Deena Douara

Deena Douara
December 31
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DECEMBER 19, 2011 6:26PM

What Lowe’s pull-out of All-American Muslim really means

Rate: 11 Flag


A child dressed as the Pretty Woman prostitute on Toddlers & Tiaras becomes a puff story with under 200,000 YouTube hits.  Normal Muslims on TV cause a national frenzy. The Lowe’s story is clearly much bigger than Lowe’s. 

Lowe’s home improvement chain, and now Kayak as well, have been making headlines since pulling their advertising from the TLC show All-American Muslim, but those decrying the pull-outs are missing the point.

Corporations, as a rule, do not make decisions based on principles. Had Lowe’s simply been Islamophobic, as articles seem to insinuate, they would not have advertised with the show in the first place.

Lowe’s and Kayak did not kowtow to a fringe extremist group. They did a simple calculation: Are we likely to increase our customer base by advertising on a show about ordinary Muslim Americans, or are we going to lose customers who do not even watch the show because the Muslims portrayed are too ordinary? Are there more Muslims and progressives, or bigots and racists? In Lowe’s calculation, the greater risk was in losing the bigots. 

Which is not an unreasonable assumption.

When politicians, networks, and journalists are comfortable airing their fears about Islam and presenting them as fact, then bigotry is normalized, rationalized, and acceptable.

The purported reason behind FFA’s calls for boycotts really is because the Muslims portrayed are too normal, too patriotic, too much like other Americans.  Their argument is that “true” Muslims want to instill sharia universally, support terrorism, and fight jihad.

But they are not the only ones fear-mongering. Herman Cain was comfortable repeating he would not hire a Muslim to his cabinet; that he believes most are extremists; that Islam is a religion unlike any other because it includes a set of “laws”. Elected congressmen and senators have routinely made extremely offensive statements that would be unacceptable towards nearly any other group (websites proudly listing the comments abound online). Fox News welcomes preachers who call Islam “wicked” and “evil”. Canada’s very Prime Minister has said that “Islamicism” is the country’s biggest threat.     

 It would be great if corporations did the principled thing. But in capitalist societies, it is not their role. It is, perhaps, the role of journalists, publishers, and maybe even politicians. At the very least, we should expect them to keep their racism private and get their facts straight. 

Is what they say at least true, even if politically incorrect? Are there really no parallels to sharia in other religions?

Why do some (few, obviously) Christians bomb abortion clinics?  Why do practicing Catholics famously have many children, and Jews circumcise?  Any religion, as opposed to a philosophy, almost by definition has its own codes of conduct, dos and don'ts. 

Sharia, or Islamic law, is not a book, constitution, or universally understood code; far from it. The word means something like “path” and is simply the regulations scholars have gathered based on their interpretations of the Qur’an and the Prophet. Most of it is mundane, regulating fair trade, delineating prayer, forbidding alcohol, etc. Some appears archaic to Western eyes. And Eastern eyes – few of the 57 Muslim-majority countries actually follow some of the stricter penal codes allowed by classical sharia. But so too do the scriptures of most early religions– certainly Judaism and Christianity. It is the Old Testament, for example, that calls for stoning in cases of adultery, witchcraft, rebellion, and pretending to be a virgin upon marriage.

Furthermore, I have not seen formal polls but I would wager a Mitt Romney bet that few American Muslims hope to see this become law of (any) land. The greater irony is that the same crowds that fear “creeping sharia” practically gave Rick Perry a standing ovation when he proudly exclaimed Texas as the state with the most capital punishment executions.

The term “jihad” is also used to legitimate fear. At its core, jihad simply means to struggle – against your own demons, against oppression, etc. Yes, it may also refer to “holy war” but is almost universally understood to only be justified as self-defense against occupiers and aggressors.  The US has shown far lengthier justifications for warfare. There is no doubt that there are Muslim terrorists who have violated much of the sharia in what they have viewed as jihad against injustice, but there is also statistically no doubt that more domestic terrorism has been perpetrated by Christians, Jews, left-wingers and right-wingers with distorted perceptions of their own guiding principles.

Until elected officials and news sources get beyond their own superiority and prejudices, I certainly don’t expect corporations to. Let's just remember to place blame where it is due.


