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Let’s Face it: It’s the Radical Right, not Islam, that is the Greatest Threat to the American Way

12 December 2011 General 17 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

by Ahmed Rehab

Imagine if a major American advertiser were to pull its ads off of Jersey Shore because they received objections that the show while portraying a group of Italian-Americans, made the glaring error of excluding Mafiosi.

Imagine if the absence of characters “whacking knee caps” and “making offers you cannot refuse” was deemed as an “omission” and therefore pro-Italian propaganda, and as a result too controversial to sponsor.

Pathetic? Incredulous?

Well imagine no more.

Such is the pitiful state that Islamophobia has reached in this country, and it’s very real.

All-American Muslim is an American reality show like any other. It portrays the trials and travails of five Michigan families with typical reality show themes like marriage, birth, business, faith, food and of course drama queens.

There is one problem however, at least for the Florida Family Association:  the characters in the show are American Muslims.

The Florida Family Association got its members to send in dozens of emails to the show’s advertisers based on a pre-written template that stated in part:

“The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to the liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.”

So basically, their objection is that the show is portraying “ordinary Muslims” as – you may need to sit down for this – “ordinary Muslims”! Of course this runs the risk that unsuspecting Americans may come to view their ordinary Muslim neighbors as ordinary. According to this Florida group of nuts, this would be a travesty that American corporations must not contribute to.

We are more or less used to the unfortunate fact that there are anti-Muslim loons lurking about out there. There’s the burn-a-Quran-day pastor from Florida, there’s the group from Florida that tried to ban a Muslim professor from the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission because he was Muslim, and there’s that guy who tried to organize against Muslim family day at a Six Flags Texas theme park in Texas. Yes, yes, he was from Florida.

But what is real cause for alarm is the creeping influence of Islamophobia into mainstream American politics and culture.  From the Peter King radicalization hearings that use taxpayer funds to put mainstream American Muslims and their institutions on mock trial, to the frequent anti-Muslim rantings of the Congressman from Florida, Allen “Islam is not really a religion” West all the way to presidential hopeful Newt “Palestinians don’t really exist” Gingrich. And now, we have the weak-kneed primetime corporate sponsors.

That a group of extremists from Florida would exercise their first amendment right to carry out bigoted campaigns is unfortunate but not all that shocking. That 65 out of 67 advertisers (according to the Florida Family Association’s website of which only Lowe’s is independently confirmed) would capitulate to their nonsensical complaints that “ordinary Muslims are being portrayed as ordinary” is an alarming new milestone in the mainstreaming of bigotry in this country. For that reason, it ought to catch the attention of Americans who, for far too long, have stayed on the sidelines of the Islamophobia horror picture show.

Lowe’s admitted that they cut their ads short as a result of the emails they were receiving and after reviewing some websites and blogs out there (in the “bigotosphere”). Lowe’s is not just a tool in the hands of the far right, it’s the entire hardware store.

What Lowe’s is essentially saying by choosing to pull its sponsorship is that NOT portraying American Muslims as terrorists is just, well, too controversial for its brand:

“We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance. We strongly support and respect the right of our customers, the community at large, and our employees to have different views. If we have made anyone question that commitment, we apologize.”

Lowe’s is putting forth a very dangerous argument: that the far right bigots and the mainstream Muslim voices with their pro-tolerance allies of all faiths are equal opposites; that those who wish to humanize a faith community that comprises 25% of humanity and those who wish to demonize them are equal opposites; that the forces of bigotry and the forces of anti-bigotry are equal opposites. The pervasive assumption that there is a moral equivalency between the two sparring sides is a major factor in the rise of Islamophobia in the US. But Lowe’s goes further than to claim moral equivalency. It actually takes sides, the wrong side: the side of the bigots.

The running complaint used to be that Muslims are always portrayed as terrorists. But now, the message being sent is that “not portraying American Muslims as terrorists” is sufficient for complaint and controversy. It’s moving the goal posts to a dangerous new “lowe”.

There are three lessons to be extracted from this episode:

First, it is a confirmation of what we have been stating all along:  Islamophobia is not merely a reaction to terrorism or radical ideologies (which would have been a welcome exercise), but, in fact, it is a form of bigotry that targets an entire faith community: the religion of Islam itself and its mainstream practitioners.

Second, Islamophobia is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s sort of like “we hate you because you are terrorists, but when you’re not terrorists, we want you to be terrorists so we can hate you.” In the case of American Muslim leaders and organizations, the line is “we hate you because you are terror-linked, but when you’re not, we need you to be terror-linked so we can hate you.”

