OK, can we talk here?
Buzz is flying — actually bouncing off the farthest corners of the blogosphere — about Loews, one of America’s top home improvement stores, withdrawing its sponsorship from the TLC reality TV show, "All-American Muslim."
Lowes — the store that exists to help Americans improve their homes; the store that rode the home ownership bubble of the early 2000’s; the store that helps everyday Americans feel like royalty in their own three-bedroom castles; the store where the motto is “never stop improving" that Lowes — issued a statement announcing its withdrawal of ad support from "All-American Muslim" in response to negative feedback they’d received about the show from consumers.
It turns out those consumers were consuming and spitting back out a load of crock from the Florida Family Association (FFA), a radical right-wing hate group. The FFA called the show “propaganda,” claiming that it “riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”
OK, so I watched Episode 3 of "All-American Muslim," set in Dearborn, Mich., home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States. In the third episode, Coach Fouad struggles to get his football team to the state championship game.
After 17 years of coaching without missing a day of practice, Fouad wrestles with whether to miss a practice in order to accept an invitation to President Obama’s Iftar dinner in Washington D.C., during Ramadan.
The other story arcs involved Nader Aoude, a U.S. Federal Agent, and his wife, Nawal, a respiratory therapist, as they join a local Lamaze class in preparation for their son’s birth; while event planner, Nina Bazzy, scouts locations for a new dance club in Dearborn.
If "All-American Muslim" is propaganda for anything, it’s propaganda for the American dream.
But in a recent phone conference with reporters, the show’s cast expressed exasperation at the idea that their show is propaganda of any kind.
“I’ve been coaching for 17 years,” said Coach Fouad, “Mike [Jaafar] has been a police officer for years. This was going on before TLC [The Learning Channel] ever came along. I don’t see how anyone can call this propaganda when it’s just our real lives.”
And that is the most profound thing for me. Lowes pulled its ad dollars from a show that aims to tighten the tapestry we call America because of a faux controversy drummed up by a hate group that said, through its claims of “propaganda," that it's not possible for Muslims to be American.
But the fabric of our nation exists because of the genius of our nation’s founder, who, in the very first amendment to our Constitution, protected the integrity of religion by forbidding the establishment of any one religion as the religion of the state.
In every single society before the founding of our Union, religion and state were married. History has taught us that religion co-opted by the state loses its integrity and its prophetic power.
Ours was a grand experiment that built America into a grand tapestry of ethnic and religious groups that thrive side by side in relative peace—more so than in any other nation in the world.
Speaking to members of the media via phone earlier this week, Mike, the police officer, pointed out that in Dearborn the mosque is peacefully situated in the middle of four churches. This is America.
Shame on Lowes!
The home improvement franchise effectively denied the possibility that an entire segment of our society — our Muslim neighors — might have found its dream in our country.
Maybe that’s why something in me has always preferred Home Depot.
Lisa Sharon Harper is the Director of Mobilizing at Sojourners. She is also co-author of Left, Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics and author of Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican ... or Democrat.