I don’t watch reality shows, for the most part, and I haven’t watched The Learning Channel‘s new reality offering called All-American Muslim. From what I understand, after the first couple of episodes, the show is not getting good reviews.
But it is getting a lot of attention, thanks in large part to the Florida Family Association’s campaign to get advertisers to pull existing ads and not agree to advertise on the show in the future. Of course, FFA’s campaign has nothing to do with the quality of the program, and everything to do with David Caton‘s anti-Muslim bigotry.
Caton, who is executive director — and the only staff member — for FFA, claims All-American Muslim is “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. 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.”
TLC’s website for All-American Muslim explains that the show “takes a look at life in Dearborn, Michigan — home to the largest mosque in the United States — through the lens of five Muslim American families.” One of the men on the show, Mike Jaafar, is a deputy chief sheriff, something Caton apparently takes great exception to. On the FFA website, Caton says, “One of the most troubling scenes occurred at the introduction of the program when a Muslim police officer stated ‘I really am American. No ifs and or buts about it.’”
Personally, I don’t see anything particularly troubling about a deputy chief sheriff making such a declaration, but Caton says Jaafar’s statement is “damage control for the Dearborn Police who have arrested numerous Christians including several former Muslims for peacefully preaching Christianity.”
Anyway, Caton claims FFA’s efforts have convinced Lowe’s and Kayak.com to pull their advertising from the TLC program. I don’t know about Lowe’s, but Robert Birge, chief marketing officer for Kayak.com, said his company’s decision regarding advertising on the program had nothing to do with Caton and the FFA; he said the company would no longer advertise on the program because All-American Muslim “sucked.” He also said TLC had misled his company about the content of the program, and that Kayak.com had not actually pulled advertising but instead had decided not to renew advertising on the program, according to this report by Reuters.
So by now you may be wondering why an LGBT news site is reporting on a boycott of a show about Muslims. I mean, the Islamic faith is not known for its progressive stance on LGBT issues.
The reason, actually, is simple: Bigotry is bigotry is bigotry. The right-winger that is so up in arms about a TV program possibly showing Muslim people in a positive light is the same right-winger who made a name for himself fighting LGBT rights.
As this report by Samuel G. Freedman at NYTimes.com notes, Caton was trying to ban one of the first high school Gay Straight Alliances way back in the mid-1990s. He also campaigned in favor of Florida’s anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment and against LGBT rights ordinances in Tampa. He even targeted a specific individual, the Times piece notes, by trying to get the state of Florida to fire a gay man who worked in the state attorney general’s office.
(The Times piece also says that Caton set up the FFA after breaking away from “the more mainstream” American Family Association. If the AFA is more mainstream than he is, that should tell you something about how very very far our in right field Caton is.)
Other campaigns underway at Caton’s website include an effort to get folks to take Mars candy company and its subsidiary, Wrigley, as well as the Hasbro toy company for advertising their products during the show Degrassi on Teen Nick because Degrassi “promotes the homosexual and transgender lifestyle and other inappropriate behavior.”
The point is, David Caton is just, as Muslim author Wajahat Ali told the Times, “one fringe individual with an e-mail list” and a “poorly-made website.” And yet, he is getting attention, getting people to do what he says, and possibly swaying the business decisions of huge companies just by playing on people’s prejudices and fears. And again, bigotry is bigotry is bigotry, whether it is bigotry against a religion, a sexual orientation, a gender identity or the color of someone’s hair. It’s all the same, and it hurts us all.