UPDATED: Hip-hop mogul and social activist Russell Simmons slammed hardware giant Lowe’s for its decision to pull its ads from TLC’s All-American Muslim reality show and warned the company could face outrage from civil rights groups beyond the Muslim community.
“This can’t happen in America; [Lowe’s] needs to fix this immediately,” Simmons said, calling the move Islamophobic. “They can’t get away with that, it’s ridiculous. There are American principals at stake here. I can’t imagine the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Urban League, or any organization that fights for their own rights will allow this to happen to any other group because they know they’re next.”
The Def Jam founder is chairman of the The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which promotes racial and inter-faith harmony – particularly among Muslim-Jewish relations. He notes his organization consists of “hundreds of imams and rabbis who work together to promote harmony around this country.”
“If I go to work on this,” Simmons said, “they’re not even going to believe it. This is not going to be a Muslim fight. I don’t want to take my time and start a boycott – don’t make me do that.”
Simmons was traveling on business in Australia on Saturday when he heard that Lowe’s pulled its ads from All-American Muslim. The move followed extremist groups protesting the show for its positive portrayal of ordinary Muslim families. In addition to his music career and social rights work (he’s currently supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement), Simmons executive produced MTV’s Run’s House, a reality show about his younger brother’s Christian family. Muslim launched last month and airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on TLC.
Lowe’s says it pulled the ads due to a wide array of concerns about the show. “The program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show,” a Lowe’s spokesperson said. “We based our decision to pull the advertising on this research and after hearing the concerns we received through emails, calls, through social media and in news reports. It is certainly never Lowe’s intent to alienate anyone. Lowe’s values diversity of thought.”
But Simmons says pulling the ads was “a stupid thing to do” and called on the company to reverse its stance and support the show.
“This is a press nightmare for them,” Simmons said. “This country is built on religious freedom. This is the kind of hate that tears this country apart.”
UPDATE: California state senator Ted W. Lieu, a Democrat representing Torrance, is calling on Lowe’s to apologize. “Lowe’s action is bigoted, shameful, and un-American,” Lieu wrote in a letter to the home-improvement chain. “I call on Lowe’s to rescind its action and apologize to Americans who are Muslim. If Lowe’s continues its religious bigotry, I will encourage boycotts of Lowe’s and look into legislative remedies … Lowe’s religious discrimination is the equivalent of a company asserting that it is pulling advertising from the Christian Broadcast Network’s 700 Club because the program somehow ‘riskily hides’ the agenda of Christian radicalized groups such as Aryan Nation.”
UPDATE II: Lowe’s issued a new statement to clarify its position a bit more and apologized to any who are offended by its decision: “As you know, the TLC program All-American Muslim has become a lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives – political, social and otherwise. Following this development, dozens of companies removed their advertising from the program beginning in late November. Lowe’s made the decision to discontinue our advertising on Dec. 5. As we shared yesterday, we have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we’re proud of that longstanding commitment. If we have made anyone question that commitment, we apologize.”