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Parsons and Valentine join NCC in speaking against Islamophobia

Interfaith Commission dismayed by Lowe’s action on “All-American Muslim”

December 15, 2011

Editor’s Note: As Presbyterians we believe that relating well to our neighbors of others faiths is part of our Christian witness. In that spirit, Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and Linda Bryant Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council have signed on to this effort of the Interfaith Commission of the National Council of Churches.

In recent days, the National Council of Churches (NCC) has been dismayed over the decision by the Lowe's home improvement chain to pull its advertising from the television program, "All-American Muslim," due to pressure from a fringe Christian organization called the Florida Family Association.  At the same time, the NCC has been heartened by the outrage expressed by others in our nation toward Lowe's for giving in to the bigotry and ignorance that underlies this pressure.  Through its Interfaith Relations Commission, the NCC encourages Lowe's to reverse its decision.

Lowe's is in the business of providing building supplies for the construction of homes.  We wish the company were also concerned with the construction of a sound society and the building of a more peaceful nation.

Indeed, it would seem that Lowe’s sponsorship of one of the first television programs focused on American Muslims demonstrated that it was in fact concerned with fostering a healthy society, by dispelling some of the fears that undermine the foundations of our nation. For this reason, the NCC, which considers respect for religious others to be constitutive of a healthy and free culture, regrets that Lowe’s has responded to divisive influences and has now withdrawn its support.

Misrepresentations of Islam insult millions of Muslims and contribute to the spread of Islamophobia in our society.  Certainly, one would hope that a major US corporation would support a television program that portrays members of a community in a way that goes beyond stereotypes.  The five families we meet in “All-American Muslim” are quite ordinary people, dealing with weddings and newborns, football games and beauty parlors, and wrestling with the same issue faced by families of faith in all religious traditions across America:  how to live faithfully in a fast-paced and complex society.

Unfortunately, Lowe’s explanation, issued on Facebook, doesn’t go far enough to address this matter.  In it, Lowe’s claims to “have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, across our workforce and our customers, and we’re proud of that longstanding commitment.”  The NCC hopes that Lowe’s would embody this commitment by speaking out against bigotry and ignorance and by countering efforts to perpetuate the kinds of discrimination, most likely experienced by many in their workforce and customer base among countless others, that result from them.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation. The NCC's Interfaith Relations Commission also includes the participation of the Catholic, Pentecostal, and other churches, which likewise collectively include tens of millions of additional Christians.  Together through the NCC all of these communions engage with other faith groups, including Muslims, and it is in this context that together the NCC and other national religious organizations have spoken against other instances of Islamophobia — and bigotry against other faith communities — over the years.

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