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Amazon pulls offensive bathmats with Quranic text

Merchandise is scanned to be tracked as it moves through the Amazon Fulfillment Center on Feb. 9, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(RNS) — After complaints from Muslim advocates, the online retailer Amazon has removed more than 20 product listings that included doormats, bathmats and toilet covers featuring verses from the Quran in Arabic calligraphy.

The products, many of which included the name of God and of the Prophet Muhammad, were not produced or stocked directly by Amazon, but carried by independent retailers selling on Amazon’s platform.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights advocacy group, requested last week that the products be removed, calling them offensive because the passages from the Quran, which Muslims believe to be the word of God, “would be stepped-on or otherwise disrespected by customers.”

Amazon removed several products, including bathmats and doormats. Image courtesy of CAIR

CAIR spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper said the retailer removed links to those products Jan. 4 and had begun conducting an audit of its site for similar items. He also noted that products by small overseas vendors such as Emvency and Printsonne likely had no malicious intention but were thoughtless and inappropriate.

Muslims treat the Quran with great respect, performing ritual ablution before touching it and often avoiding putting it on the ground or in impure areas —  including near feet or below the level of feet. Many will burn any materials containing the Quran or God’s name rather than allowing it to sit in the garbage.

“We thank Amazon for its swift action on this issue and hope it sends a message to manufacturers of such inappropriate and offensive items that they will not profit from Islamophobia or any other form of bigotry,” said Masih Fouladi, executive director of CAIR’s chapter in Washington state, where Amazon is based.

CAIR has previously campaigned for recalls of other products that would be offensive to Muslim consumers. Back in 1997, Nike recalled a basketball shoe with a design —  intended to depict the word “air” written in flaming letters — resembling the Arabic word “Allah.”

Last month, the nonprofit group United Sikhs successfully pushed Amazon to remove toilet covers and bathmats featuring Sikh religious symbols.

“It’s shocking and extremely disappointing that Amazon offers these products for sale,” United Sikhs operations manager Rajesh Singh said at the time. “The merchandise featuring the disrespectful placement of Darbar Sahib (the Golden Temple) and Khanda (emblem) show a total lack of understanding on behalf of Amazon and its employees.”

Amazon, which did not respond to a request from Religion News Service for comment, has previously landed in hot water for allowing the sale of white supremacist propaganda, from a Nazi soldier figurine to fidget spinners and baby rompers emblazoned with the neo-Nazi icon Pepe the Frog.

According to Amazon’s seller policy, “restricted products” include those that “promote, incite or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.” But a July 2018 report by the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families said the online marketplace featured dozens of products promoting Nazi and white supremacist ideologies.

It’s not Amazon’s first time to respond to Muslim civil rights activists, either. In Minnesota, a group of largely Muslim Somali workers pushing for better working conditions — including time for daily prayer and adjustments to make fasting on the job more manageable during Ramadan — became the first U.S. group to successfully bring Amazon management to the negotiating table. Those talks are ongoing.

About the author

Aysha Khan

Aysha Khan is a Boston-based journalist reporting on American Muslims and millennial faith for RNS. Her newsletter, Creeping Sharia, focuses on Muslims in the U.S. Previously, she was the social media editor at RNS.

11 Comments

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  • “The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights advocacy group” – officially listed as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates – “requested last week that the products be removed.”
    You left that part out.

  • Unindicted co conspirator in a terrorism case in FL.
    They are highly politically connected (which is why they were unindicted)

  • A quick search of Amazon shows that there are a plethora of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist bath mats, rugs and toilet seat covers… I would be nice to see an equally sensitive push for all faith traditions… if that is where we are going with this…

  • He’s referring to the Holy Land Foundation case, which wasn’t a “Florida” case, but one prosecuted by the DOJ. The HLF had, among other things, funneled money to Hamas, which had then been used to finance rocket attacks in Israel (among other things). HLF was found to have, essentially, illegally laundered those funds (presumably so no one would find out about it, which ultimately didn’t work). 

    The connection to CAIR was that CAIR and HLF both had one board member in common, and he was prosecuted as part of the case and convicted. Also, HLF had sent CAIR a small amount of money out of an expense account. What this was for, isn’t clear. The main reason CAIR was sucked into this investigation — beyond that board member in common — was that some influential GOPers in Congress demanded CAIR be included. The best DOJ could do was cite the above information and list CAIR as an “unindicted co-conspirator” … but aside from that there’s nothing else. 

    So you’re right, there was no credible case to be made, other the involvement of a board member who, in all likelihood, had been grifting both organizations (among other things, he ran a tech company which just happened to do work for HFL). He was, in other words, plying connections to line his own pockets. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that CAIR needs to more carefully (pun intended!) vet its board members and employees … but then, shouldn’t every organization/company do that? 

  • which case in florida ? you have very little information to go on . at the very least we should know if it is a serious charge or some ambitious prosecutor trying to make a name .

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