Boycott against Lowes misses real goal

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Boycott against Lowes misses real goal
By Ray Hanania — There’s nothing like emotion to bring Arabs and Muslims together, even when they don’t agree.

When TLC announced that it was broadcasting a new show called “All-American Muslim,” the Muslim community expressed anger and criticism.

All of the people in the new reality show about Muslims in Detroitland, where one of the largest Arab populations resides, were Arabs; there were no non-Arab Muslims.

That provoked a barrage of criticism beginning with one Pakistani who noted the majority of Muslims in the World are non-Arab.

Arab Muslims also were angry with the show, with many complaining that the idea of an Arab seeking to open a dance studio or a liquor establishment was offensive.

Of course, I don’t see too many Muslims complaining about the dirth of liquor stores operated by Muslims not just in Detroit but across America, and even in the Middle East.

Now, TLC’s “All-American Muslim” is involved in a new controversy that may trump the anger from Muslims and Arabs against the portrayals in the show.

A fanatic Christian group in Florida called “The Florida Family Association” announced it was protesting the show because the show, they said, sought to impose Islam on Americans and to justify Sharia law.

The group targeted all of the advertisers on TLC, more than 50 and almost all of them announced they were removing their ads from broadcasting during the TLC program. They said the majority agreed to reconsider advertising and that 20 had withdrawn their Ads.

Some of those advertisers include the biggest names in American commerce, many of them patronized by Muslims and Arabs: Amway, Anheuser Busch Inbev, Bank of America (Cash Rewards), Campbell’s Soup, Dell computers, The Gap, General Motors (Chevy Runs Deep), Good Year, Home Depot, Honda North America, HTC Phones, Ikea, JC Penney, JP Morgan Chase (Chase Sapphire), Lowe’s, McDonald’s, Nationwide Insurance, Nintendo (Mariokartz.com), Old Navy, Petsmart, Pier One, Radio Shack, Sears , Signet (Kay Jewelers), Sonic Drive-ins, Subaru, T-Mobil, Toyota (Camry), Volkswagen, Wal-Mart and Whirlpool (Maytag).

During the past two Friday morning broadcasts of Detroit’s Radio Baladi (WNZK AM 690), one of the largest American Arab and Muslim radio shows in the country, callers complained about the show that it portrayed Arabs and Muslims inaccurately.

Suddenly, the response from the Muslim and Arab community has changed.

Now, faced with the protests from the rightwing religious fanatics, Arabs and non-Arab Muslims are beginning to rally around the show.

And I think that’s something they should have done from the start.

Nationally, Arabs and Muslims across the country have begun targeting Lowes, ignoring all of the other advertisers who agreed to either remove their advertisements or to prevent their Ads from appearing during the show.

The fact is “All-American Muslim” is the perfect way to help show the true side of American Arabs and Muslims. That Arabs and Muslims are no different than any other people. We have very religious people and we have very secular people and much more in-between. We’re no different than they (Americans) are.

Except in one respect. It doesn’t seem that Arabs and Muslims appreciate the nuances and subtleties of effective communications. We have never understood the American media or the power of communications. We’re stayed away from it and only in the past decade has there been a slow but steady trickle of American Arabs and Muslims who have tried to engage the media.

And the “media” doesn’t just include the biased anti-Arab and anti-Muslim newspapers, radio shows and TV shows. It includes the public relations spin of communications strategists by influence peddlers in this country. It includes movies and TV shows and especially sitcoms. And, the bias includes reality TV.

It’s amazing to me that many Arabs and Muslims will tolerate the sale of alcohol and foul-mouthed comedy when it is in mainstream American public venues such as by nearby liquor stores or on Cable TV. But when someone slaps a label on it and says it represents Muslims or Arabs, the internal battle begins. We become our own worst enemies.

The truth is that instead of blasting Lowes for removing its advertising, we should be sitting with Lowes and demanding that they fund more programs like “All-American Muslim.” If they don’t like it because it is “too controversial,” then fund programs that are more mainstream.

When does Lowes advertise in Arab newspapers or on Arab radio shows. All-American Muslim is about the ONLY Arab and Muslim program we have on TV, outside of some scattered comedy flashes on Cable TV.

We should be proactive and we shouldn’t react with our emotions, as we too often do.

We should be holding the media responsible. I mean, why do we get angry with Lowes and say nothing when a major American newspaper that we subscribe to trashes Arabs and Muslim causes like Palestine or the injustice of the War in Iraq, or the war crimes against the people of other Muslim countries?

Before American Arabs and Muslims can prevent biased actions like those of Lowes, we need to insure that we have our own act together.

We can’t expect others to respect us as Arabs and Muslims if in fact we don’t respect ourselves.

(Ray Hanania is the co-host of Radio Baladi which broadcasts on WNZK AM 690 every Friday morning in Detroit at 8 am, and the host of Radio Chicagoland which broadcasts on WSBC AM 1240 every Sunday morning from 8 am until 11 am. Visit www.RadioBaladi.com for more information.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com