Whole Foods memo sparks uproar among Muslims

August 9, 2011 7:13:53 PM PDT
A food controversy has erupted, just as Bay Area Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. Whole Foods management had to rush to contain the fallout, over what was said about promoting certain foods during this holiday.

Whole Foods got caught in a Ramadan controversy. The company has a campaign calling attention to halal foods which meet Muslim dietary laws, but an internal email in the Houston area told regional managers there to stop using signage that could be considered promoting or celebrating Ramadan.

There was an immediate backlash on Twitter and among local Muslims.

"We really need to fight against this sort of pervasive prejudice and xenophobia," said Reshma Inamdar, a Muslim American.

Whole Foods corporate was quick to respond and reversed the regional directive. It tweeted "We're extremely excited about offering halal products for our shoppers and we stand behind them and our promotion of them."

The controversy erupted as Bay Area Muslims work to educate people about their faith. Not only is Ramadan a time of prayer and fasting, but also giving. Habibe Husain started a non-profit 19 years ago to help feed the hungry called the Rahima Foundation.

"Every day, you do small amount of charity, but be regular and do it from the heart," said Husain.

As the 10th anniversary of September 11th approaches, Bay Area Muslims say they are working with a variety of organizations to promote a message of peace and understanding.

There are mosque open houses and special events planned to mark 9/11.

"The dialogues are important around this anniversary because it is one way of countering fear and suspicion that is being advocated by some," said Rev. Andrew Kille from the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council.

As Whole Foods discovered, the actions of a few can quickly lead to misunderstanding.

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