The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Lowe’s Facing Backlash for Pulling Ads from Pro-Muslim Reality Show

By Marilyn Elias on December 14, 2011 - 4:28 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim

Avoiding controversy was the stated aim when Lowe’s, the home improvement giant, bowed to pressure from a Florida evangelical group by pulling its ads from a TV reality show that makes Muslims look like ordinary Americans rather than terrorists.

But now the chain’s act of enabling bigots has boomeranged into a black-eye controversy, a PR nightmare: The company faces an accelerating deluge of attacks in social and traditional media, outrage from political and religious leaders, and on-site protests scheduled for at least one of its stores in a heavily Muslim community.

The Florida Family Association (FFA) targeted dozens of companies that have run commercials on the TLC network’s reality show, “All-American Muslim.” The show chronicles the lives of five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich. Offering a template E-mail on its website, the FFA urged its followers to let the companies know they shouldn’t sponsor the show because it depicts Muslim Americans as something other than jihadists. Among the many companies that have stopped advertising since the FFA targeting are Bank of America, Dell, Gap, General Motors, Ikea, Kellogg, Sears and Toyota. But Lowe’s is the only one to confirm that the FFA campaign caused it to cancel.

Kayak.com apologized today to “anyone who was offended” by its pullout of sponsorship. But Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge said he thought TLC misrepresented the show, so advertisers didn’t know the controversy it would generate, adding that Kayak didn’t want to be part of the maelstrom.

Lowe’s was lampooned Tuesday on “The Daily Show” for its own contributions to terrorism by selling everything anyone would need to put together a primitive bomb. “Senior Muslim correspondent” Aasif  Mandvi told viewers to boycott the store. “If we’re serious about fighting terror, we have to cut off their supply chain — I mean, Lowe’s.”

Jon Stewart played a clip of FFA leader David Caton explaining that he opposed the show because it did not depict Muslims as terrorists. Given all the brouhaha, Stewart said he assumed “All-American Muslim” would showcase jihadi propaganda. Instead, it just portrays “Muslims living their lives like the rest of us fucking idiots.”

Meanwhile, a petition at SignOn.org urging advertisers to stick with the show has gained 33,864 signatures in less than three days.  MoveOn.org told its website visitors to sign the petition, and today the group asked members to flood Lowe’s corporate headquarters with phone calls, demanding that the company apologize and reinstate its ads.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (the first Muslim elected to Congress), and California state Sen. Ted Lieu are among the politicians who have publicly scolded Lowe’s and asked the company to reverse course.  A growing list of celebrities and public figures also have joined the fray — actors Heather Graham, Reagan Gomez, Mia Farrow and Kal Penn, CNN anchor Erin Burnett, and entrepreneur and music mogul Russell Simmons.

This spreading outrage also has reached religious leaders.  Groundswell, an Auburn Seminary-affiliated group that campaigns for religious freedom, is organizing U.S. leaders of every faith to speak out on the issue in the media and in their communities, Groundswell Director Valarie Kaur told Hatewatch. The group has contacted a network of 15,000 people across the U.S., including several hundred religious leaders, Kaur said. Groundswell also is gathering signatures for a petition directed at advertisers on “All-American Muslim” that were targeted by FFA, she told Hatewatch.

The first scheduled protest at a Lowe’s store is set for Friday in Paterson, N.J., Mohamed El-Filali, executive director of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, told Hatewatch. The rally is expected to draw a few hundred participants, including clergy and lay people of varied faiths, he said. Paterson has the second largest concentration, per capita, of Muslims in the U.S. (The largest is in the Dearborn area, site of the reality show.)

“Lowe’s here in Paterson has been decent to Muslims,” El-Filali said. “They hire us, and our center even has an account there. But this decision was made by headquarters, and we can’t all drive to North Carolina. The leaders of the company seem to be disconnected from the reality of the world and think that Muslims can be excluded from the fabric of America.”

