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Wednesday
Dec142011

And then there's the Lowe's "thing."

Have you heard of the Florida Family Association?

Not linking because I don't want to, as my Abrahamic brothers and sisters might say, 'get their schmutz' all over my blog.

When you hear about people writing letters or e-mails to a company (Disney, Mars) because they're "promoting" homosexuality or Islamic Sharia Law, you're most likely reading a campaign initiated by the Florida Family Association. Recently, the FFA succeeded in getting Lowe's to pull advertising from TLC's new show "All American Muslim," because:
Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show.

I may be super sensitive, but here's what I read:
Clearly this program is trying to demonstrate that these people are real human beings like you and me and that kind of bullshit is going to seriously deter our plans of sending their children to gas chambers.

Dramatic?  Maybe. I'm not making light of the Holocaust here... I'm serious.  I see stuff like this and I get worried.

Humor me while I tell you something that you might know already.

Jihad doesn't mean "holy war."  It means "struggle."

I wear a headscarf, now.  Like a scarf.  On my head.  That other people can see. I do this only because I am Muslim. Okay, I also do it a tiny bit because I'm too tired to blow dry my hair, but too vain to own that. Shh, let's keep that to ourselves.


I walk outside into Memphis, Tennessee where quite often not a single other person is wearing anything remotely similar.  Most people stare at me. I look them right in the eye, hold my head up high, smile as warmly as possible and I say, "Hello, How are you doing?!"  But, like the song says, what I'm really saying is "I love you."

Wearing the scarf is not a jihad for me. Having compassion for the heart of the person that is staring at me is my jihad.

Getting offended is easy, engaging in an act of friendship when you see fear in another person's eyes is a struggle. This is why I didn't wear a hijab (that's Muslim for 'headscarf') for many years.  While I've always had the courage to be different, I've not always had the courage to be compassionate to those who were affronted by difference.

When people protested about the "ground zero" mosque, there were well reasoned rationalizations for why they protested.  I gave people a safe place to openly discuss that. I listened.

Then, when the guy in Florida threatened to burn a Quran, I said, oh come on, don't give that guy any attention, he's just a crazy seeking the limelight... look over here at all the goodness.

And then the French banned the wearing of face veils, and I patiently sided with my sisters and explained the veil in its proper context.

After that, Muslim families were asked to leave planes for looking too Muslim and, honestly,I kind of shut down after that. Because hi, home, hit too close to.

Now, a company will not advertise on a program called "All American Muslim" because  some fringey group in Florida thinks it's a bid for marketing Islamic Shariah and, oh, let's just tack on it does not meet the level of programming that "Sister Wives" does.

I don't like the show all that much and I've discussed that it's not entirely representative of Muslims. If Lowe's had decided to stop advertising because the show was stupid, that's okay. But that's not why they stopped.  And that is not okay.

It took me a while to write about this because I'm tired of writing about this.  I also feel that many will assume that I'm just speaking up for my own, when I'm speaking up for all of us.

For you and me... so that we don't become something terrible and tragic. I seem dramatic, because, well it is dramatic.

Still.  I have faith.

We're all going to do what we can.

I've e-mailed Lowe's, signed a petition, written this post and smiled at people.

Do you mind sharing with each other what you're going to do?

Reader Comments (71)

Well, just FYI... I live in Greenwood, MS which is only a stone's throw from Memphis and occasionally I go to Memphis and if I see your scarved self walking down the street, I am going to run screaming into your arms, "FAIQA!!!!!" Thought I should let you know so you won't have to duck for cover.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin O'Bryant

Seriously, I haven't seen the show and I've heard the same criticisms you have. But the ridiculous fear and hatred? Yep, heard about that. This Florida Family Bull Shiz...UGH. It's ridonkulous. I hate that my kid, whose best friend is Muslim, is going to see his friend become the object of hatred or fear. It sucks. Big hairy ones.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Domestic Goddess

A few nights ago one of my high school friends mentioned boycotting Lowe's on Facebook. Another friend said that he would watch the show now just because of the controversy. I wasn't sure about what I would do. Boycott is always my go-to place. And then you posted the link for the petition on Facebook. Didn't even have to think about it.

