USA: Whole Foods faces controversy over promotion of Ramadan products

Al Arabiya

US foods supermarket chain Whole Foods has found itself at the center of a heated controversy over its decision to promote Ramadan products for Muslims living in America.

The controversy started out when Whole Foods instructed its regional managers to carry and promote “halal products for those that are celebrating Ramadan this month.”

The move reportedly alarmed some right-wing and Islamophobic bloggers in the United States, who accused the supermarket chain of promoting the Islamic tradition of Ramadan.

The critiques reportedly scarred off a higher-up for Southwestern Whole Foods Region, which covers Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and prompted him to send an email to his underlings, writing, “We should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered ‘Celebrating or promoting’ Ramadan,” according to a Houston Press blog post earlier this week.

Houston Press reported that pressure from “right-wing bloggers who blindly associate Ramadan and Muslims with terrorism and burqas,” had led Whole Foods to send an email “to its stores across the United States in which it specifically tells stores not to promote Ramadan this year.”

But the supermarket chain has insisted it was “still carrying and promoting halal products for those that are celebrating Ramadan this month.”

“We’re extremely excited about offering halal products for our shoppers and we stand behind them AND our promotion of them,” Whole Foods has said according to an NPR report on Wednesday.

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told MSNBC he was not too concerned by the email — but he is happy to see Whole Foods offering the halal foods.

“I think that was just a one-off thing by one person,” Hooper said. “What’s important is that the corporation itself stood up to these hate bloggers and did the right thing. It’s doing what any corporation does. It promotes events and products that will hopefully gain more customers.”