All-American Muslim

Posted: December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized
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It was a conservative activist group in Florida that organized to put pressure on Lowe’s to pull its sponsorship of a reality television show called All-American Muslim. This group was clearly acting within the bounds of free speech. And they were successful in spooking Lowe’s, which is also free to sponsor whomever they wish to sponsor. On a moral basis, however, both were dead wrong.

I have nothing to say to the Florida group because they are perfectly free to express whatever opinion they happen to have within the boundaries of the law. But I have much to express to Lowe’s. The best way to put it is in a fictional letter:

Dear Lowe’s Management:

You’re one of my favorite companies. If I need it, you’ve probably got it and usually at reasonable prices. Your staff is helpful and our community is better with you than without you. Thank you.

I’m writing about your recent decision to pull sponsorship of the television show All-American Muslim. I’m not a Muslim, but rather an active Christian, and I believe you’ve made a terrible mistake. Let me clarify why.

First, you have bought into unfair characterizations of Islam, painting all Muslims with a very broad brush. The accusation, spoken or unspoken, is that they are, wholesale, a menace, terrorists all, waiting to strike. That is as unfair as painting all Jews or Christians as radical extremists because there happen to be some of those among their ranks. Timothy McVeigh is all of us. Right.

Secondly, you have played into the hands of those who cast the growth of Islam as the great virus, the great growing blob that will take over every other religion and yes, our country. Islam is growing in many parts of the world. For many populations and individuals the claims and expectations of Islam are attractive, and for some life-changing. But in a country as religiously diverse as our own, and a nation that includes some very secular impulses and checks as well, Islam will not gain the foothold you imagine. They will be lucky to establish themselves with some security in order to co-exist with others. Their struggle will not be to take over, but to reach a point where they are not cast as the antagonist in world apocalyptic scenario.

Thirdly, if you have any concern that you would like American Muslims to gather to the mainstream, abide by the gifts and responsibilities offered by a democracy, then you have to draw then into that life. To do so you will need to normalize their presence among us. We will need to understand their values, way of life and religious dimensions. As in All-American Muslim, we will need to listen carefully to the voices of contemporary Muslims as they learn to live with accommodation to culture in the West. All of us, Muslim or not, have to define what we will or will not adopt from the culture around us.

If these are not enough for you then let me be more basic. If we allow certain groups to discount and sideline any religious or cultural group because they somehow have problems with them, then we are all under siege. But it’s not from the Muslims. It’s from those who tell others they don’t have a right to exist in our very diverse democracy. Now that’s dangerous. I may agree with some facets of Islam and disagree with others. But I will fight until the last dog dies to defend their right to practice that faith. Because if we don’t, if we wither way from standing clearly for those who might be persecuted for being different than we are, then we are not a shred better than the ones who first launched the fear-laden rhetoric.

And that, executives of Lowe’s, is why you’ve made a terrible mistake. I think you should say so. It would be a great demonstration of courage for you to say, “We were mistaken. We will stand with all Americans. And yes, that includes the Muslim ones.”

It’s not too late. It really isn’t.

  1. Audrey says:

    It really isn’t too late. In fact it is the perfect time for Lowes to quiet the criticism.

    Sometimes mistakes are a blessing because it allows public discourse. Perhaps this is an opportunity to open up dialog and open up minds and opportunities.

  2. Menina says:

    Your post immediately took me back to 2001 at Rock Bridge when I was teaching in the high school with the Muslim minority (most Muslims sent their children to Rock Bridge because the block schedule accommodates Friday prayer practice without compromising their classroom time).  I watched as these students organized a fund raising dinner to benefit families of 9 11 victims, and year after year served as editors on the award-winning school newspaper, participated in the cultural celebration of Rock Bridge’s Global Village, earned academic and citizenship accolades, and hosted activities at the local mosque for those who do not practice Islam to gain a better understanding of their culture.

    It saddens me more than I can say every time I see that broad brush demonize Islam in the same way its holders have demonized others before:  Mormons, Catholics, Asians, Hispanics, Irish, Indians, Native Americans, African Americans, the poor, the differently abled, the old.  Each of us is only one voice–but we can use that voice for acceptance, compassion, and yes, promoting democratic values that allow for diversity and protect all of us from the potential danger of being singled out and demonized ourselves.

    Thank you for choosing to use your voice.

  3. Vera Rowell says:

    At Daughters of Abraham meeting last week, the Muslim women recommended “An American Muslim”.
    Political Correctness has run so amok! One small group, or in some cases, one loud voice, seems to be getting more hearing these days than all the long history of those of us who have grown toward the understanding of what God desires — treating all his children with respect and dignity. We need to speak up more loudly and more clearly in any venue we can!

  4. Carolyn says:

    Eloquently put as you always do! I say, “Send Lowes the letter.”

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