And your Holocaust reference? Not overly dramatic to me. It started over ten years ago when I read a piece written by Gore Vidal in Vanity Fair about the decay of civil liberties. This was pre-9/11. He basically said, "They are trying to take away your voices and if you don't speak up now, it will be too late." And huh. In just writing these words, I think I now understand what the Occupy movement means to me. All of this? It's about not speaking up if you don't fit into the mold of what someone else thinks everyone else should be. Thing is to me this is the linchpin of this country's foundation. If we don't all have a voice, well then we have lost it all.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKailyn

I quacked in outrage, tweeted, facebooked, @'ed Lowes, and went to their facebook page to record my comment on their lame explanation. So frustratingly stupid.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob

Signed.
Florida Family Association - pffft. As a general rule, I bristle at any group of people who try and decide for everyone else *anything*. I'm glad you didn't link to them.
I am really sick of this shit, though.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSybil Law

I'm so sorry, honey. I'm so embarrassed of OUR countrymen, and tempted to be in so much despair and defeat. But we CAN'T. We CAN'T be defeated. This is too important. I know you're tired, and I would rock you if I were with you. But WE can't quit now.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNanna

So I don't go as far you your quote, but I agree with your take: "Clearly this program is trying to demonstrate that these people are real human beings like you and me..."

The Daily Show had two biting and witty pieces on this last night. I should go back and watch the actual ABC source interview with Canton from FFA, but it did sound like the guy took issue with the fact that the show presents Muslims as just regular folk.

WTF? This is a bad thing?!

I think I'm going to have nightmares tonight.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkim/reluctant renovator

I wish these pathetic organizations would actually name themselves something that reflects who they really are. Because "Florida Family Association" implies that they are concerned about ALL families when, in fact, that is a total lie. They are the "Florida Non-Christian-Families-Need-Not-Apply Association."

Keep the faith, my friend.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave2

I got into it with a coworker today because of this and ended up calling him a bourgeois prince because he just doesn't get it. To him, it doesn't affect him personally so he doesn't care. It started off as a conversation about why I won't fly Southwest and I mentioned Lowe's and he started off his sentence with "I know some Muslims are just like you and me but.." and I told him we were done talking because I couldn't afford to have my head explode at the office. It infuriates me that people are like this, and I can't even begin how it makes you feel. I just want to tell them about my beautiful friend Faiqa and ask how they can dare to treat her as anything but the brilliant, caring person she is, and that you're not the exception or the One Perfect Muslim, you're actually part of the majority, and I'm sorry, I know you're not the Voice of All Muslims but you are the first one I think of when I hear jackassery like that because I think of how I would feel if someone said that to you and how I'd have to punch them right in the face. And now maybe I better go to bed before I run-on sentence rampage some more. Sorry for that.

December 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I know I confuse a lot of my friends in the South, my 13 year-old daughter notwithstanding. On one hand, I "came out" a few years ago about being an atheist. Not just nonreligious or ambivalent (which I had always been), but a proud, Secular Humanist and unashamed atheist. With this out of the way I am much less restrained in my open criticism for religious fundamentalism. Most of this is directed at Christian (fundamentalists) because well, that's the world I live in. The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Wiccans in my country aren't typically trying to impose anything on me.

On the other hand, I see so much hate, vitriol, and downright intolerant arrogance directed - no - flung at Muslims in general that it makes me want to scream. I find myself constantly and fervently defending Muslims against attacks from people who are taught to fear everything that they don't understand, and encouraged not to bother trying to.

It's odd not because I'm at all embarrassed to defend Islam or any other faith, but because of the different ways some people must see me depending on which angle they are coming from. It's as if I am a prism, refracting light in different directions according to their wavelengths.

The core of it is that most people are comfortable saying that they do not have all of the answers to life. I understand that everyone seeks those answers in the manner of their choosing. Fundamentalism, whether based in faith or lack therof, only seeks to remove that choice. In that regard I guess you could say I am "pro-choice."

It is my personal belief that any philosophy which must be forced on others in order to survive is not worthy of respect.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebTurtle

Jared and I agreed immediately that we won't be shopping at Lowe's. Yes, they have a right in a capitalist society to advertise where they see fit, and I have a right in a capitalist society to spend my money where I want. I will NOT support bigotry or those who are swayed by bigots.

