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Lowe's Drops Ads On Muslim Reality Show, Faces Boycott

Mooresville-based Lowe's is being threatened with a boycott and heavily criticized by lawmakers and customers around the country for a decision to stop advertising during a reality show about American Muslims. Lowe's says it decided to stop advertising on "All-American Muslim" because the TLC show became a "lightning rod" for political and social views. The show debuted in mid-November and claims to chronicle the daily lives of Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan. But email campaigns launched by several conservative groups and bloggers complain "All-American Muslim" downplays the "dangers" of Islam to "traditional liberties and values." Lowe's says it got a lot of feedback for advertising on the show - from every perspective possible. But fundamentally, UNC Charlotte marketing professor Jim Oakley says, "Lowe's is not courting controversy." "They're courting mainstream and kind of that wholesome do-it yourself image," explains Oakley. "A brand like that does not benefit at all by pursuing issues that could generate controversy." It's unclear whether Lowe's specifically chose to advertise during "All-American Muslim," or simply had a deal to advertise on a variety of TLC programs. A spokesperson for Lowe's declined to address that question, but said in a statement that dozens of companies have removed their ads from "All-American Muslim." Lowe's is the only company to have issued a statement explaining the decision once people noticed its ads missing from the show over the weekend. In doing so, Oakley says the company may have opened itself up to more heat. "You can stir the pot by making a comment or you can just let it go and change your behavior," says Oakley. "Sometimes I think you're better served by doing that." Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison - the first Muslim-American elected to Congress - says Lowe's "has chosen to uphold the beliefs of a fringe hate group" by discontinuing ads on the show. Indiana Congressman Andre Carson, also a practicing Muslim, is urging Lowe's to reinstate its ads on "All-American Muslim." "I think Lowe's needs to be celebrating and promoting this very show because it really pushes back against the misunderstanding that surrounds the Muslim American community and experience in this country," says Carson. Muslim advocacy groups and celebrities including Russell Simmons are threatening to boycott Lowe's. Both sides of the debate have launched online petitions attracting thousands of signatures. The backlash against Lowe's is also likely to make more people watch "All-American Muslim." "And whoever steps in to fill their shoes will - on the advertising front - get a lot more viewers than they would have gotten last week," notes UNC Charlotte's Jim Oakley.