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Editorial: Boycotts and bigotry

If The Learning Channel wanted to boost viewership of its “All-American Muslim” series, it could hardly have hoped for a better scenario than the controversy over Lowe’s pulling its advertising under threat of a boycott urged by a Florida-based group.
Many viewers who previously either hadn’t heard of the reality program or weren’t interested will now be compelled to tune in, if only to see what the fuss is about.
The fuss was there before Mooresville-based Lowe’s entered the picture. Some of the series’ prior sponsors apparently had already bowed out after the Florida Family Association launched an email campaign calling for boycotts of sponsors. It contends the series is propaganda designed to obscure “the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” In the FFA’s world, no one can dare defend any Muslim-American or their religion. Speak sympathetically of a Muslim friend or co-worker, acknowledge that most of Islam’s practitioners aren’t terrorists, and obviously, you’re drinking the Kool-Aid and falling for the grand charade. One, and only one, perspective is allowed.
After the Florida group turned its attention to Lowe’s, the controversy made major headlines. Now, unfortunately, Lowe’s has caved in, putting itself in a no-win situation. Corporations, like individuals, have the right to change their minds. In this case, however, it doesn’t appear that Lowe’s reversed course because of any subversive message in the TLC series but because it decided to put profit above principle, or at least take the path of least resistance. Presumably, Lowe’s knew, or should have known, its sponsorship would be controversial. Better to have stood its ground instead of collapsing like a flimsy deck frame.
Setting aside principles such as religious freedom can be expedient in the short run, but it’s damaging in the long run — for corporations and the country. The threat from radical Islam is real and deadly. We learned that a decade ago. In the intervening years, we also should have learned the importance of protecting our most basic ideals. Religious intolerance and bigotry are enemies that can shred the nation’s fabric as surely as terrorist attacks or the barbarisms of public stonings and “honor killings.”
For propaganda to succeed, other viewpoints must be quashed — which appears to be the Florida Family Association’s goal. The best antidote is exposure and vigorous debate, not suppression. If something is propaganda, most Americans can figure that out for themselves.
Meanwhile, if “All-American Muslim” enjoys a spike in viewers, it’s likely to attract a new round of advertisers — ideally, ones with the courage not to be cowed by boycott threats.

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