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Whole Foods Abandons Ramadan Marketing Campaign (UPDATE)

9 August 2011 Huffington Post 21 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Whole Foods Ramadan Controversy

Whole Foods is the object of a growing controversy about the popular grocery chain’s treatment ofRamadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims that started Aug. 1.

On July 27, the retailer introduced a special promotion for the month of Ramadan on their blog,Whole Story, featuring special recipes and product giveaways for the month. This promotion also coincided with the introduction of a new halal-certified product line in Whole Foods stores.

A day later, Fast Company posted an articlehighlighting Whole Foods’ online Ramadan campaign as a first for a major American food chain. The article presciently stated that although no major in-store promotions were planned, the Web and social media efforts were a bit of a risk in a U.S. marketplace that is often hostile to Islam.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign garnered the notice of right-wing bloggers who promptly branded Whole Foods as “jihadist” and “anti-Israel.” The absurdity of this position may have been easily dismissed if not for the subsequent reaction by leadership at the company.

On Tuesday, the Houston Press published a report revealing the text of an internal email circulated by Whole Foods executives to the chain’s stores.

“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 email went on to explain that the promotion previously announced on the company’s blog should not be misinterpreted to mean that the chain was celebrating or promoting Ramadan, saying, “The misinterpretation has generated some negative feedback from a small segment of vocal and angry consumers and bloggers.”

Whole Foods’ apparent capitulation to an extremely vocal minority of Islamophobes has already drawn significant ire from bloggers and on Twitter. What’s your reaction to this story? Will this lead to significant trouble for the chain?

Original post: Whole Foods Abandons Ramadan Marketing Campaign (UPDATE)

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21 Comments »

  1. I am thoroughly disgusted that Whole Foods would cave in to the intolerance and bigotry of right-wing bloggers. For goodness sake, I may not celebrate Ramadan, but I would eat Halal as well as Kosher food and I would welcome that offering of groceries and recipes for Ramadan for Muslim residents and those who are open minded about cultures and religions. This kind of intimidation and then caving into right-wing threats is only the first stage of how fascists came to power in Nazi Germany. I condemn the management of Whole Foods for their lack of will to say NO to these bigots.

  2. I whole-heartedly agree w Kerry above. It disgusts me that Whole Food gave into the bigotry and back-pedaled their promotion of Ramadan. I’m pretty sure they wont retract the profits made from their halal food line as quickly as they retracted their support and promotion of a beautiful Islamic holiday and practice. I guess I am “retracting” my support and positive word of mouth that I had spread in “promotion” of Whole Foods…

  3. As a Muslim, it was extremely exciting to me to hear that a store I already loved was going to start carrying Halal food. I’m sorry they caved to peer pressure; I don’t think they realize how hard these products are to find and how much extra business it would generate.

    Hopefully they do stock them. I’m tired of driving 60 miles into the capital when I want to serve meat for dinner.

  4. i’m not surprised. whole foods’ ceo is a libertarian who thinks the country doesn’t need health care; that if poor people would simply eat better (read: shop at whole foods) we wouldn’t need health care. “the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system.” is it any wonder that he would cave at what’s considered controversial?

  5. It does seem a bit strange to advertise foods during a month of fasting. It’s like having special food sales during Lent. Does anyone give up things for Lent anymore? Does anyone remember Lent? Yeah, I know. That’s when all the Easter candies are advertised.

  6. What an incredible disappointment.

  7. Ditto to Kate. Just moved to a new home very close to Whole Foods.
    Certainly will not be our choice of grocer now.

  8. honestly, what happened to freedom of speech and religon??? as a born american , i am a convert to this beautiful religon, in my opinion they started off on a great note broadening their clientele, which seemed to do great buisiness with, to start to bring in halal, esp during this month of ramadan, would increase their sales, its really a shame when this ignorance takes over , the only one that would lose is the store

  9. why wouldnt you stick with ramadan marketing? you would have gained the business during economic turmoil. times are tough and you want to lose business?

  10. perseveranze,

    this guy is your champion?

    “Naik has said that any Muslim is free to convert from Islam if the person so chooses, but added that if a Muslim converts and then speaks against Islam it should be considered treason. Naik stated that under Islamic law this is punishable by death.”

    “Naik’s views and statements on terrorism have at times been criticised in the media. In a YouTube video speaking of Osama bin Laden, Naik said that he would not criticise bin Laden because he had not met him and did not know him personally. He added that, “If bin Laden is fighting enemies of Islam, I am for him,” and that “If he is terrorizing America — the terrorist, biggest terrorist — I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.””

    i see canada and the uk denied him entry, but i’m an american. did we (america) deny him entry. if so i disagree with such a decision. let him speak. give him all the rope he wants.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zakir_Naik

    i’ll repost on the whole foods article because this is much more interesing. sorry i missed your post for so long.

  11. Apparently Whole Foods didn’t say to pull the promotion, some guy in one region did without authorization from headquarters. The good news is apparently they didn’t cave.

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/09/whole-foods-denies-canceling-ramadan-promotion/

  12. @Mike

    Despite that having nothing to do with the article above, I agree with you. Zakir is quite strange. The lectures I’ve watched, he was stressing peace and tolerance. But I read on many muslim websites that we have to be careful of him as he is apparently a “Wahhabi”.