[I had blogged about the show when it first came out here:


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quite right. corporations pursue self-interest. so do wet 'persons.' hmmm, maybe corporations are people..

pretty obvious stuff, but worth repeating, since the squinch-minded average, normal, american doesn't seem to understand this, or much of anything.
there was a great front page article on this in usatoday today... youve covered it in a reasonable way. however, I think theres a deeper story here. there was over 1.5M watching this show, thats a pretty large audience. its a reality show about muslims on mainstream tv. these two elements make it, frankly, an incredible breakthru. it does not demonize the muslims on the show, rather it shows them as ordinary americans [acc to the article, I have not seen it]. so, try seeing the glass as half full, as it clearly is. if this show gets a 2nd season, I will be a bit stunned. Im already a bit stunned its even on the air. yeah theres that brouhaha with lowes and that church rejecting the show, but I would argue that you're focusing on the extremists [americans], even as you assert/emphasize that muslims are not extremists. but that is exactly the point of the show. I may blog about this show. I have a post on the muslim miss usa that echoes some of these pts about extremism across cultures.
your point about the death penalty in texas--- touche! wow!
there is a slogan going around on occupy wall st signs. "I will believe corporations are people when texas executes one."
the whole thing reminds me too of the shameful mass internment of japenese americans during WWII, which frankly, I dont think was covered very well in my history book or probably many others.
Im not saying we treated muslims in a positive way after 911, but if you compare it to the japenese internment during WWII, its positively enlightened.
It's so refreshing to hear the voices of new waves of American immigrants, and their perceptions about how newcomers are treated. We Hispanics, who have lived here since the 1500s, are well versed on how the dominant Anglo-Christian culture spins "otherness" to support their political agenda. Most groups "of color" have been through this process. This country's history of hypocrisy does not, however, lessen the importance of your observations. Thank you for bringing your intelligent, educated thoughts, history, culture and observations to light.
Glad that it has such a following. We need some real (ality) when we think of Muslim Americans.
Thank you for shedding such lucidity on Islam for those who do not nor wish to understand it.

Cain, like the others, is an ignorant moron.

Rated with sukran♥
Corporations ≠ Morality

As for morality, that was hijacked and poisoned by religion long ago. I'm amazed at why people continue to defend religion in the face of so much evidence that it is a societal toxin.

View the ad here:
You're right of course: We can't expect corporations to lead the way in terms of behavior.

My larger question, however, is why not? I mean, someone's got to start somewhere. How about wealthy corporate leaders for a change?
@ BA: The only part of your entire comment that had any credibility was the phrase, "I don't think...".

Just say'in, as I would about any other bigot and hater.
I think why the Lowe's and Kayek decisions caused such a stir, particularly in the Progressive community, is that 1) many still embrace "identity politics", the thrust of which is that America is too ethnocentric and needs to become more open to differences between ethnic groups, and 2) lots of people are privately peeved that corporations seem to operate under the we-do-these-things-because-we-can rule of thought.
you inspired me, I wrote this post on the controversy with links etc & incl many muslim writers from open salon
all american muslims, & best muslim writing on open salon
I did not know about All American Muslim, creepy, like so many reality shows. Thank you for writing about this. We need to hear more stories like yours--will hopefully dispel the stereotypes and rash of misinformation about Islam.
I'm not Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. I'm not a follower of any of the Abrahamic faiths. I'm Hindu, and Hindus and Muslims have traditionally found themselves at odds with one another.

When the U.S. Senate invited a Hindu leader (Rajan Zed) to open a 2007 session with a prayer, conservative Christian David Barton (an opponent of church-state separation) objected, saying:

“In Hindu [sic], you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods. And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration when they talked about Creator.”

Hinduism and Buddhism are closely related: like Judaism and Christianity. Hinduism predates Buddhism by at least 2,500 years, and has no known historical founder.

Animal rights advocate Lewis Regenstein describes Hinduism as:

"...more than just a creed: it is a total culture, a way of life based on the belief in the unity of all creation. Hindus, like Buddhists, see humankind not as an entity separate from animals, but rather as an integral part of the universe that includes all living creatures.

"Although Hinduism is well known for considering cows to be holy, in Hindu doctrine, all living creatures, including insects, plants and trees, are thought to enjoy a kinship with one another and to be worthy of respect and life."

According to Nine Beliefs of Hinduism, a tract published by the Himalayan Academy of San Francisco: "Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa or nonviolence."

Contemporary Hindu spiritual masters have taught us that if one wishes to eat cow’s flesh (or the flesh of any other animal for that matter), one should wait until the animal dies of natural causes, rather than take the life of a fellow creature.

This indicates that we are vegetarian first and foremost out of nonviolence toward and compassion for animals, rather than because we follow “dietary laws” -- in reality because there are restrictions upon the kind of foods the Deities will accept as offerings.

