football practice is sad, but might not be surprising. What is more remarkable, and even alarming, is that the group’s campaign persuaded Lowe’s, the home-improvement chain, to pull its advertising from “All-American Muslim.”I've been pleased to see that a boycott of Lowe's is in full swing, with entertainment entrepreneur Russell Simmons buying the advertising that Lowe's gave up. That's excellent, but we need to do more. At a minimum, we can write to Lowe's and tell them we support the boycott, and why. What we need, though, is a large, public repudiation of this disgusting Islamophobia.
The Florida Family Association says that Lowe’s is not the only sponsor it has driven away. That is hard to know, since ads are bought and sold all the time. Lowe’s, however, made no secret of its decision to walk away: “Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lighting rod for many of those views,” it said in a Facebook post. “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.”
That is, at a minimum, weak on Lowe’s part. Why would it be so responsive to a letter that contained lines like, “One of the most troubling scenes occurred at the introduction of the program when a Muslim police officer stated, I really am American. No ifs ands and buts about it.” Are those the sort of words that cause panics? The actual complaint that the Florida Family Association has is particular and peculiar: that “All-American Muslim” is dangerous because its subjects aren’t. The Florida Family Association isn’t pretending that these people—the Amens, the Aoudes, the Bazzy-Aliahmads, the Jaafars, and the Zabans—aren’t exactly who the program says they are. (It’s a fairly diverse group that includes, even within those families, women who wear the hijab and ones who don’t) When it says that the show is an effort to “inaccurately portray Muslims in America,” it is rejecting that reality in favor of stereotypes. In other words, the truth is false if it does not look the way one thought it would. It is seized by the fear of a bland Muslim. [I highly recommend reading the whole column.]
What is it like to live in a country your entire life, your family to live in that country for generations, and be singled out as The Other, have your basic values and loyalties questioned? Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians learned what it was like. European Jews learned. African-Americans were The Other for hundreds of years.
I keep asking myself, how can we show our Muslim neighbours that we abhor this kind of scapegoating and bigotry? What can we do that is more than lip service? I'm not asking this rhetorically: I'm really asking. If you have thoughts about this, share them in comments.
Lowe's contact form
Robert A. Niblock, Chairman and CEO
Lowe's Companies, Inc.
1000 Lowes Boulevard
Mooresville, NC 28117-8520