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Lowe's welcomes Muslims in its stores, but not on reality TV

The home improvement chain flails around after falling for a Muslim-bashing boycott. Meanwhile, look who's shopping in its Rainier Valley store.

Ever since its big-box store on Rainier Avenue knocked out most of the competition, the Lowe’s chain has enjoyed a near-monopoly in Seattle’s most ethnically and religiously diverse quadrant. Customers wearing hijabs and taqiyahs aren’t uncommon.

So it was doubly bizarre to see the company pull its advertising last week from the TLC reality show All-American Muslim, which chronicles the lives of five Muslim families in Dearbon, Michigan, center of America’s largest Arab community. A wing-nut "group" calling itself the Florida Family Council emailed advertisers urging they boycott the show because it insidiously shows Muslims as ordinary people — Americans, no less — doing ordinary, boring things. And that, the Florida Family Council’s founder and by one account sole member, David Caton, said, is contrary to the well-known fact that "99.9 percent of Muslims agree with the principles of Sharia law.” (That’s why they’re here rather than in Saudi Arabia.)

"All-American Muslim," Caton announced, "is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values." His rhetoric recalls that deployed some years ago as more mainstream gay and lesbian figures appeared on TV: Gays were either bathhouse-hopping drag queens or cultural fifth columnists. If they weren't flaunting the "gay lifestyle," they were cunningly insinuating it into Middle America.

Caton further claimed that 66 advertisers dropped All-American Muslim after his group emailed them. But Lowe’s was naive or unlucky enough to be the only one to acknowledge doing so. It insisted it pulled out not because of pressure but because the show had become a "lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives — political, social and otherwise."

Such weasel words never mollify anyone. Lowe’s reportedly issued a statement on Facebook emphasizing its long commitment to “diversity and inclusion” and saying it was “sincerely sorry” for upsetting people. But that Facebook page has since been taken down — one more sign of a company digging itself in deeper as it tries to dig out.

Caton may be blowing smoke about those other 65 advertisers, but his campaign has prompted protests and calls for a boycott. Trouble is, they’re against Lowe’s.

Eric Scigliano's reporting on social and environmental issues for The Weekly (later Seattle Weekly) won Livingston, Kennedy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other honors. He has also written for Harper's, New Scientist, and many other publications. One of his books, Michelangelo's Mountain, was a finalist for the Washington Book Award. His other books include Puget Sound; Love, War, and Circuses (aka Seeing the Elephant); and, with Curtis E. Ebbesmeyer, Flotsametrics. Scigliano also works as a science writer at Washington Sea Grant, a marine science and environmental program based at the University of Washington. He can be reached at eric.scigliano@crosscut.com.


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