I signed the petition, because you asked.

And I will continue to tell as many people as will listen about what I've learned about American Muslims from you and your family. I know that makes us the token white girl with the token brown girl friend, but I don't care. Our families -- mine and yours (with a little of Shiny's mixed in -- are America and I'm perfectly OK with showing that around as much as possible.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Britt

I don't even know where to start. I've typed four different openings for this comment and still can't seem to form one rational thought in response to this kind of obtuse vitriol.

Yesterday my Palestinian friend at work, Hatem, was washing up at the end of the day next to me and laughed "hey Gingrich says we were invented." He thought it was hilarious. I didn't. I was ashamed.

Should I ask my friend Monsoor how he missed the memo about all this subversive activity, and convince him to move his son out of the University of Chicago (where he is surrounded by Nobel laureates) and get him into the nearest subterranean madrassa, coming soon to a neighborhood near you?

Do I tell the kindly Algerian woman and her father in that halal chicken place up the road that I can't stop by any more because her chicken and rice is turning me into a marabout (yes, Faiqa, we have a halal fast food chicken place up. What the HECK are you doing in... hahahahaha... Memphis)?

What about the guy who happily gave me a beautiful - free - hardbound copy (just because I wondered out loud about what it would be like to read, of Abdullah Yusuf Ali's English "explanation" of the Qur'an)? Am I supposed to give it back to him and say "ah-HAH you can't trick ME. I know your game! Mwa ha ha..."?

What about those two Lebanese guys, born into Muslim families, who are committed atheists? Are the tricking me into thinking Islam isn't a monolith and one day they show up at my door with scimitars and demand I stop eating pork chops?

I am taught, in my faith tradition (considered a "heretic" modality by other "Christians") to try and find "that of God" in everyone. I am trying to find it in those folks in Florida but I swear to you, Faiqa, they are keeping it pretty well buried. I may have to stare into their hearts a long, long time.

I've found that Islam is not a monolith because NOTHING is. How can I possibly teach that to people? I am at a loss.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRW

Miss Britt directed me here - I've never met you, I don't believe, Faiqa, and I obviously can't begin to imagine walking in your shoes, or in your headscarf as the case might be. So I can say, in all honesty, that people are stupid :) Even my own SON - born pre-9/11 - holds ridiculous attitudes towards anyone who is different, and it DRIVES ME BONKERS! People are stupid - my own son is stupid - because they're not willing to see anything but their own fear. I'm sorry that this is the way of life for ANY human, particularly my SON - because I'm not sure anything ... oh wait, maybe I'll have HIM watch the tv show? Maybe that'll show him that not all muslims are trying to blow the world up - that in fact, they're loving, friendly people just trying to LIVE. Maybe that's what the FFA is afraid of - that they'll lose more converts LOL I haven't seen the show either - but I won't shop at Lowe's, because if they let this silly, hate-filled group control their decisions, who is next? WHAT IS NEXT?

I know it gets tiring always pointing out to the masses the wrongs all the time (oh that hits close to home for me with the whole special needs things) but someone has to do it so those of us that can learn something have the opportunity to do so. Thank you for being that person for me today.

I've not watch the show, or heard about the Florida gang regarding this, but it bothers me so when a small group decides for the rest of us who can and can't watch something and it bothers me when a retailer caves to the wrong kind of pressure.

Thanks for sharing.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulia Roberts

Oh Faiqa. Thank you for sharing this.

I wish I could give you a gigantic hug right now. With bonus Margaritas.

You're a badass.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

Well said. I am reminded of something I read in "Failed God", by John Rush (a great read, not just for atheists). Essentially, if getting others to believe in your religion requires the threat of violence or death, there is something inherently wrong in your beliefs.
I am saddened that a small group of pinheads can have that much influence on Lowes.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Faiqa, as usual, you said this so beautifully. I honestly don't get how people can be so stupid and hateful and still sleep at night.

