American chain faces backlash over boycott of Muslim TV show

 

Los Angeles

Its adverts urge Americans to "never stop improving". But if the good people at Lowe's, one of the nation's largest DIY chains, are true to their word, they may want to take a long, hard look at their chief executive's grasp of PR.

The company was bracing itself for an awkward Christmas yesterday, after managing to needlessly offend a slew of celebrities, politicians, and campaigners for religious tolerance by signing-up to a right-wing campaign to boycott a reality TV show that portrays the Islamic community in a sympathetic light.

Controversy erupted late last week, when the CEO of Lowe’s, Robert Niblock, decided to pull his firm’s advertising from “All-American Muslim,” a programme on the cable network TLC, which follows five seemingly-unremarkable Muslim families living in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.

His move came at the behest of The Florida Family Association, a small and little-known evangelical organisation which for the past two decades has mounted campaigns against everything from strip clubs to gay rights and the teaching of evolution in schools.

In a letter to Mr Niblock, the Association had claimed that “All-American Muslim,” which seeks to portray the Islamic community as normal, was “propaganda” which had been “clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.”

The CEO appears to have taken the organisation at its word, apparently without bothering to actually watch an episode, and immediately announced that Lowe’s would pull all of its advertising. In a statement, the firm claimed that the programme had become a “lightning rod” for “strong political and societal views.”

That came as news to the roughly one million viewers of the show, who were yesterday organising a growing backlash. Several politicians, celebrities, and Islamic faith groups roundly condemned the DIY firm. Petitions calling for a boycott of its stores had 25,000 signatories and counting, while 22,000 people had posted on the subject on the firm’s Facebook page.

Ted Lieu, a Californian state Senator, branded Lowe's “bigoted, shameful, and un-American.”  Keith Ellison, one of the few US Representatives who is a practicing Muslim, said it had "chosen to uphold the beliefs of a fringe hate group" and given in to intolerance.

Mia Farrow, the actress, used Twitter to call for a “big effort” to boycott the company, and “hit Lowe’s where it hurts.” The comedian Kal Penn asked fans to sign a petition against the firm, joking that his “next movie” would be called: “Harold and Kumar do not go to Lowes.” Russell Simmons, the hip-hop impresario, said that he had purchased all the newly-vacant advertising slots on All-American Muslim.

Several stars of the show, which focuses on police officers, teenagers, and housewives from a mixture of liberal and conservative households, also condemned the firm, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that it had “invoked outrage in our community.”

Lowe’s further upset critics by appearing to issue misleading statements regarding its decision. For example, a spokeswoman for the firm, Lauren Cobb, told reporters that Lowe’s was just one of “dozens” of companies to sever links with All-American Muslim. However, she was unable to name any of those firms. None has yet emerged.

To many in the Muslim community, the affair highlights knee-jerk Islamophobia in sections of post-9/11 America. It hasn’t helped that Mr Niblock is white, middle aged, and that his company is based in North Carolina, which has a chequered racial history.

Neither does it help that both Mr Niblock, who earns $14m a year, and his company, are generous donors to the Republican party. Records reveal that he has personally given $50,000 to mostly-conservative politicians and lobbying organisations in recent years. The firm meanwhile has a Political Action Committee; 85 percent of its donations to politicians go to members of the GOP.

Shares in Lowe's have fallen around three percent since the start of the week, and dropped again in early trading yesterday, despite the Dow Jones index nudging up. Shares in Home Depot, its biggest rival, were in positive territory.

Elsewhere, David Caton, the leader of the Florida Family Association, shrugged-off suggestions that it is a fringe hate group, telling the Associated Press that it exists to "defend traditional American biblical values." He has previously lobbied against Degrassi, a teen show on the Nickelodeon channel, alleging that it "promotes the transgender lifestyle.”

Diverse city: Life in Dearborn

Once home to the industrialist Henry Ford, the city of Dearborn in Detroit's Metropolitan Area has long been tied to the American car industry and remains the global headquarters for the Ford Motor Company.

Jobs in the auto industry first attracted Lebanese immigrants to Dearborn in the late 19th century. Now, the multicultural city has one of the largest Arab-American and Muslim populations in the United States. It is home to the Islamic Center of America, the nation's largest mosque, and the Arab American National Museum.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam