The Tampa Tribune published an article on the Florida Family Association’s (FFA) campaign against the cable news network Al Jazeera America, failing to note the FFA’s fringe Islamophobic and anti-LGBT views.
Al Jazeera America’s journalism has been lauded by media critics, but the network’s recent launch triggered a wave of right-wing, Islamophobic backlash. Most notorious among Al Jazeera America’s critics is David Caton, head of the FFA, who has launched a crusade to stop corporations from advertising on what he describes as ‘the radical Islamist network’.
Absent from the Tribune’s report on the FFA’s anti-Al Jazeera campaign was any context to illuminate the group’s motives. This isn’t first time that the FFA has intimidated advertisers with xenophobic appeals. In 2011, the group persuaded Lowe’s and several other companies not to advertise on TLC’s reality show All-American Muslim. As Jon Stewart quipped, the only apparent reason for the FFA’s boycott of the show was that it portrayed “Muslims without the terrorist element.”
Right Wing Watch noted in 2011 that the FFA’s All-American Muslim boycottmarked merely the latest in a series of bigoted moves by the organization. The group produced a selectively edited video decrying President Barack Obama’s “extraordinarily strong bond … with Islam and his Muslim heritage.”
According to the FFA, Obama isn’t the only figure responsible for creeping Islamization. The organization went after Campbell’s Soup for promoting the “advancement of Islam and Sharia law in the United States” because the company makes halal soups.
h/t: EQ Matters
Yesterday, the Florida Family Association hired a plane to fly above a Lady Gaga concert in Tacoma, WA with a banner reading “NOT BORN THIS WAY.” “How would you feel if your child or grandchild went to a concert where unbeknownst to you they were convinced to embrace a homosexual or transgender lifestyle for a lifetime?” the FFA told members when asking for contributions to run additional advertisements. “The fact that someone these kids do not know spent significant resources to fly a plan to tell them they are NOT born that way will prayerfully speak to their souls,” read the appeal for donations.
The virulently anti-gay group went on to say that “homosexual males target adolescent males” through a combination of child abuse and “unscientific, emotionally charged propaganda.”
H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW
In August 2007 the New York Police Department released a report called “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” claiming that the looming danger to the United States was from “unremarkable” Muslim men under 35 who visit “extremist incubators.” The language sounds ominous, conjuring up Clockwork Orange–style laboratories of human reprogramming, twisting average Muslims into instruments of evil. And yet what are these “incubators”? The report states that they are mosques, “cafes, cab driver hangouts, flophouses, prisons, student associations, non-governmental organizations, hookah (water pipe) bars, butcher shops and book stores”—in other words, precisely the places where ordinary life happens.
But the report wasn’t based on any independent social science research, and actual studies clearly refuted the very claims made by the NYPD. The Rand Corporation found that the number of homegrown radicals here is “tiny.” “There are more than 3 million Muslims in the United States, and few more than 100 have joined jihad—about one out of every 30,000—suggesting an American Muslim population that remains hostile to jihadist ideology and its exhortations to violence,” Rand’s 2010 report found. “A mistrust of American Muslims by other Americans seems misplaced,” it concluded. This year, an analysis by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security also described the number of American Muslims involved in domestic terrorism since 2001 as “tiny.” “This study’s findings challenge Americans to be vigilant against the threat of homegrown terrorism while maintaining a responsible sense of proportion,” it said. And a 2011 Gallup survey found that American Muslims were the least likely of any major US religious group to consider attacks on civilians justified.
Every group has its loonies. And yet the idea that American Muslim communities are foul nests of hatred, where dark-skinned men plot Arabic violence while combing one another’s beards, persists. In fact, it’s worse than that. In the past few years, another narrative about American Muslims has come along, which sows a different kind of paranoia. While the old story revolves around security, portraying American Muslims as potential terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, the new narrative operates more along the axis of culture. Simple acts of religious or cultural expression and the straightforward activities of Muslim daily life have become suspicious. Building a mosque in Lower Manhattan or in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, or in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, becomes an act of “stealth jihad.” Muslims filing for divorce invokes the bizarre charge of “creeping Sharia.” A dual-language Arabic-English high school in New York is demonized as a “madrassa.” The State Board of Education in Texas determines that reading about Islam is not education but indoctrination. Changing your Muslim-sounding name to one with a more Anglophone tenor triggers an NYPD investigation, according to the Associated Press. Even the fact that some Butterball turkeys are “halal” was enough to fire up the bigotry last Thanksgiving, the most American of holidays.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken in October 2001 found that 39 percent of Americans held unfavorable opinions of Islam. After dipping for a few years, the number rose to 46 percent in 2006 and reached 49 percent—basically half the population—in 2010, the last year the question was asked. (Other recent polls show similar results.) Such anti-Muslim attitudes are not merely absorbed by law enforcement and the military or reflected on the airwaves and in the words of our politicians. Rather, the idea that American Muslims are to be feared or loathed or excluded from the United States is being actively promoted.