I signed the petition and I'm going to share this post with everyone I know.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdonna

WHAT YOU SAID! Especially, !!
A very dear missionary friend, an Oblate priest who married us and led us for a time to become lay missionaries in the Canadian arctic, taught us to see "that of God" in everyone!
Who, but God, can see what's in people's hearts?
At that goes for those who believe Romney would be a bad president because he's LDS! Actually, I think being republican would preclude anyone from being a decent president, but then, who am I, I'm Canadian.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMomma

Sharing this on FB and later on today on my blog. This is so well written. This whole thing is ridiculous. Love you and this post. Keep on.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy - Hamlet's Mistress

Beautifully said. I wish you many smiles back at you, and I also wish for people to really examine their own hearts and not buy into the fear-mongering.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterValerie Crescenz

I'm just glad that I don't have organized groups threatening to boycott my business if I do one thing, then other groups threatening to boycott my business if I do another. It's hard enough running a business without everyone telling you how to do it.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOliver Holler

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

I am just one person, just like you are one person. But you have a gift with words, and your words can reach many people.

And if I share your words with others; and they share your words, pretty soon this nation should become wiser. (one can hope)

We don't shop at Lowe's - they are free to do business in a manner that they choose, but I am free to decide how to spend my money, and it won't be with them.

Off to share your words with others... please keep writing, you can't let evil triumph by doing nothing.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfantastagirl

This is some ignorant bullshit. I love you. Keep standing up & loving. You're making a difference.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Plemmons

I'm in agreement with you on this stupid protest and the fact that Lowe's bowed to pressure is ridiculous. I dislike you wearing a hijab for other reasons that make me feel like you are giving in to patriarchy and an anti-feminist cultural requirement, but I respect that you wear it proudly.

I didn't normally shop at Lowe's before because I've always preferred Home Depot, but now I'm definitely going to shy away. Unless they have a really good deal on a washer/dryer, better than that Appliance Direct guy.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable

Do I get to feel superior because I signed that petition a couple of days ago? No? Fine.

What will I do? First, Lowes is dead to me. Second, I will always smile at the lovely ladies I come across who are wearing hijab (which happens fairly often, so it's not an empty promise). They'll probably think I'm crazy, but hopefully in a good way. And third, I will teach my son that people are people, no matter what.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Faiqa, I agree with you. Fear mongering is not acceptable. Promoting an unwillingness to understand is completely wrong. I know you know that I don't think that each individual human being is necessarily capable of letting go of their fears regarding 'different.' However, for anyone to say we shouldn't try, is despicable. And since I so often comment when I don't agree with you (and you have always shown me respect when I publicly air my dissent), I felt it was important to publicly stand next you on this one. And as for what I can/will do - I sit a sauna every week with a bunch of politically and socially aware people every week. We discuss (can you guess?) political and social current events. I will be bringing this one up for discussion when I see them next. I already don't shop at Lowe's, and I don't watch reality TV for any reason ever, so this is what I can do.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson

i completely agree with you about the holocaust thing. it's a really scary time full of ignorance and fear. the first people to blame, the scapegoats, are those that aren't understood. jews, muslims, homosexuals...anything that goes against what is considered normal. what the heck is normal anyways. keep on going lady, you WILL make a difference!! off to sign the petition and i will NEVER, EVER shop at lowes again. EVER.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

Hi Faiqa -- It's Shiny, the second-most intelligent regular co-host of the "Hey! That's My Hummus!" podcast.

It's an interesting situation: companies have the freedom to choose to advertise wherever they see fit, and they can choose NOT to advertise due to one of many different reasons. What Lowe's did wrong (in this case) was specifically deem the issue as laced with controversy. If Lowe's is going to let an individual group deem what is and isn't a "political lightning rod," then it's simply following the agenda of that group.

Interestingly enough, travel website KAYAK has also made the decision to pull ads not continue advertising after the current cycle. Their statement from yesterday was quite bold, however, and it discussed more about TLC misrepresenting what the show would be about. And they even amended the statement today with an update from KAYAK CEO Steve Hafner stating "We do try to avoid advertising on shows that may produce controversy, whether we support the content or not. We simply don't want people to confuse our choice of where we spend our TV dollars with a political or moral agenda. Plus there are plenty of shows that are just as effective from a marketing perspective."

However, I do think that this series of events is giving the show a hell of a lot more publicity than it would have ever had. If the FFA really wanted this show to go away, they would have simply not called attention to it and let its fate be similar to that of many other reality-based shows on TLC.

We should totally talk about this on HTMH!

(Just kidding -- we already did. Episode will be out this week!)