The Hindu practice of nonviolence is connected to a belief in reincarnation: the repeated re-embodiment of souls in different species of life.

The karma generated in one's present life determines whether one enjoys a higher or suffers a lower existence in the next life.

Karma is the moral and physical law of cause and effect by which each individual creates one's own future destiny.

Hinduism teaches that there are 8,400,000 species of life, beginning with the microbes, rising through the fish, plants, insects, reptiles, birds, and animals to the humans and gods. According to their desires, living entities perpetually take birth in these species.

These transmigrations are directed by the mind propelling the soul to newer and newer bodies. All souls are evolving and progressing towards reunion with God.

Human life affords one the opportunity to escape the cycle of repeated birth and death and return to the spiritual world from where we fell.

John Plott has done elaborate studies comparing Christianity and Vaishnavaism (the worship of Lord Vishnu), particularly the teachings and theology of Ramanuja to St. Bonaventura.

Geoffrey Parrinder wrote The Significance of the Bhagavad-gita for Christian Theology and William Blanchard entitled his Ph.D dissertation: "An Examination of the Relation of the New Testament to the Bhagavad-gita."

Dr. Klaus Klostermaier says, "if you look long and hard enough, you can find points of similarity all the way through; and you can even reconcile many of the obvious differences that the two religions have come to engender."

Dr. Klaus Klostermaier has published numerous academic articles and books, including his own personal story, Hindu and Christian in Vrindaban.

He points out "that Vaishnavaism, like Christianity, is a living religion with millions of adherents. It is numerically the largest segment of modern Hinduism, with a history going back thousands of years. So we are not talking about some small sect (or cult) but, rather, mainstream Hinduism.

"The first point to understand," says Dr. Klostermaier, "is that Vaishnavaism is as pervasive in India as Christianity is in the Western countries. It represents traditional Hinduism and claims to contain all that is genuinely Hindu. So Vishnu worship, or later, the worship of Krishna, is something very much akin to the worship of God or, later, Jesus, in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

The Vedic scriptures teach that one is saved and freed from all sins when he or she becomes the disciple of a divine master.

The guru, or spiritual master, is worshiped as an intermediary between God and man, and willingly suffers for the sins of his or her disciples.

In his commentary on the Srimad Bhagavatam (9.9.5), our spiritual master, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, worshipped worldwide by millions of Hindus as a shaktya-avesha-avatar (an empowered representative of God), explains:

"...the spiritual master, after accepting a disciple, must take charge of that disciple's past sinful activities and...suffer--if not fully, then partially--for the sinful acts of the disciple."

In a letter to his disciples Satsvarupa and Uddhava dated July 27, 1970, Srila Prabhupada wrote:

"...the spiritual master...has got the responsibility of absorbing the sinful reaction of his disciple's life. This is a great responsibility of the spiritual master...To accept disciples means to take up the responsibility of absorbing the sinful reaction of life of the disciple."

Srila Prabhupada similarly wrote to another disciple,"Regarding your question about sufferings of master, you can simply ponder over Lord Christ's crucification." (Letter to Rebatinandan dasa, 12/31/72)

We believe God is one, but that He expands Himself into other Supreme Beings, and still remains one. This is similar to the Trinitarian conception of God in Christianity--a plural Godhead.

On our altars, we worship not just the images of the different incarnations and expansions of God, but also saints in our lineage, sacred rivers, mountains (Govardhan Hill) and plants (Tulasi).

We chant mantras (divine sounds) like the names of God, on beads of prayer, similar to a rosary.

In his 1983 essay "A Jewish Encounter with the Bhagavad-gita," Harold Kasimow discusses ideas "which seem totally incompatible with the Jewish tradition. The most striking example is the doctrine of incarnation, a concept which is as central to the Gita as it is to Christianity. According to the Gita, Krishna is an incarnation (avatar), or appearance of God in human form.

"A study of the Jewish response to the Christian doctrine of incarnation shows that Jews, and I may add, Muslims have not been able to reconcile this idea with their own scriptural notion of God."

Dr. Guy Beck's Ph.D. thesis, Sonic Theology: Hinduism and the Soteriological Function of Sacred Sound examines the doctrine that the Word or divine sounds can have a "salvific" effect.

Examining the Vaishnava practice of chanting God's names upon beads of prayer, he observes:

"...a work from the sixth century AD, entitled the Jayakhya-Samhita, contains...many early references to the practice of japa.