This past September, Wired broke the story that the FBI tells its counterterrorism agents in training that mainstream American Muslims are probably terrorist sympathizers, that the Prophet Muhammad was a “cult leader” and that the religiously mandated practice of giving charity in Islam is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.” The training materials, which stated that FBI agents had the “ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others,” identify other insidious techniques Muslims use for promoting jihad, including “immigration” and “law suits”—in other words, the ordinary uses of the American political system. The revelations forced the FBI to remove 876 pages from its manuals.
Another egregious example that recently came to light is that the NYPD, as part of its training, screened The Third Jihad, a film that claims “the true agenda of much of Islam in America” is “a strategy to infiltrate and dominate” the country. The film ran on a continuous loop for somewhere between three months and a year of training and was viewed by at least 1,489 officers. Yet another example involved Army Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, who taught a course at the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Staff College that informed senior officers that the United States would have to fight a “total war” against the world’s Muslims, including abandoning the international laws of war that protect civilians (deemed “no longer relevant”), and possibly applying “the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” to destroy Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Claiming “Islam is an ideology rather than solely a religion,” the class taught that the United States was “culturally vulnerable” to this threat because of its “‘judeo-christian’ [sic] ethic of reason and tolerance.” The Pentagon canceled the course in the wake of the revelations, and Dooley maintains a nonteaching position, pending an investigation.
The consequences of these efforts to promote anti-Muslim beliefs and sentiments influence how American Muslims practice their faith, engage with their neighbors, cooperate with law enforcement, work at their jobs and study at school. Anti-mosque activity, according to the ACLU, has taken place in more than half the states in the country. And American Muslims, who make up 1–2 percent of the population, account for more than 20 percent of religion-based filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Republican politicians, meanwhile, have been falling all over themselves to vilify Muslims, especially during the presidential primary. Herman Cain proclaimed that “a majority of Muslims share the extremist views,” initially vowing not to appoint any Muslims to his cabinet. Rick Santorum endorsed religious profiling, saying that “obviously Muslims would be someone [sic] you’d look at.” Newt Gingrich compared Muslims to Nazis in 2010, when he opposed building an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington,” he said. And, in 2007, Mitt Romney said, “Based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.” Whatever happened to the matter of qualifications? But hey, if you’re a Muslim, that’s all you’ll ever be. Romney has hired Walid Phares, part of the active anti-Muslim network, as a foreign policy adviser, and GOP voters continue to consider that President Obama is a Muslim in large numbers (52 percent of Mississippi GOP members thought so in March).
It gets stranger still. When media portrayals of everyday American Muslim life are produced, the very ordinariness is attacked as a lie. TLC’s show All-American Muslim premiered in November to favorable reviews. The show, which focused on five Lebanese-American Shiite Muslim families in the Dearborn, Michigan, area, was a bit of a yawner for racy reality TV, but it was a useful kind of ethnography for Americans unfamiliar with the stuff of daily American Muslim life. Immediately, the organized anti-Muslim network kicked into gear. The Florida Family Association, basically a one-man show run by David Caton, led a boycott of the show via e-mail that was quickly picked up by the extreme right-wing anti-Islamic blogosphere, and led to Lowe’s and Kayak.com pulling their ads. Caton’s e-mail read, “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 liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.”
Follow the logic. The only thing accepted as “normal” for a Muslim is to act like an extremist. Ordinary Muslim folk appearing to live ordinary Muslim lives? That’s just plain suspicious.