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commentershiny

Note: After writing this comment, I realized that you (Faiqa) never mentioned a boycott, so I'm adding this note to point out that I am reacting to those calls rather than your post.

Here's my problem: I really don't like being a hypocrite. If I boycott Lowe's based on what seems to me to be a fairly cursory examination of their overall behavior, then don't I have to boycott any business that makes any decisions that I categorize as, well, I'm not even sure what to call the categorization. Objectionable? Morally, philosophically or otherwise?

Where does it end? Do I boycott companies that buy supplies from Lowe's? What about products that are supplied by countries whose governments (and possibly people) espouse views I find objectionable? I'm pretty sure I would quickly end up having to live a separatist existence of some kind.

If a company has a direct policy that I find objectionable, that's one thing. Even then, though, I simply don't believe I'm going to take the necessary time for due diligence. Perhaps this means I am stuck being a hypocrite. I don't know.

I'm pretty sure there was already a reason given within the last few years for boycotting Home Depot. If I don't shop at Lowe's or Home Depot (or Walmart or Target, etc.) I suppose I'm left searching for independent hardware stores. However, I'm almost certain that the only reason such independent stores escape being boycott targets is that they're simply too small for notice.

Would it have made any difference if Lowe's had eschewed advertising during this show from the very beginning? Is it worse that they reacted to feedback they received? I would feel differently if the FFA had complained that Lowe's *employed* Muslims and Lowe's reacted by dismissing those employees. I just can't see advertising choices as rising to the point of a boycott.

It seems that the appropriate response is simply to communicate displeasure. To wit, the petition linked in the post does seem like an appropriate response. Having said that, I followed the link and must confess my hesitancy at signing based on it being sponsored by, and having information shared with, MoveOn.org. I've been concerned with some of MoveOn.org's tactics in the past. Oh, no... does that mean I'm boycotting MoveOn.org? Dang hypocrisy, I can't seem to avoid it!

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRen

This!

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNyt

While lowe's actions are irritating, what bothers me is that 10s of thousands of people signed the stupid FFA petition and that the republican front runner thinks palentinains are invented people. Now that's scary.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTariq

This was really, really sweet. Thanks so much for writing it & YES, let's make a plan to meet!

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Yup.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

This analysis of the Occupy movement is excellent.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

So incredibly touching and wonderful. Thanks.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

They really are total bastards. Harsh, but true.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I have no plans of quitting. Also, I don't think you have anything to be embarrassed about. You should be proud. You are what makes this nation great.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I realize my quote could be conceived as being too far. It's just... they called my kids "terror babies." A definition that relies on the concept that my parents (Muslims) and my husband (Muslim) came here to have children in the U.S. so they could infiltrate American society and take over. This is madness. I can't help but go to that grotesque place because I can't conceive of them having any other solution to what they term the "Muslim problem." Also, I haven't always felt this way. For some reason, this is the first time I've felt like it was a possibility.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Thanks. Really. There are enough F's in their acronym that lend themselves to far more appropriate terms, too. :-)

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

You don't have to say sorry for thinking of me. We are dear friends, of course you would think of me. I'd do the same if someone said something disparaging about beautiful blond women who look 20 years younger than they really are. :-)

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

There are so many wonderful jewels of wisdom in this comment that I'm kind of speechless.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

True. There is no compulsion in religion. (Meaning basically what you said -- you can't force people to have faith). That's actually from the Quran.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Word. Also, you're not my token white girl. You're my token famous on the Internet girl.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

[...] We also switch gears and discuss Lowe’s home improvement’s decision to stop advertising on TLC’s series All-American Muslim.  Faiqa writes a powerful blog entry about it here. [...]

I don't know if it's stupidity as much as it's fear. Some of the people who hold these opinions are really well educated and have brilliant minds in terms of being able to create and disseminate their ideas. But they are afraid... to let go of what they know and to accept that we're all not that different from one another. Maybe they just need to be shown over and over again that compassion is more important than fear if humans are going to survive, at all.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

The invented people was a huge topic of conversation here. I just... ugh.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

You're welcome. Thank YOU for sharing.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I wish I could give YOU a hug, right now. Just because I miss you.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Thanks, Donna. I really appreciate it.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

Thanks so much.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

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