The FFA, founded 24 years ago, is known mostly for its virulently anti-gay positions. The group has targeted advertisers on the hit show “Modern Family” because it includes a gay couple with an adopted child. It also has campaigned for withdrawal of sponsorship for the Teen Nick show “Degrassi” because it portrays gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers, and includes material about The Trevor Project, which offers counseling and suicide prevention programs for LGBT teens. The FFA also pushed hard for a Florida state amendment that bars same-sex marriages and a ban on gay parents adopting children.

Lowe’s and all the other companies that continue to cave to FFA pressure are part of a recent wave of anti-Muslim scapegoating, said El-Filali. “There’s so much Islamophobia now,” he said. “It has elements of Germany in 1933, misrepresenting issues and blaming a minority as a way of diverting attention from serious domestic problems.”

But there’s a positive side to all the uproar about “All-American Muslim” and the FFA, he adds. “It opens up a dialogue about mainstream Muslims in the U.S. It’s exposed the country to the fact that we’re part of this nation too.”

  • Kiwiwriter

    CM, you’re quite right. And the Constitution itself says specifically that there shall be no religious test to qualify for federal office. I can worship the Flying Spaghetti Monstier, if I so choose, and still get a federal job.

  • CM

    To be fair, I think Scott’s “freedom-loving democracies” remark was just a ham-fisted attempt at irony or sarcasm. What I find much more objectionable is his hand-waving toward topics like women’s rights and education and “preserving our constitutional rights” while invoking our “Judeau-Christian heritage.” This “Judeo-Christian heritage” meme is purely a tool of Christian Reconstructionism/Dominionism, which seeks to overthrow the rule of constitutional law and replace it with the fundamentalist Christian version of “God’s Law.” As “an historian,” Scott obviously learned his historiography at the feet of Dave Barton.

  • Kiwiwriter

    Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan and other freedom-loving democracies…wow. That’s an interesting analysis by “an historian” who can’t spell “Judeo-Christian.” When were these countries “freedom-loving democracies?” Maybe “an historian” can tell us. Probably not.

  • Reynardine

    Well, ‘ell, Ruslan, you ‘ave to hunderstand an ‘istorian for getting upset over the underming of society.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “How many chain stores are there in Muslim countries that take advertising from Christian sponsors?”

    First of all it this is irrelevant, and a wholly inaccurate comparison. Many multinational corporations, run by non-Muslims, sponsor TV shows and other venues in Muslim countries. And again, this is an inaccurate comparison anyway.

    ” Is Islam a religion or a body politic, a social way of life or all of the aforementioned? To compare Lowe’s pulling its advertising to any slightly resembling Nazi Germany is a wild stretch of the imagination at its very best.”

    I don’t know who made that comparison but I agree, and would state that making bad comparisons is VERY BAD.

    ” Islam is a creep into the West and should be seen for what it has done to the freedoms of women, education and freedom and liberty as well as free market enterprise in such countries as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and other, freedom loving democracies.”

    Uh oh, looks like someone failed history class, and possibly economics, and maybe geography.

    ” Wake up and think about preserving our constitutional rights and our Judeau-Christian heritage.”

    Sorry pal, the United States is a secular state. That not only protects us from Islamic theocracy, but also those who want to impose their version of “Judeo-Christian” heritage on everyone else. And in America, the latter are a far bigger threat.

    “As an historian and former Marine I can attest to the ways and means of Islam in the underming of democracy.”

    How does a historian lament Islam’s alleged destruction of “freedom loving democracies” like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, or Iraq, for one? From a historical point of view I can’t imagine a more ridiculous statement.

    And by all means, Marine, attest. Explain how Islam is undermining American democracy. Let me guess, did they get the Supreme Court to halt a recount in a hotly contested election?

    “You need look no farther then France and England to understand what the creep can and will do to democracies. Beware!”

