According to FFA's website (not to be confused with Future Farmers of America), the nonprofit " ... is an organization that is made up of thousands of supporters across America who share in the same goal of improving America's moral environment."
Translated: Fundamentalist Christian activists using their social capital to sway the culture around them.
So the object in the cross-hairs of FFA's recent outlash is the reality show about everyday Muslims, set in the heavily Muslim community of Dearborn Michigan. Their objection to the show is as follows, taken directly from their website:
"TLC's 'All-American Muslim' is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda."
More specifically, David Caton, Executive Director of FFA, objects because he feels that Muslims are normalized in the show. He claims that the show is propaganda because they do not depict jihadist radicals anywhere in the show. Though it's my suspicion that if a radical terrorist cell were unearthed in the heart of Dearborn, it would make the very next episode.
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart succinctly, and humorously, nails down the absurdity of the whole protest in the clip below. In short, he points out that Caton objects to having an educational show on television that butts up against his own stereotypes of Muslims.
Yes, Caton and his crew of activists are welcome to wallow in their own bigotry, and yes, they're even entitled to share that bigotry with the rest of us. They're even within their rights to use their "thousands of supporters" to influence either the network or their sponsors. And they've done just that.
As most have likely heard by now, FFA has threatened boycotts against all advertisers on the show, prompting Lowes Hardware Stores to pull their ads from "All American Muslim." Again, the company is within their right to place their advertising dollars where they see fit, and to allow themselves to be swayed by the disproportionately shrill voice of a handful of fundamentalists. In deference to Lowes' corporate autonomy, I think that politicians who are calling for legal action to force the stores to apologize or to renew their ads are out of line.
Lowes has made their own bed; they don't need legislative nannies to wield consequences over them for their cowardice.
That's our job as consumers.
None of this is headline-grabbing news today, given the breakneck news cycle of web-based media. This story is literally hours old by now. However, my specific concern has to do with the implicit subtext at the heart of this conflict that reflects much worse on Christianity than it does on any Muslim.
In railing against the depiction of Muslims as mainstream Americans, the forces behind FFA expose in their own ranks the very fundamentalist type of aggression they claim to fear. Normalizing the "other" against which they happily define themselves muddies the waters in their war against culture (read: a war against anything that does not conform to our narrow expectations for culture). After all, if there is no clear enemy, how can a fundamentalist be clear on who they are?
Lowes will either reconsider their hasty decision to pull ads from the show, and consumers likely will direct their dollars accordingly. Hopefully TLC will not bow to such pressure and yank the show all together. Amid the scads of sensationalist shows on the network hiding under the guise of "educational" television, "All American Muslim" actually has one of the greatest opportunities to truly educate that TLC has.
Meanwhile the majority of Christians in the United States who do not share the narrow, bigoted, hate-driven views of the Florida Family Association have the responsibility to speak publicly about their values of compassion, mercy and reconciliation. In a world where the loudest voice often is the only one that is heard, the still, small voice of justice as inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus has an opportunity amid the noise to present an alternative view.