Whole Foods wants to get one thing straight:
Last week, the retailer announced a marketing campaign for Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began on Aug. 1. In a post on its official blog, Whole Story, writer Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen, encourages Muslims to try Whole Foods' halal-certified offerings, specifically items from the frozen entree brand Saffron Road. Fast Company called the campaign “a new benchmark for the Muslim-American community: the first coordinated Ramadan promotion by a national supermarket chain.”
Unsurprisingly, the campaign was blasted by some right-wing bloggers, including Debbie Schlussel, who closed out a blog post on the topic with, “Whole Foods . . . For the Organically Conscious Jihadist. Way more humane because, hey, “free range chickens” can run away from the IED. allahu natural fruitbar.”
Houston Press reported that it was this pressure that led the company send out an internal e-mail that stated, “It is probably best that we don't specifically call out or 'promote' Ramadan . . . We should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered 'Celebrating or promoting' Ramadan.” The newspaper got a hold of the e-mail and published excerpts of it today.
A flurry of offended tweets followed, including this gem from activist Reza Aslan.
Whole Foods responded to the tweets, claiming that the e-mail did not come from its corporate headquarters.
We are still carrying and promoting halal products for those that are celebrating Ramadan this month. We never sent a communication from our headquarters requesting stores take down signs or remove parts from this promotion. We have 12 different operating regions and unfortunately, one region reacted by sending out directions to promote halal and not specifically Ramadan after some negative online comments.
In general, the Muslim community has accepted the company's explanation. “Whole Foods should be commended for reaching out to Muslim Americans consumers though it's Ramadan promotion by being inclusive of various ethnic and religious traditons in America,” said Munira Syeda, spokeswoman for the Greater Los Angeles chapter of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), based in Anaheim. “The company is actually one of the handful that is setting the industry standard for corporate America. Muslims and Islam are part of the American fabric and Whole Foods recognizes that courting about 7 million Muslim Americans makes good business sense and is the socially responsible thing to do.”