Does this mean that the United States is an Islamophobic country? Of course not. Large support for American Muslims exists in many quarters [see Laila Al-Arian’s essay in this issue, page 31]. Polls may suggest that about half the population is anti-Muslim, but that leaves half that isn’t. In many quarters of the country, there is genuine, not suspicious, interest in American Muslims and the realities they face, as evidenced by the fact that TLC produced All-American Muslim. Aasif Mandvi’s contributions to The Daily Show routinely deflate the power of this contemporary prejudice, and libraries, museums, classrooms and houses of worship across the country now regularly include Muslims and Islam in their programming in an attempt to further understanding and combat bigotry.
American Muslims have responded to events over the past decade and the expansion of an anti-Muslim network largely by being more, not less, visible. The number of mosques grew 74 percent over the past decade, despite the opposition Muslims sometimes confront in their construction. Even if a 2011 poll found that 48 percent of American Muslims reported experiencing discrimination in the previous twelve months, they also showed more optimism than other Americans in the poll that their lives would be better in five years (perhaps, in part, because of today’s discrimination). The guiding belief in the American Muslim community today is that the country will recognize that Muslims have always been and will continue to be a part of America.
Jack Shaheen, “How the Media Created the Muslim Monster Myth”
Petra Bartosiewicz, “Deploying Informants, the FBI Stings Muslims”
Laila Lalami, “Islamophobia and Its Discontents”
Abed Awad, “The True Story of Sharia in American Courts”
Ramzi Kassem, “The Long Roots of the NYPD Spying Program”
Max Blumenthal, “The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate”
Laila Al-Arian, “When Your Father Is Accused of Terrorism”
Florida Family Association Compares Muslims to Snakes, Wins Support from Other Fringe Activists | Right Wing Watch
Even after Lowe’s and other companies succumbed to the demands of the ultraconservative Florida Family Association, which routinely launches pressure campaigns against advertisers on shows like Modern Family, Dancing With the Stars, and Degrassi, to drop their ads on TLC’s reality show All-American Muslim, the FFA has ramped up its attacks on the Muslim community. While defending his group’s efforts, David Caton of the FFA likened American Muslims to snakes:
The show was not an accurate portrayal American Muslims, he said, because it doesn’t disclose that “99.9 percent of Muslims agree with the principles of Sharia law,” the restrictive religious code that Caton and others warn leads to the spread of Islamic extremism.
"This has all to do with the way this program was constructed to deliberately present Muslims in America as one flavor," he told The Associated Press. "It would be similar to the Learning Channel doing a report on ‘snakes are good family pets’ without reporting that there are four in Florida that are venomous. ….For TLC to choose to profile five people as an aberration of the Islamic faith is propaganda."
Pamela Geller, whose diatribe against the show helped spark the FFA’s campaign, pleaded with readers to shop at Lowe’s, blasting a California lawmaker who criticized Lowe’s and Russell Simmons for placing ads on the show to push back against FFA’s pressure campaign:
Advertisers like Lowes are choosing not run their ads on this propaganda. Good for them. The idea that Russel Simmons is threatening and intimidating is indicative of how little Simmons knows of sharia and Islam. Islamic racism is monstrous and is rampant today.
A craven lawmaker seeks to exploit this non-story. Lowes chose not to advertise. That’s it. Are we going to force advertisers to finance propaganda or taqiyya?
PLEASE SHOP LOWES. And send a word of thanks to Lowe’s Corporate for their decision to drop the show’s sponsorship.
The FFA is also finding support from Religious Right groups such as the American Decency Association, which called All-American Muslim “dangerous” because the people featured on the reality show don’t talk about jihad, which if you believe anti-Muslim stereotypes is what all Muslims talk about all the time! The group’s president also knocked the Council on American-Islamic Relations for criticizing Lowe’s, arguing that CAIR wants to “overcome our very own Constitution”:
Bill Johnson, president of American Decency Association, argues that the show is a complete whitewash designed to make the Muslim community appear attractive.
"And that’s what makes it so dangerous," he tells OneNewsNow. "We’ve been watching it over these several weeks that it’s been broadcast, and they stay very conveniently away from [mentioning] jihad or anything of that nature."
Johnson says their campaign has brought on the ire of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has described the efforts as “bigoted” and “pander[ing] to those who promote religious and ethnic hatred.” But CAIR, he says, must be exposed for what it truly is.
"They are not [in the] mainstream," he alleges. "They’re operating behind the scenes, propagandizing it [Islam] to influence the young and the old so that one day they can incorporate sharia law in our country and overcome our very own Constitution."
