Will Discrimination Backfire?

Image: Ahmed Rehab

Reem recently wrote about the controversy surrounding Lowe’s, the home improvement superstore that caved to Islamophobic pressure from the Florida Family Association (FFA) and pulled its advertising from the reality television show All-American Muslim.

Earlier this week, Jon Stewart and Asif Mandvi of the Daily Show ridiculed the absurdity of the fear many Americans have surrounding Islam and Muslims. In one segment, Stewart criticized the blatant bigotry of the FFA, a fundamentalist activist group, for lobbying American corporations to pull their advertising from All-American Muslim. But that didn’t stop kayak.com from following the lead of Lowe’s and pulling their ad campaign from the show this past Wednesday, days after the controversy made international news. In fact, according to the FFA, 65 advertisers targeted by mass email complaints have withdrawn funding from the December 11 show.

When asked by a Fox News correspondent about scenes advancing “Islamic fundamentalism,” David Caton, Executive Director of the FFA said, “It’s the absence of the radical side of the proposition of Shariah Law that is most concerning.” By Caton’s logic, peaceful, patriotic Muslim-Americans are a minority. He believes violence and hate to be the norm among Muslims everywhere and sees the spreading of Islam as a threat to all of humanity.

There’s nothing subtle about Caton and the FFA’s hateful ignorance and bigotry towards Islam and Muslims, but Lowe’s is slightly more nuanced in its defense of what are fundamentally shameful, discriminatory practices. Lowe’s Vice President Chris Ahearn said, “Our decision was not political, it was not social in any way. We just knew that it was a controversial program, and we wanted to reach consumers, and a controversial program is not a great place to do that.”Apparently, a reality show about a police officer, football coach, and newlyweds is controversial or a “lightening rod” as top executives have said.

Stewart points out that Lowe’s still advertises on TLC, during programs such as Toddlers and Tiaras, an incredibly controversial program that features little girls competing in beauty pageants. Some parents on the program have even outfitted their scantily clad four-year-old daughters with breast padding in order to more aggressively compete for the pageant prize. So apparently Lowe’s is more comfortable with shows that border on pedophilia and send inappropriate messages about sex to children by nearly anyone’s standards, than they are with advertising during a relatively boring reality television show following the lives of Muslim-Americans in Michigan.

Fortunately, the behavior of Lowe’s and other corporations who have reportedly pulled their advertising from All-American Muslim has been noticed and criticized by the media all around the world. And the most likely outcome, not unlike what followed other hateful initiatives led by the FFA, is that even more Americans will realize the absurdity and disgusting nature of Islamophobia. Lowe’s will lose money, TLC will profit, and an attempt to invoke fear will end up serving as an educational tool for millions of people.

Can large-scale discrimination actually lead to a countering of inequality and hatred, since these very public acts highlight the discrepancy between the ideals and actions of Americans? Will businesses become more cognizant of their portrayals of Islam and Muslims following the latest events? Will the Lowe’s controversy signify the peak of intolerance towards Muslims, or will Islamophobia continue to gain steam?

2 thoughts on “Will Discrimination Backfire?

  1. Alhamdulillah, they plot and they plan, but Allah is the best of planners.
    First real contact I had with Islam was when I purchased a copy of yusuf Ali’s translation of the qur’an so that I could understand how my, then “enemies,” thought. It took a while, but eventually I saw the truth and accepted Islam. Inshallah, many more people will accept Islam because of this.

  2. I think the All-American Muslim show is helping show that Muslims are humans like everybody else. They are a diverse group of people going about their life in different ways, some are religious others are not, in the same way that Americans of other religions deal with their religion. But the Lowe’s controversy shows that there are groups of Americans who want to demonize ALL Muslims and are ready to fight any effort that tries to show real life Muslims as ordinary people.