    Bad news. Some of us have either been to those countries or work with people from them. The Eurabia paranoia is exactly that- irrational fear. Britain provides a perfect example of what this is really all about. Prior to 2004, when Poland joined the EU, nationalists in Britain were constantly whining about Muslims and “Pakis” in particular. Of course they still do, but when Poles and Eastern Europeans began showing up in droves, they let it slip that it wasn’t about non-European culture after all.

  • Mitch Beales

    Scott Brooks-Miller your post espousing religious prejudice dishonors your fallen comrades.

  • Scott Brooks-Miller

    How many chain stores are there in Muslim countries that take advertising from Christian sponsors? Is Islam a religion or a body politic, a social way of life or all of the aforementioned? To compare Lowe’s pulling its advertising to any slightly resembling Nazi Germany is a wild stretch of the imagination at its very best. Islam is a creep into the West and should be seen for what it has done to the freedoms of women, education and freedom and liberty as well as free market enterprise in such countries as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and other, freedom loving democracies. Wake up and think about preserving our constitutional rights and our Judeau-Christian heritage. As an historian and former Marine I can attest to the ways and means of Islam in the underming of democracy. You need look no farther then France and England to understand what the creep can and will do to democracies. Beware!

  • El Cid!*

    Ruslan Amirkhanov,

    You say it best…with knowledge, passion and compassion.

    As did David29073,

    Thanks for humanity,
    and for peace…there still is hope.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Ruslan Amirkhanov,

    Good point, in the end, that’s the same logic people are using who oppose All American Muslims.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I remember an episode of Family Matters where Urkel literally says that he accepted Jesus into his heart after going to church with the family. I found this VEEEEEERY offensive, because not once in the entire series did in mention the Crusades, the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity against the people of Africa, or those committed by Serbs and Croats on each other. We did not see any abortion clinic bombers either. Clearly this is part of an evil Christian agenda.

  • thorayya

    I admit – the whole thing with Lowe’s is pretty shocking. How can people not see this action as the intolerance it is? Please consider signing this petition against Lowe’s ((http://www­.change.or­g/peti.....ntolerance)

  • Reynardine

    Well, for instance, Mr. Valdemar, Christian, Jewish, and unidentifiable whitebread types are *routinely* shown as living sane, ordinary lives on mainstream TV; Muslims, never. This isn’t religious programming, any more than the Cosby Show was black supremacist programming. This is simply another segment of our society being represented as human beings; if you can’t tolerate human beings, go to Mars.

  • John Clarke

    I left the church over 20 years ago because of hypocrisy and have been to only a few services since then. I still have a problem with those that think that they are “speaking for God.” Organized religion is so full of BS that for this group, FFA, to come out and suggest that a show should make Muslims in the USA look like terrorist is just a load of bull manure.

    If they wanted to spread the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth then it should begin with love of your fellow man. Certainly nothing in the clip presented suggests tolerance. To follow along to Rob’s comment, FFA loves the “darkness” and wishes for no lights.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Gee Mark, why didn’t you tell that to the Florida Family Association? Oh right, because you’re a hypocrite.

  • Mark

    I will now do all my lumber shopping at Lowes! These folks can chose whatever shows they want to do business with. God bless them and Merry Christmas.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Rob,

    That was a beautiful comment. I really hope you stay around for the fun :-)

  • Rob Vlacancich

    Using a TV Show to portray a sometime denegrated group as ordinary humans, seems to me a positive way to point out their oneness with the rest of us. (“No Man is an Island”)

    When at times, we have wanted to show our superiority over others, we have masked them variously in dragon clothes, as Japs, Heinie, Spick, Dego, Mick, Slav, Nigger, etc.

    To see any of “us” as a family: laughing, praying, struggling in a harsh economy, crying, grieving, raising children, organizing after school activities, celebrating, trying to be faithful to our spouse, etc., equals a plus for me, and could be an example for the rest of us…..Better to Light one candle than Curse the Darkness! (Chinese Proverb)

  • Mitch Beales

    Dick Lancaster maybe they could show Muslims doing military training at the Episcopal church in Marion, AL.

