The travel website Kayak.com will no longer advertise on “All-American Muslim,’’ a TLC cable TV reality series that chronicles the lives of Muslim families in the suburbs of Detroit.
The decision from Kayak, which is based in Concord and in Norwalk, Conn., follows a similar move by home improvement chain Lowe’s Cos., which then suffered a backlash. Thousands of angry comments were posted on Lowe’s Facebook fan page after it pulled its advertising from the program.
The Lowe’s decision was prompted by a campaign from the Florida Family Association, a Tampa evangelical group with a history of activism, which has called for advertisers to drop the show since it premiered on Nov. 13. On its website, the group described “All-American Muslim’’ as “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.’’
Acknowledging that its decision process began after it received messages protesting its ads on the show, Kayak decided not to renew its advertising when the show returns in January, according to an online statement from chief marketing officer Robert Birge. Nether Kayak nor Lowe’s responded to calls for comment.
TLC had not been forthcoming about the true nature of the program, according to Birge.
“When we received angry e-mails regarding our decision to advertise, I looked into the show more thoroughly,’’ he wrote. “It’s a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod. We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn’t let us know their intentions.’’
Birge wrote that he also watched several episodes of the show, and he believes it is not good.
In response to protesters, including some charging that it had folded to pressure from bigots, Lowe’s posted an apology on its Facebook page. “It appears that we managed to step into a hotly contested debate with strong views from virtually every angle and perspective - social, political, and otherwise - and we’ve managed to make some people very unhappy,’’ the statement said. “We are sincerely sorry.’’
“We stand behind the show ‘All-American Muslim,’ and we’re happy the show has strong advertising support,’’ Laurie Goldberg, a TLC spokeswoman, said in a statement, declining to comment further. TLC, formerly The Learning Channel, is a division of Discovery Communications, based in Silver Spring, Md.
Florida Family Association executive director David Caton did not respond to requests for an interview.
“All-American Muslim’’ is an eight-part series carried at 10 p.m. on Sundays. It follows five families in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb that has a large Muslim and Arab-American community. TLC general manager Amy Winter said the show can help viewers “explore how [Muslim Americans] blend their values and traditions with everyday life in America.’’
In one episode, a court clerk, 32, talks about how natural it is for Muslim women to live at home until they are married. Another features high school football players who practice at night during the holiday Ramadan, since they fast during the day.
Another episode features a newlywed couple in a hospital after their son is born. The father is shown performing the call to prayer, in which he prays into his baby’s ear. “It’s our version of baptism,’’ he says.
And in another episode, a Muslim businesswoman wearing a traditional head scarf recounts how she finds it annoying to walk into an airport “and know people are looking at you.’’
The show’s debut episode drew 1.7 million viewers, and it has averaged about. 1.1 million viewers per episode, according to Nielsen, the rating service.
Robert Thompson, a television professor at Syracuse University, has watched the show and was surprised that advertisers would drop it. “It’s about regular families going through everyday struggles, and one of the themes is the sense that Muslims are treated differently in this country since Sept. 11,’’ Thompson said. “Unless you object to the portrayal of Muslims as normal Americans, I don’t see how you can find this a troubling program.’’
Mohamed Brahimi, founder and president of The Muslim American Civic and Cultural Association in Boston, said he appreciates the TLC program. “Finally, a show that humanized Muslims and Arabs and showed them in their true elements - average human beings who deal with normal life’s daily challenges, like any average American, irrespective of his or her creed,’’ he wrote in an e-mail.
Atif Harden, interim executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, said that “anything that talks about Muslims and Islam is helpful to our community. . . . It’s disappointing any time that people back down and act cowardly because of pressure put on them to support bigotry.’’
Johnny Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, the original version of this story inaccurately quoted a TLC spokeswoman. TLC neither confirmed nor denied whether any advertisers had pulled out of the program.