Dangerous Islamophobic morons.
After Lowe’s capitulated to the calls from the Florida Family Association to withdraw its ads from the TLC reality show All-American Muslim, the home improvement company immediately faced a hostile response from consumers not driven by unremitting anti-Muslim bigotry. The Florida Family Association launched its pressure campaign against All-American Muslim advertisers by citing the articles of anti-Muslim activists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, who claim that the show misrepresents the Muslim community because it doesn’t match their stereotypes of Muslims as anti-American terrorists. Spencer demanded TLC create a show about a secular Muslim who becomes a terrorist and Geller claimed that the “program is an attempt to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad” because the people in the show aren’t terrorists, and smeared Think Progress reporter as a “Dhimmi Jew” for defending TLC.
While siding with the likes of Spencer and Geller is bad enough, the Florida Family Assocation has a long history of not only attacking Muslims but also President Obama, entertainment companies and the LGBT community:
- The FFA created a highly-edited video that tries to make President Obama appear to be Muslim and derided the “extraordinarily strong bond that President Barack Obama has with Islam.”
- The group went after Campbell’s soup for boosting the “advancement of Islam and Sharia law in the United States” because the company made halal soups and sponsored a conference held by a Canadian Muslim relief organization.
- Predicting that “Islam will not sweep into America overnight though it could under the current president” as the “Islamization of America will most likely happen city by city,” the FFA launched a website to combat the purported “Islamization” of Tampa, warning that “Tampa is headed toward embracing Islam.
- The FFA also waged a campaign against Modern Family, bragging that they convinced “107 companies to stop advertising during the ABC show Modern Family after the advertisers received thousands of emails from Florida Family Association supporters. Florida Family Association objects to Modern Family because the show labels a same-sex couple with an adopted child as a modern family and attempts to normalize homosexuality by contrasting it with heterosexual couples that the show characterizes as abnormal.”
- The organization attacked advertisers on Degrassi because the teen show included a gay, bisexual and transgender characters, calling it “salacious and irresponsible propaganda,” and also criticized Degrassi for promoting The Trevor Project, an anti-suicide group that specifically focuses on at-risk LGBT youth. “Degrassi’s targeting of children and teens with homosexual and transgender content and promotions which encourage kids to call homosexual hotlines is irresponsible,” the group wrote.
- Unsurprisingly, the FFA went after Chaz Bono’s appearance on Dancing With The Stars, saying “Chaz’s appearance on this show looks like nothing more than social engineering to mainstream extreme parts of the homosexual agenda.”
- The group helped pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, a ban on same-sex parents adopting children, and claimed to have sent state legislators “over 10,000 emails opposing Domestic Partnerships and legislation that promotes the homosexual lifestyle,” including legislation that would bar discrimination against people due to their sexual orientation.
- The FFA also regularly protests Gay Day at Disney World for “offending unsuspecting families,” even contracting a plane to fly over Disney with a seven foot banner reading, “WARNING GAY PRIDE DAY@DISNEY 2DAY.” They even campaigned against the AARP for starting a program aimed at older gays and lesbians, saying it promotes “special rights for immoral behavior.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
The TLC reality TV show All-American Muslim chronicles the lives of a group of Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan. The show has been well-received for its fair and realistic portrayal of the Muslim American experience in the United States. Watch a trailer for the show here.
But a reality TV show that lets Americans relate to the lives of Muslims in the United States is an offensive idea to those who want to demonize Islam. The Florida Family Association (FFA) launched a campaign earlier this year to get companies to pull their advertising from the program. FFA claims that 65 of the 67 companies targeted have done this, including home improvement giant Lowe’s and megabank Bank of America:
The Florida Family Association, a Tampa Bay group, has led a campaign urging companies to pull ads on “All-American Muslim.” The FFA contends that 65 of 67 companies it has targeted have pulled their ads, including Bank of America, the Campbell Soup Co., Dell, Estee Lauder, General Motors, Goodyear, Green Mountain Coffee, McDonalds, Sears, and Wal-Mart.
One of the companies that FFA claims pulled commercials, Amway, told the Washington Post that such reports were “misleading” and that it has done no such thing. Lowe’s told the paper that it did indeed pull advertising. “We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show,” said Katie Cody, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s.
Islamophobia may have won this round, but they’ll lose in the end.