  13. I really don’t see what the big deal is or where the controversy is. What’s the difference between this and a store promoting egg nog or fruit cake during Christmas. You never see a chain store getting heat for marketing hanakuh items, the fact that it’s caving in and treating Islam differently says alot.

  14. We live in a beautiful country, the USA. Whole Foods is a great company, I hope they continue to sell halal products and advertise for Ramadan. Please don’t allow ignorant hate bloggers to spread hate and divide our citizens. Everyone should be allowed the same right to freedom of religion. Thank you.

  15. Mike naik does not speak for the majority and if he said such a thing around me i would not keep silent id tell the boy off cause only a boy would be so childish! the majority of us wouldnt harm a flea and the people that leave islam are safe until they use that knowledge ot physically harm muslims. ie they are killing us so we defend ourselves! and no that article is NOT more interesting. whole foods LIED to gain publicity for if they were telling the truth they would continue their promotion. if they promote kwanza and hanukah and easter and passover and lent and christmas they what is wrong with a few islamic holidays as well? they just lost a bunch of customers over this!

  16. helema,

    i haven’t nor wouldn’t contend that naik speaks for anyone but himself. all people speak for themselves in my book. of course in democracies and represenative republics elected leaders speak for their constituents, even the ones who didn’t vote for them, but these are nuances that brevity disallows the exploration of on these comment boards.

    “people that leave islam are safe until they use that knowledge ot physically harm muslims” how can knowledge physically harm anyone? i don’t follow? so do you disagree with the pakistani law that sentences apostates to death?

    as for this article “whole foods LIED to gain publicity for if they were telling the truth they would continue their promotion.” they lied to gain publicity and piss off the right-wing evangelical islamaphobes, what 10% of the population, then retracted the promotion which was courting muslims, what 1% of the population? really? someone in marketing should be fired.

    but it is disappionting to hear you wouldn’t harm a flea. i think we should all be rowing in the same direction. and that includes extermination of disease spreading parasites.

  17. p – veranzce,

    your boy pops up here. i guess he is somewhat prominent in your circles. interesting fellow. again, did the us not allow him entry? if so bad idea, i would love to hear him speak, maybe even ask him a question or two. hey throw that guy in jail, he’s not eating, or wait he doesn’t believe in god…..really?

    However, Zakir Naik stated that if a former Muslim speaks against Islam then that is considered as treason and punishable by death in a country ruled by Islamic law, he also stated that he does not know of any country which is ruled by 100% Islamic law.,[17][18][19] a view which is held by other contemporary Islamic scholars such as Bilal Philips,[20] and Yusuf al-Qaradawi,[21] the latter reduces the punishment to imprisonment till repentance in the case of an apostate who did not proclaim apostasy,[22] whereas the judgement which is still widely adopted advocates death for every ex-Muslim, for instance, Sheik Muhammad Al-Munajid the owner, writer and administrator for the popular islam-qa.com site advocates that judgement stating that leaving them alive “may encourage others to forsake the truth”.[23]

    Contemporary reform Muslims such as Quran Alone intellectuals Ahmed Subhy Mansour,[24] Edip Yuksel,[25] and Mohammed Shahrour[26] have suffered from accusations of apostasy and demands to execute them, issued by Islamic clerics such as Mahmoud Ashur, Mustafa Al-Shak’a, Mohammed Ra’fat Othman and Yusif Al-Badri.[27][28][29]

    Prominent recent examples of writers and activists killed because of apostasy claims include Mahmoud Mohammed Taha,[30] Faraj Foda,[31] Rashad Khalifa, Ghorban Tourani, Necati Aydin, Uğur Yüksel, and the Egyptian Nobel prize winner Najib Mahfouz was injured in an attempted assassination, disabling him until his death in 2006.[32]

    The case of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan who converted from Islam to Christianity sparked debate on the issue. While he initially faced the death penalty, he was eventually released as he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.[33]

  18. Salam Alaikom and Ramadan Mubarak..I say that because I am Muslim and I am celebrating this wonderful month so I wish to share the nice greeting to all! I love many of the comments here because they show that non-Muslim people’s in this very intolerant land are starting to “get it” at how we as Muslim’s are treated here. I thank you from my heart you who had such nice and reasonable comments. It is so refreshing to see. I so hate the hate comments. And why would Jews not wish us to have halal meats! That is silly. Why ever would that mean we were against Israel? That makes no sense at all. Whole Foods did make very bad decision I think. And also..what is being a “jihadist” have to do with anything about this? This also..silly..and what is the meaning of jihad anyway? Does anyone know? I do. It is a struggle..it can be any struggle we have in this life..I have a jihad for my fast today! I have a jihad to live a healthy lifestyle. I have a jihad to be a good Muslim..to be kind and true to those I love..and to Allah Most High. It can also mean to fight for freedoms..to exercise your right to self defense, which is a human right. So anyway thank you all who have such nice things to say. I have hope today!!! because of you. Ani

  19. I am surprised and disappointed they pulled their ad. Several months ago “Wal Mart” put out a news paper article stating they were going to have halal/zabihah foods in some select stores.. They didn’t back down, they understood there was a need. I mean if Wal Mart can do it and not give a heck, then, what’s wrong with whole foods? I thought they were better than that.. I’ll still shop at whole foods because, most of their cheeses, breads, and certains other foods don’t have animal/pork derived ingredients in them.

  20. It’s really a nice and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you shared this helpful
    info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

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