"A decision by the home-improvement chain Lowe's to pull its ads from a TV show based on Dearborn's Muslim community has sparked an outcry from Muslim Americans and their supporters. During the past few days, Muslims have launched an online campaign against Lowe's, urging it to apologize and start running ads again on TLC's "All-American Muslim," a reality series that showcases the lives of five Lebanese-American Shia Muslim families.One petition against Lowe's has garnered thousands of signatures.
"Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons wrote several tweets against Lowe's during the weekend that often were retweeted. Actress Mia Farrow showed her support in tweets. And a Democratic state senator from California, Ted Lieu, called the move by Lowe's "naked religious bigotry." He suggested legislative action against the company if it doesn't respond.
"Lowe's said in a statement: "Lowe's has received a significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views. As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance."
Was Lowe's displaying "naked religious bigotry" when it decided to advertise during the show? Obviously not; it was making a free-commerce business decision. Perhaps they were foolish to hope pulling theirs ads would avoid their being dragged into a controversy. The Learning Channel also made a business decision when it portrayed the lives of five Muslim families as 'All-American.' Neither Lowe's or TLC should be threatened with "legislative action" or boycotts because of those choices.
Perhaps many to most Muslims in Dearborn hold with traditional American values of liberty. Yet more than a few of its Muslim residents have, on occasion, displayed some decidedly bigoted and un-America behavior. The city also has its share of pandering politicians.
This year, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found the city had unlawfully restricted the free speech of Christians seeking to pass out fliers on sidewalks open to pedestrian traffic both inside and on the boundaries of a Muslim-American festival that is held each year in Dearborn.
In November, "A male nurse filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against the city of Dearborn ... claiming he was fired for treating conservative Muslim women wearing head scarves."
On July 22, 2006, during the Lebanon-Israel conflict, Steven Emerson wrote:
In order to finance the training of these “volunteers,” as well as the seemingly endless barrage of rockets that have rained down on Israeli cities, Hezbollah has established an extensive fundraising infrastructure in the United States, as well as in Canada, South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Supplementing the nearly $100 million Hezbollah reportedly receives from Iran, Hezbollah operatives in the U.S. have engaged in a litany of criminal activities, including credit card fraud, cigarette smuggling, counterfeiting, drug running, and organized retail theft, that provide millions to the Shiite terrorist organization ...
Further, although Hezbollah has not utilized charitable front organizations in the U.S. to the extent that its comrade-in-arms Hamas has, there is convincing evidence that a Hezbollah-linked charity, with direct ties to the group’s spiritual leader in Lebanon, is currently operating in Dearborn, Michigan.
Founded in 1991, the Al-Mabarrat Charitable Organization-USA Inc. has changed its name repeatedly over the last fifteen years, discarding the names “Cedar Organization, Inc.”, “Cedar Charitable Organization, Inc.” and “Cedar Social Services of America, Inc.” On its website, http://www.mabarrat.org/, which is no longer active, Al-Mabarrat claimed that its purpose “is to promote the cause of…orphans by providing sponsorship that will go toward schooling, health, and general.” While acknowledging that it proffers that support by working in conjunction with the Al-Mabarrat Association in Lebanon (whose logo it shares), the website conveniently omits the fact that Al-Mabarrat-Lebanon is run by Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.
Fadlallah, labeled Hezbollah’s “chief ‘spiritual leader’” by the Department of Justice, has been designated a Specially Designated Terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department, thus criminalizing financial transactions with him. The U.S. government has further alleged that “Fadlallah issued the fatwa authorizing” the 1983 Hezbollah bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks that killed 241 Americans. Demonstrating its awareness of Al-Mabarrat-Lebanon’s terrorist agenda, the U.S. government banned Lebanese Finance Minister Fuad Siniora (currently the Lebanese Prime Minister) from entering the United States in 2003 because of a donation he had made to the organization in 2000
Despite Al-Mabarrat-USA’s direct link to a Fadlallah-controlled organization, to date, the U.S. branch continues to operate unfettered. In fact, the organization appears to have gained a level of credibility in the U.S. as the Detroit Free Press reported earlier this month that “many Muslims in the region have donated to Al-Mabarrat.”
The most prominent Detroit area Muslim to be publicly linked to Al-Mabarrat is Talil Chahine, the owner of the [Dearborn-based] La Shish restaurant chain, who was indicted in May on federal tax evasion charges for allegedly concealing more than $20 million in restaurant profits and funneling some of those funds to Lebanon. In 2002, Chahine, who federal prosecutors assert has “connections at the highest levels of ... Hezbollah,” attended an Al-Mabarrat fundraiser in Lebanon at which he and Fadlallah served as the keynote speakers. (For his part, according to the Detroit Free Press, Chahine admits he attended the al-Mabarrat fundraiser in Lebanon.) At that event, “Chahine was the representative…of a worldwide group of fundraisers,” according to DOJ. DOJ has also noted that agents searching Chahine’s Michigan house discovered a letter thanking Chahine for sponsoring Lebanese orphans, which DOJ stated “is a euphemism used by Hezbollah to refer to the orphans of martyrs.”
Just four days earlier, 10,000 marched in Dearborn "to protest Israeli attacks" upon civilians in Lebanon:
What was the goal behind holding the rally? "We want to see an effect that resonates with our government officials and fellow citizens," said Bilal Dabaja, a member of the Arab American Political Action Committee and a University of Michigan at Dearborn student, between leading chants on his bull-horn.
"We all want to stop the Israeli oppression," added Lenora Prater, an African American from Detroit, as she sat under a tree on Warren Avenue. "I'm pleased with the turnout."
As the crowd continued down the road, thundering cries of "Israel out of Lebanon!" "Down, down Israel!" and "Death to Israel!" rang out. As the rally continued its move down Schaefer, more and more people came running. They were joining in from back alley-ways, jumping out of cars and sprinting down sidewalks to take part in the rally.
"Other than our own leaders, Israel pulls us together like no one else can," said Abed Hammoud as he helped lead the rally down the road. Hammoud is chairman of the Congress of Arab American Organizations (CAAO). [Abed was then also a lead attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. On May 4, 2011, he became Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. The Congress of Arab American Organizations held a private, invitation-only reception in his honor. He immigrated to the U.S. from southern Lebanon in 1985.]
Dearborn has been a lightning rod for political views. Boycotting Lowe's may hurt its business yet the further attention the city receives as a result will not all be flattering to its image.