Tampa family group targets Muslim TV show
TAMPA - For more than two decades, David Caton, 56, executive director of the Tampa-based Florida Family Association, has campaigned against "the rising tide of immorality" threatening today's family. The reformed porn addict mostly targeted local issues involving sex — lap dancing, porn, risqué billboards on Interstate 75, homosexual "agendas," gay adoptions, even an ad for a self-help sex video in AARP's magazine. But his recent concerns about a threat to America from Islam vaulted him into the national spotlight this week, when Lowe's Home Improvement confirmed it had pulled its ads from the TLC show "All-American Muslim" because of emails from Caton's organization. "That the Learning Channel is trying to portray Muslims as all-American is disingenuous," Caton said Monday as he prepared for interviews with CNN and Diane Sawyer. "It's flat propaganda hiding the Islamic agenda's threat to American liberties and values."The show premiered last month and chronicles the lives of five families from Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population. Lowe's now faces a backlash for pulling the ads. A state senator from Southern California said Sunday he was considering calling for a boycott. Calling the Lowe's decision "un-American" and "naked religious bigotry," Sen. Ted Lieu said he would also consider legislative action if Lowe's doesn't apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads. The senator sent a letter outlining his complaints to Lowe's Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Niblock. "The show is about what it's like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face. And that kind of discrimination is exactly what's happening here with Lowe's," Lieu said. FFA sent three emails to its members, asking them to petition Lowe's to pull its advertising. Its website was updated to say that "supporters' emails to advertisers make a difference." Caton did not disclose how many members FFA has, but said more than 35,000 are on its email list. He said his message is posted to others via social networking and it's impossible to know how many people receive it. However, he said the emails to Lowe's totaled in the "multiple thousands." It isn't the first time the born-again Caton has focused on concerns about Muslims. In May, he accused the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office of mislabeling the death of a woman two years ago as an accident. He said the FFA's private investigator determined the woman was beaten to death in an Islamic honor killing. Officials maintain it was an accident. Caton said he believes American law enforcement is capitulating to Shariah — Islamic law — when faced with legal controversies involving Muslims. He also objected to including Muslim holidays on the Hillsborough School District student calendar. Caton said he polled those on his email list earlier this year, asking about their most pressing concerns. It revealed 51 percent were most worried about the encroachment of Islam into America. "That was more than anything else combined, including abortion, pornography or the homosexual agenda," he said. Caton said Lieu, like many politicians, is concerned about being politically correct. "He's interfering with religion by giving preference to one religious group over another," he said. He said Home Depot also has pulled its ads from "All-American Muslim" because of the FFA email campaign. However, Home Depot spokesman Craig Fishel said it was not a sponsor and had no plans to advertise during the show. North Carolina-based Lowe's issued a statement apologizing for having "managed to make some people very unhappy." "Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views," the statement said. "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." The apology doesn't go far enough for Lieu, who said he would look into whether Lowe's violated any California laws and also might draft a senate resolution condemning the company's actions. "We want to raise awareness so that consumers will know during this holiday shopping season that Lowe's is engaging in religious discrimination," Lieu said. Suehaila Amen, whose family is featured on "All-American Muslim," said she was disappointed by Lowe's decision. "I'm saddened that any place of business would succumb to bigots and people trying to perpetuate their negative views on an entire community," Amen, 32, told The Detroit News on Sunday. Besides an apology and reinstatement of the ads, Lieu said he hoped Lowe's would make an outreach to the community about bias and bigotry. Lieu's office said a decision was expected Wednesday or Thursday on whether to proceed with the boycott. Lowe's said company officials are trying to make arrangements to talk directly to Lieu about his concerns and clarify the company's position. Dawud Walid, Michigan director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group felt "extreme disappointment" at Lowe's "capitulation to bigotry." Walid said he has heard expressions of anger and calls for a boycott by Muslims but said a key to resolving the Lowe's advertising controversy will be how non-Muslim religious leaders and others react to Lowe's decision. "I will be picking up the phone tomorrow to some of our friends and allies to explain the situation to them," Walid said Sunday.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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