TLC is doing a reality show called American Muslim, following five Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. The show follows average Muslims living every day lives as cops, coaches and consumers — typical Americans.
Not for the Islamophobes! Islamophobia is similar to the anti-semitism of the Nazi party in Germany before World War II. It wants to posit Muslims as a different kind of people, not truly American – just as Jews were not truly German to the anti-semites. They want to spread myths about Islam, making it sound like Sharia law is always some kind of horrific set of barbarian practices, that women are treated horribly, and every Muslim secretly wants the Taliban to come to power.
Not everyone who is concerned about Islamic extremism is an Islamophobe. Islamophobia is defined as an irrational fear of Islam, usually present when people become convinced that Islam is an inherently anti-western anti-modern religion that can never co-exist with Western values. Such a view is absurd when taking into account the history of Islam and the reality of Islam in America (or Europe). Yes, there are extremist and irrational Muslims too — and it’s right to oppose them, and when a filmmaker is killed in the Netherlands or a terror act occurs in London, the religious element has to be dealt with openly and clearly.
However, true Islamophobia is as dangerous as anti-semitism was in Germany in the 20s and 30s and must be fought just as fervently as any of us would fight anti-semitism if we were transported to Germany in 1930. It is the stuff of vile bigotry, a kind of evil that is fundamentally anti-American and ignorant. Alas, it still has clout.
The big retail chain Lowe’s caved to pressure from an
Nazi Islamophobic organization called “The Florida Family Association.” Like the Nazis, this group’s irrational fear and hatred is not limited to Muslims, they are also homophobic, warning of a gay and Muslim “agenda”. From their website: “TLC’s “All-American Muslim” is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values. ”
Get that – seeing Muslims as average Americans is dangerous because it hides the “Islamic agenda.” Just like how the Jewish agenda in Germany was put forth when Jews were seen as normal shopkeepers, scientists and artists. It is morally equivalent and Lowe’s is doing the moral equivalent of caving to Nazi pressure. According to the neo-fascist website for the Florida Family Association, Sweet-n-Low is also withholding sponsorship, as is Home Depot.
One might be tempted to cut them some slack because they are a Christian organization. But the world view they espouse does not differ much from any fascist world view. Hitler said he was fighting to save Germany from anti-German elements — not just Jews, but liberals, socialists, pacifists, internationalists and homosexuals, all of whom stood against traditional German values. Fascists portray themselves as promoting strength, virtue, and wholesomeness. They defend their violence as saying it is the true strong German (or, in the case of this group they’d say American or Christian) is unafraid to speak the truth about threats to society and willing to do what is necessary to counter them. Violence and intolerance is to them a virtue.
For Hitler the battle in the 20s was a culture war for Germany’s soul, promoting fear of the diversity emerging in the 20th Century in order to get people to embrace what was sold as a return to strong German values. The world view of this “Florida Family Association” is similar. They want to protect American culture from Muslims, gays, liberals, and secular humanists. The core of their ideology is fear of difference, and even though they are not yet espousing violence, once a group is defined as a danger to society and something different and even evil, the line to violence is much easier to cross.
But even if it doesn’t go as far as Nazism did, such fear-based bigotry is fundamentally anti-American and enables discrimination, prejudice and abuse against others. It is fear of people based on the essence of who they are — their faith, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity. As such it’s an anti-human ideology, one that must be countered.
The best way to do that is to contact Lowes, Home Depot, and Sweet and Low — and whoever else refuses to advertise on that show. Tell them that their support of an anti-American boycott is despicable and unless their policy changes you’ll shop elsewhere. Moreover, one should speak out and condemn this kind of organization and the fear that underlies its mode of operation. Having studied German history in the 20s and 30s, I know that apathy — or a belief ‘well, they’re a bit extreme but they have a point’ — is extremely dangerous. Finally, watch the TLC show and support advertisers who don’t cave to extremist pressure.
Most importantly, however, is in our every day life to support tolerance and mutual respect for all people. Disrespect and opposition should be based on actions people take, not who they are or even what they believe. This includes groups like the Florida Family Association.
One has to focus on the specific actions taken by that group, and not use their actions as an excuse to be bigoted against Christians or even those whose personal belief system is one that does not support Islam, gay marriage or homosexuality. There is room for all kinds of beliefs in this country, and we can’t respond to bigotry with bigotry in return — that simply reinforces and deepens the intensity of bigotry. Instead the focus has to be on countering their message and offering a positive alternative.
We have come a long way in ten years. The country understands and accepts Islam far better now than it did then, and groups like this are on the periphery. Let’s keep it that way.