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All-American Muslim Receives Anti-American Backlash

December 13, 2011, 2:52 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli
Cast of All-American Muslim

The cast of All-American Muslim

When All-American Muslim — TLC’s reality show following Muslim families as they go about their daily lives in Dearborn, Michigan — launched, we celebrated the show as an important example of how to put into practice research about combating stereotypes.

Namely, the research found that the “introduction of positive images of ‘out-groups’ does indeed lower levels of fear of the other” and helps “re-hardwire” the brain away from negative stereotypes.

All-American Muslim, which shows Muslim families experiencing the same types of challenges and successes as all families, has been doing just that — helping to present a new narrative about American Muslims that can counter the harmful one propagated by anti-Islam extremists over the last few years.

Unsurprisingly, these extremists are decrying the show for only featuring peaceful, non-terrorist characters because it exposes their fringe conspiracy theories for what they really are. One group, the Florida Family Association, has even gone so far as to pressure the show’s advertisers to pull their support.

In a sign of just how weak-kneed corporations can be in response to even a hint of right-wing backlash, the FFA (which appears to be just one activist with a few thousand email addresses) claims to have succeeded in provoking over 60 companies to pull their ads — most prominently the hardware giant Lowe’s.

Now finding deserved backlash against that decision, Lowe’s released a statement attempting to explain that they only pulled the ads after the show became “a lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives.”

To put it nicely, that’s a load of baloney. Imagine if a white supremacist group had run the same campaign targeting advertisers of The Cosby Show, complaining that it dangerously misled the public because it didn’t feature any black drug dealers or gang members. Would any company in its right mind think it acceptable to cave to racist pressure while defending its “strong commitment to diversity and inclusion”? Of course not.

As Alyssa Rosenberg points out:

This isn’t a defense of deeply-held values. This is a dodge of having any deeply-held or defensible values at all. I would really love to know which of these perspectives advocated by All-American Muslim are so radioactive and controversial that a company can’t be associated with them.

In some ways, there’s real opportunity in this moment. First, the controversy will likely inspire more people to watch the show and judge for themselves. But more importantly, it’s time we have a real conversation in this country about what’s been happening with anti-Muslim rhetoric over the last few years.

So far, the extremists have managed to launder their radicalism through “mainstream” spokespeople (see King, Peter), legislation that dog-whistles to their base while hiding the conspiracy theories behind it (state bans on “foreign law”), and public “controversies” that advance their frames and assumptions (the “Ground Zero Mosque”).

Starting with images of the vivid truth about Muslim-American families is the perfect place for voices of respect and sanity to start fighting back. The Florida Family Association is right about one thing, you’re either with them or against them. It’s time for American corporate, political and social leaders to make their choice.

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