Third, Islamophobia is but a smokescreen, a projection of sorts. We are often told that Muslims are trying to Islamize America and institute Islamic Shariah law (“Sharrorize” America as Imam Suhaib Webb puts it). We are told that the less than 1% of American Muslims is but a fifth column who is here to take over and subjugate the remaining 99% plus. Setting aside the obvious ludicrousness of the claim for a second, ask yourself when was the last time American Muslims organized to pull advertisements off the air from shows that do not conform with their faith values (and trust me there are many)? Our organizing campaigns are themed around anti-bigotry and social justice, not the imposition of our faith.

To the contrary, it is the Christian right, the same folks who comprise many of the leading anti-Muslim alarmists, groups like the Florida Family Association (and trust me there are many) that are time and again organizing to force their way of thinking on other Americans. A quick visit to their website shows that this is not the first time they have successfully harassed advertisers for advertising on shows that do not conform to their ideology. They’ve targeted gays, sexually liberal shows, and others they disagree with.

It is not a coincidence that the organized Islamophobia networks in this country often include the same people who are trying to force-feed the Bible into government, schools, and public life.

And so comes the most important realization:

The organized American Muslim community’s agenda is in fact a social justice agenda. Any objective scrutiny of our organizations, campaigns, projects, and discourse reveals that this is widely and consistently the case.

On the other hand, as I already mentioned, you will find that it is it is none other than the far right that is out to force their narrowly conceived socio-religious ideology and way of life on Americans.

They conveniently promulgate the whole Islamist supremacist takeover fantasy and the Shariah scare as a divergence, a distraction, a smokescreen.

Projection is the name of the game.

They often use soft namesakes like “family” and “freedom” to give the impression of docility, and they inundate their websites and blogs with American flags and eagles to give the impression that they are the tried and true patriotic Americans who are best poised to speak for the majority.

They are not the majority, but they are not less than 1% either. They are in the millions, have access to billions of dollars, and have sufficiently organized at both the grassroots level and onas well as the internet in recent years to start to flex some muscle. (It is often stated that if fascism were to ever come to America, it would be wrapped in the US flag and bearing a cross.)

There is a ray of light. More Americans are beginning to wake up to the Islamophobia disease and the attempts at divergence from the real threat to our freedoms and democracy.

A year ago, the scorching Park51 controversy, while contrived and sensationalized at the end of the day, failed to impress the media or the public. In the case of the Lowe’s controversy, Americans are joining hands in speaking out against bigotry. Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish groups, as well as notable individuals, including 2010 Spirit of Anne Frank awardee Anya Cordell, California State Senator Ted Lieu, music mogul Russell Simmons, actress Mia Farrow, and several other celebrities, have come out strongly to say “enough is enough.”

For Lowe’s and other companies that gave in to bigotry, the choice is simple: own up to your error and do the right thing – or risk being chalked up on the wrong side of history (not to mention the wrong side of an impending boycott).


  1. I wonder if these Islamophobes refuse to watch movies with Ice Cube and refuse to listen to Snoop. After all, they are both Muslim. Eve is Muslim. Many famous people have reverted/converted to Islam. So do they call on places to refuse hosting concerts of these Muslims. Afterall, Snoop, Eve, Ice Cube and the others MUST be terrorists because they’re Muslim!

  2. Well, Judaism and Islam are different.
    While Judaism applies to Jews only and any Jew can leave Judaism if he/she wishes, Islam seeks to spread Sharia to all people. This is clearly the aim specified in Quran.
    Also, Muslims are not allowed to leave Islam.

    Jews, as ridiculous as they may be with their rituals and silly clothing, do not present a danger to non-Jews. Islam on the other hand does.

    Therefore fear of Islam is rational, and is not a phobia. A fear of Jews is irrational, and therefore the term “Judeaphobia” has more meaning than the term “Islamophobia”

  3. Once again all the Muslims were happy when the conferences in Tennesse were cancelled simply because they did not like what was going to be said in the conference. Now a group is trying to muzzle Muslims in a similar (not the same) way because they do not like the message the Muslims are going to send out. It is the same problem just different sides of the issue. It is why we need to support freedom of speech and not protest the venue of the speech one dislikes but simply protest and provide counter points to said speech.

    As to Snoop, Eve, and Ice Cube if they are Muslim I would not be touting it. Famous or not they are not a credit to any religion unless it worships profanity and sex.