  • Mitch Beales

    William, yes, you are stupid.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Simply change the show to depict Muslims living their alternative lifestyles. Show them planting bombs on school buses, honor killing their own children and decapitating some Jewish journalists. ”

    But this wouldn’t be an accurate representation of most Muslims in the world, much less America. In fact it would basically be no different from Jud Suss or The Eternal Jew.

    Now some people have suggested the show is boring, which is not surprising to me because reality TV is by its own nature boring and if you like any reality TV you are wrong. But that is not the issue here. The issue is that a bunch of Christian fundamentalists got butthurt because of a TV show that portrayed American Muslims as the really are, and Lowe’s suddenly decided that Muslims are “controversial.” It had nothing to do with ratings, because the company flat out admitted that it caved into the pressure.

  • Dick Lancaster

    Let me get this straight. Lowes advertises on a show that depicts Muslims living out their ordinary lives. Some Christian group objects to the show because it is not violent enough and pressures Lowes to cancel its advertising. It does. Then, another group of lefties pressures Lowes to re-advertise because they don’t like the first pressure group?

    Continuing now, Lowes is only one of many advertisers to drop the show but the only one to mention the Christian group as a factor? If this is true then it appears Lowes is more ignorant of capitalism than the SPLC and its fans. The reason to drop advertising on a show about Muslims leading everyday lives is because it’s BORING and no one WATCHES! If no one watches no one SEES your advertising. Therefore you WASTE your money!

    If TLC wants its advertisers back it doesn’t need a left wing campaign to do it. Simply change the show to depict Muslims living their alternative lifestyles. Show them planting bombs on school buses, honor killing their own children and decapitating some Jewish journalists. Americans tune into such garbage in droves. The left is happy that a show about Muslims is so popular, the Christians are happy that Muslims are being portrayed as Muslims, TLC collects big advertising bucks and the advertisers show their wares to millions of Americans! Wow! Everybody wins!

  • Rich Valdemar

    Wait a minute you politically correct sheep!
    Lowe’s is not sponsoring any pro-Jewish or pro-Christian programming, so why shouldn’t non-Muslim groups object to their sponsoring a pro-Muslim program?
    It is their right, and not in any way like what happened in Germany!
    This country was founded on Judeo-Christian principals and that is why it is tolerant and not like most Muslim countries. Try (why don’t you) to sponsor pro-Judeo-Christian anything in a Muslim country. But we need not give preferential treatment to minority religions in this country either!

  • MI Beachcomber

    It is a funny double standard that Christians are threatened by Muslim proselytizing, yet history is filled with Christian holy wars, colonialism and cultural genocide in the name of their brand of religion. Christian Evangelicals and jihadist Muslims both need to lighten up to the notion that governments must remain secular, and that your religious beliefs are a personal matter instead part of some kind of political or nationalist movement.

  • David29073

    My question is this, why don’t we protest FFA goons?? Isn’t there a way to expose the absolute hatred these gutless slime bags vomit out.
    I am Jewish and a baby boomer. I was brought up with films of the Holocaust. We have an historical record of how Hitler came to power, and one of the cornerstones of his rise to power was the intense hatred he directed towards the Jews, the total manipulation of the truth, and the outrageous way he spewed fear to gain his goals.
    The FFA takes its lies and religious intolerance straight out of the National Socialist play book. They take its’ (FFA)fear mongering to a new level when they can influence a cooperation by saying that the program does not portray the Muslims as jihadists????
    The Muslims portrayed in the program are AMERICANS who practice their religious beliefs openly. They should practice their faith without fear of the small minded maggots of the FFA saying they are terrorists. They are Americans who should not suffer prejudice because they are Muslims. They should live in this country without fear, free to live their lives within their community unmolested by morons like the FFA!!!