"It says that there are three considerations in doing japa repetitions--employing the rosary (the akshamala), saying the words aloud (vachika) or repeating them in a low voice (upamshu).

"There are quite a few details in this text, garnered from early sources, and so a case can be made for a pre-Islamic, and even pre-Christian, use of beads or rosary in the Vaishnava tradition."

Because the Roman Catholics did not begin using rosary or japa beads until the era of St. Dominic, or the 12th century, Dr. Beck concludes, "the Vaishnavas were chanting japa from very early on."

Jesus began his ministry by teaching the multitudes not to "give what is sacred to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine." (Matthew 7:6)

Dogs, like swine, were considered foul and unclean by the Hebrew people. (Deuteronomy 23:18; I Samuel 24:14; II Kings 8:13; Psalm 22:16,20; Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21; Revelations 22:15)

These words were used by the children of Israel to describe the neighboring heathen populations.

When sending his disciples out to preach, Jesus instructed them not to go to the gentiles, but to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5-6)

When a Canaanite woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, he replied, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel...It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." (Matthew 15:22-28)

Jesus regarded the gentiles as "dogs." His gospel was intended for the Jewish people. Even the apostle Paul admits that the gospel was first intended for the Jews, and that the Jews have every advantage over the gentiles in this regard. (Romans 1:16, 3:1-2)

Christian bigots, please take note: unlike Jesus, we use half a dozen different animal words to describe sinners -- dogs, hogs, crows, camels, asses, etc.--and with reincarnation in mind.

This is quite different from the Judaic use of the word, although St. Peter compares sinners to irrational brute beasts. (II Peter 2:12)

According to the Hindu scriptures, ours is one of many innumerable universes, and all are being repeatedly created and destroyed over vast periods of time -- billions of years.

Carl Sagan noted that while the Christians were thinking of the world being merely thousands of years old, the Mayans were thinking in terms of millions, and the Hindus in terms of billions.

"What extracts from the Vedas I have read fall on me like the light of a higher and purer stratum," wrote Henry David Thoreau in his Journal.

"The religion and philosophy of the Hebrews are those of a wilder and ruder tribe, wanting the civility and intellectual refinements and civility of Vedic culture."

That being said, Hindus are famous for religious tolerance and acceptance of other faiths, other paths to God.

Lowe's recently gave in to pressure from conservative Christians by ceasing to advertise on the reality TV show All-American Muslim, merely because it portrays Muslims as ordinary Americans.

I'm thinking the online commmunity should join with Faithful America and other liberal religious organizations and oppose Lowe's giving in to religious intolerance. The majority of Americans, even in the Bible belt, are not bigots.
Some terrific thought and writing about this issue. It's quite unbelievable how angry it makes FFA to see Muslims that arent what they want them to be.
thx for visiting my blog.
wanted to comment on this particular paragraph
"Lowe’s and Kayak did not kowtow to a fringe extremist group. They did a simple calculation: Are we likely to increase our customer base by advertising on a show about ordinary Muslim Americans, or are we going to lose customers who do not even watch the show because the Muslims portrayed are too ordinary? Are there more Muslims and progressives, or bigots and racists? In Lowe’s calculation, the greater risk was in losing the bigots. "
now, thats what some ppl might be thinking, but its not really fair and just doesnt totally make sense. lowes originally decided to *advertise* on the show and then *yanked* that advertising. to me this is just strong evidence that they were reacting to the controversy over the show. if there had been no christian right controversy over the show, the ads would have been run as planned. therefore, the management is at the same time, paradoxically, progressive yet reactive. sounds weird? but that is in fact how a lot of americans and humans in general work, right?
so if you say there was a "risk in losing the bigots" I think youve got a reason to be angry, but its an extreme statement. more accurately there was a risk in alienating customers who had no dog in the fight, so to speak, and just want to buy home improvement materials without a political firestorm hanging over the situation. so, I say, welcome to the corporatocracy. if people reqd this episode to discover the properties of a corporatocracy, that it is not inherently empathetic, progressive, fair, etc, then I say its a useful public education and I thank lowes for their public service.
Thanks for the comments everyone! I'm not sure yet how to make sure particular ppl see a comment/response (suggestions?) but: @vzn, you make a valid point. I agree Lowe's was reacting to the fuss and perhaps you're right that they just didn't want to be embroiled in any kind of controversy but I still do think they had to have known they were taking a "side" by pulling out.
@Kate, have the book, have not read it. thanks for your comment : )