  4. Again, above, we see an Islamophobe run for the “free speech” argument. Where was criley401 in the 1960s civil rights boycotts and a few years ago when Don Imus also faced a boycott? There is a difference between private individuals and groups – and the heavy hand of government. When Muslims and those of us who support their struggle against hate take action that blacks and Jews have taken against hate speech – there is some “plot against free speech.”

    I do believe that hate speech should be rebuked by governments when individuals with notoriety are spreading myths about a minority group (Wilders and the Islamisation myth) – and in absence of an equal forum to rebuke such myths. However – this is not one of those instances.

    Also – where was criley401 when the Dutch media outlet was forced to take down a cartoon depicting Wilders as a Nazi camp guard?

    Where the right-wing is most dangerous is its closeness these days to governments. For one, Islamophobia and its spread on both sides of the Atlantic is well funded and has the tacit support of the mass media. How many right-wing extremists have been found to be on the “no fly” lists? As we are finding out in Germany, the German government may have known about the terrorist cell that perpetrated the “Donor killings.” Terrorism against Muslim and minority communities is acceptable because Muslim and minority communities are viewed as less deserving of equal police services that others.

    The right-wing is dangerous for the reason that they have more rights and tacit support of governments on both sides of the Atlantic. We need to challenge the power structure of the right-wing and its members in governments. It is time we FIGHT BACK!

  5. I think the problem started back in the 80s-90s when speakers in mosques and at muslim events were freely speaking of their desires to take over the country, praising and supporting violence.

    It is useless to pretend that there is not a large percentage of muslims who support the wreck of any society and legal system except the islamic.

    Islam is a theocratic project that wants to stamp out everything and everybody else, something whcih muslim societies demonstrate on a daily basis.

    Of course not all muslims are involved in this, but it certainly is the grand aim of Islam to destroy everything else, just as it is the grand aim of Christianity to make everyone a Christian.

    Fortunately for the peace of the world most people do not leave the house every morning on a quest to convert everyone or subjugate the kuffar.

  6. I am afraid in the 60s I was running around playing tag and catching bugs. As to the Nazi cartoon I missed that one but I would have come down on the side of the magazine. As to government clampdowns on speech, I am not in favor of them unless they call for people to be hurt or property to be damaged. Someday I may want to speak out against a group and I want to be free to speak my mind without fear of arrest/harrassment or having to worry when I cross that hate speech line. Who knows I may even hate the group I am disparaging but what should that matter so long as I maintain the peace and follow political means to achieve my goals. In regards to the term Islamaphobe, labeling someone that name because you do not like what they have to say weakens the meaning and effect of the term.

  7. Get that creepy Dalia Mogahed, who just loves the sharia and dreams of the perfect Islamic state, and who would never dirty her fignernails with violence, just has utopian delusions dripping from every pore – get her out of the White House.

  8. Ads WERE pulled from Jersey Shore. There was also an organized effort by a group lead by former Obama official and “truther” Van Jones to get advertisers to drop Glenn Beck’s show on FOX.So this is nothing new. It is not at all unusual for companies to drop ads from shows that spark controversy. Companies are in the business of making money and have to appeal to the larger population, they do not want to be involved with controversy.The only thing these attacks on LOWES will do is ensure that large corporation distance themselves from anything associated with Islam.Because of the problems both pro and con associated with Islam. Problems that do not exist with any other religion.

  9. In that case, should the laws against Holocaust denial be lifted? No one said that the “average Joe” who cries that there are too many mosques in his city would face sanctions for hate speech. The sanctions would be against public figures that use the mass media to spread myths about a minority group. This is what Geert Wilders does – spread myths about Muslims that there is NO truth too. This is hate speech and inciting hate. We must realize that mass media and its effects on the public opinion are so great that any “free speech” claims must fall to the dangers posed.

    Islamophobia is a social scientific term that has been defined in social scientific literature. The person that has Islamophobic leanings is an Islamophobe. The term “Islamophobe” is not a name, but defines, then, a person with Islamophobic leaning. I have defined the term in an acceptable social scientific manner in this essay here:

    “a largely social anxiety toward Islam and Muslim communities that manifests itself as an often an irrational fear and hate of the presence of Islam and Muslims in Europe that is shown in speech, images, actions and public policy directed against European Muslims.”