  • Reynardine

    This is rather more than a “mere” exercise of first-amendment rights. Before the (instigated) violence of Kristallnacht gave them an excuse to appropriate Jewish businesses outright, the Nazis were already damaging them by pressing “Aryans” not to patronize them. The Nazis invaded several countries on the grounds that they weren’t anti-Semitic enough, and you couldn’t openly publish or present any work that didn’t portray Jews as villains. That is no different from what is going on here. The gravamen of the complaint is that the program didn’t portray Muslims negatively enough, that it misled Americans into thinking “those people” were “normal” and that the program mustn’t get a penny more sponsorship unless it portrayed them how they “really” were – inherent villains, murderers, and terrorists. In short, this is an attempt to use economic pressure to compel a program to commit group libel. Permissible under the First Amendment? Most things are. In alignment with what our culture calls fair play and decency? No!

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    SPLC yes, MoveOn, no.

  • Snorlax

    It is scary that corporations can censor TV by pulling ads.

    One more reason we need groups like SPLC and MoveOn keeping it real.

  • CM

    Scott B-M,

    “So why the uproar, it is what the 1st Amendment is all about?”

    Indeed, if an extremist Christian group tries to suppress the rights of Muslims to express themselves and counter the dishonest propaganda spewed by the far right, it is very much a First Amendment issue, and I’m disappointed that Lowe’s has sided with the anti-free-speech crowd on this issue.

  • Sam Molloy

    Remember Home Depot’s free cups and stuff for Gay Pride events last summer? I do, and just went out of my way to skip Lowes and shop at Home Depot instead.

  • Ron Goodenow

    This is the best single piece I have read on this sad topic; and I am further vindicated for providing some modest support to the SPLC.

    Its a tad ironic that the wing-nut nativists are doing this at the very time we are pulling out of our somewhat imperialistic war in Iraq, and may soon start leaving Afghanistan. I guess we’ll have to go to war against Muslims here or attack Iran next to keep the evangelical-Newt Gingrich ‘anti-sharia’ crowd happy. Good for Erin Burnett, Simmons and the companies courageous enough to stick with the program

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “The anti-Christian agenda is moving forward quickly.”

    Brilliant logic here. A Christian group attacks Muslims, and showing ordinary American Muslims becomes “controversial”, and this means that Christians are persecuted.

  • Chris Roscher

    Why are Americans leaving their Churches in droves ? Because of bigoted, hate-filled “Christian” (and I use the term loosely) nutbags like the FFA, who are more like the Taliban than the Muslims portrayed in this Show.
    SHAME ON YOU, Lowe’s, for caving into the demands of these un-Christian, fascistic slimebags.

  • William

    The anti-Christian agenda is moving forward quickly. Part of the agenda is to deny there is an agenda. We are not stupid.

  • David Adams

    I agree with Jonas Rand. We need to find out why all the other companies canceled their advertising.

  • Scott Brooks-Miller

    It is a free country and if Lowe’s has decided not to advertise on the Country Music Network because they didn’t like some brain rattling songs about losing a dog, wife or job would there be an uproar? So why the uproar, it is what the 1st Amendment is all about? I will continue to shop at Lowe’s as they give me a 10% discount for my military service and they provide high quality merchandise. It is all a big rattling of the brains about nothing. So keep rattlnng the brains and people will keep on shopping, it really doesn’t change much of anything.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Check it out, we have more cowards at Kayak.com

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/cu.....08989.html

  • Jonas Rand

    I too am glad that Lowe’s is being mocked and condemned for caving in to this hateful nonsense, but why not “Bank of America, Dell, Gap, General Motors, Ikea, Kellogg, Sears and Toyota”? The only difference is that Lowe’s was honest enough to admit that they caved in to bigotry, like cowards. C’mon, we at least have an idea as to why all of those other companies withdrew their ads. If it wasn’t FFA, it was still probably unjustified, and almost surely related to Islamophobia.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Good job trying to avoid “controversy”, Lowe’s. That was a brilliant move!

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Marilyn Elias,

    Good! I’m glad that Lowe’s is facing a backlash over what they did.