The Weight of “Ordinary”

Lowe’s has recently come under fire for withdrawing its advertising from the TLC show, “All-American Muslim.” Apparently the withdrawal of advertising came following the prompting of an anti-Muslim advocacy group. According to his group,

The Learning Channel’s new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.  The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.

There’s lots that could be said about this—much of which is obvious—but what I find most interesting here is the fact that a great deal of rhetorical work hangs on the use of the words “appear” and “ordinary.”

Apparently Muslims are not really ordinary—they can only appear to be ordinary. In addition, one wonders what “ordinary” means. Since this advocacy group claims “to defend, protect and promote traditional, biblical values,” I suspect “ordinary” means “Christian” and maybe “Jewish.” Here’s a picture of the Executive Director:

Is that the model of “ordinary”?

What’s wrong with not being “ordinary”? Apparently for this group, being “ordinary” is a condition of possibility for social acceptance. The implication here is that minorities who cannot pass as “ordinary” are perhaps a “clear and present danger … to the majority of Americans.”

Of course, there are many who might argue that the demand for assimilation is possibly even more dangerous.

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5 Responses to The Weight of “Ordinary”

  1. Rachel says:

    I find the construction of ‘ordinary,’ like the construction of ‘authentic,’ tremendously interesting. However, as someone who holds dual Irish and American citizenship, I want to caution you about the nod toward anti-Irish discrimination. Here’s a paper about exactly how widespread such signs were: (Short answer: not very.)

  2. Craig Martin says:

    That’s good to know; thanks!

  3. Cris says:

    The Executive Director looks very ordinary, though his forehead shows some unusual phenotypic variability.

  4. Pingback: More on “Ordinary” | Bulletin for the Study of Religion

  5. Pingback: On the “Ordinary Muslim” | Bulletin for the Study of Religion

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