    Also, any attempt by a “political party” to come to power for the purpose of bring about anti-democratic, policies that violate the human rights of especially minority groups should be prevented from competing in the political arena altogether. A “political party” that seeks such policies of chaning the national constitution to “make Muslims second class citizens” should not be allowed on any political ballot. Any “political party” calling itself an “anti-Islam plitical party” is a threat to the free and democratic order of that nation. Germany has such policies (for obvious historical reasons) and any political party that threatens the constitutional order can face being banned. This is a right policy of Defensive Democracy and the nation now under threat to the West of Germany has no such constitutional protections.

  10. It is useless to pretend that there is not a large percentage of muslims who support the wreck of any society and legal system except the islamic.

  11. “a largely social anxiety toward Islam and Muslim communities that manifests itself as an often an irrational fear and hate of the presence of Islam and Muslims in Europe that is shown in speech, images, actions and public policy directed against European Muslims??”

    Islamophobia is a misnomer for most except for minorities living in the Middle East (countries dominated by Islam). Minorities have strong reasons to fear Islam. But in the free world, the correct term is Islamovigilant–ever watchful of trouble or danger.

  12. How terribly distasteful it is to compare Jewish persecution in 1930’s Europe to a corporate sponsor pulling their ads from a Muslim reality TV show.

  13. Wow! Ignorance a plenty here. Islamophobia is real. Not only does it exist, but it is organized and funded. As a Muslim, it is my duty to invite people to Islam. It is not my responsibility that they become Muslim. There is no coercion in religion (Quran 2:256). But if I don’t invite you and explain (as much as I can) about Islam and its final message from God, then how can I show my face to God after I am gone. It’s up to you and God for you to see the truth of Islam, not me. More importantly, how am I doing anything different from anyone with a good idea? If you have a good technology, don’t you try to teach others about it? If you want to start a social movement (like Occupy Wall Street for example), don’t you have to tell someone about it…spread the word? Don’t Christians talk to non-Christians and explain their faith? I’m doing the same thing. I love my country, but we have a lot of problems in our country and if Islam has answers (social justice, equal rights under the law, rights for women 1400 years before women got their rights in our country, family values, no to drug abuse, for example), then there is a lot of good that Islam brings to the table. As long as you are not misled by right wing bigots and look at things in an objective manner (meaning you actually look at Islam, the faith, not fringe Muslims or culture in specific countries), you will benefit. There is a breed of Muslims in the U.S. that will not back down. Muslims that were born here and are growing up here. We are educated and we love our country. America is a part of our souls and so is Islam. We want our country to be great again. We want to improve our standing in the world. Freedom, equality, protected rights for all, justice, brotherhood are not just American qualities, they are the principles of Sharia and Islam as well. I’m sick of being demonized by these right wing fools. So when a company like Lowe’s gives in to these nutjobs, I will speak up and demand an explanation and when their explanation does not satisfy me or any reasonable American, then I will shut them down through boycotts so that they never commit such an idiotic act again. Strong comments, yes. But someone has to speak the truth.

  14. Yes, fazalk someone has to speak the truth.

    You cannot force a company to buy advertising.

    If Islam has any good ideas let them be demonstrated first in countries where muslims are a majority. What revolting legalisms are going on in those places, do not tell us it is the work of a violent fringe. Women’s rights my foot.

    There is a giant theocratic delusion going on, similar to the communist and/or nazi delusions of superiority and utopianism. I am sick of being threatened by these deluded fools.

  15. Fazalk, that is what Christians in Muslims countries want to do. They want to present their religion and explain what it is about but to do so in most Islamic countries means arrest and for a Muslim to convert can mean their death. Anon has a point; it would be nice if Islamic values were demonstrated in Islamic Countries. As it stands now it is the Islamic countries themselves that seem to be giving Islam a bad name as they show none of the tolerence or peaceful affect that Muslims want to tout.

  16. It’s the tiny minority of extremists who hijacked the religion, apparently brainwashed her scholars for over 14 centuries and are in charge of numerous Muslim majority nations where religious minorities experience institutionalized discrimination.

  17. Not all christians/right-wingers are islamophobic. Infact, to be perfectly honest I have not heard them talk bad about islam or it’s religion. The people I have heard talking bad about it are the atheists, but the thing is most of the atheists are the radical left. I have seen them putting down Christian, Islam and Muslim religions. Some of them even said Muslims were horrible. Did I give them a piece of my mind You bet I did. I am tired of hearing lies from the atheist left wing fools about how religion is bad and all three of these are pretty bad religions. If they don’t like it. Fine, but don’t lie about it. As long as we know the truth about religion, that’s all that counts.

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