By Aysha Mairel –
Expressions of concern over sales of an inflammatory baseball cap have led to a quick response from one of America’s retail giants.
On October 19, 2015, Imraan Siddiqi, the executive director of the Arizona chapter of the national civil rights group, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), tweeted a screenshot of a baseball cap available for sale on the Sears website. The cap had the English word “infidel” and the Arabic word “kafir,” which means one who covers the truth. He captioned the photo by saying “Is @Sears becoming the official outfitter of armed mosque protestors?” The same day Sears replied with the tweet, “@imrannsiddiqi Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are advising our online team and requesting they review this 3rd party item.” The item was removed following the exchange.
“We’re thankful to Sears for responding so quickly to the concern – which shows they are mindful of the concerns for their diverse customer base,” said Siddiqi.
With over 241 million monthly active Twitter users sending about 347,000 tweets every minute, the fact that Sears caught this one tweet from one user speaks to the increasing power of social media on addressing issues of social concern. “No matter how big or small the issue, it is important to raise awareness of a larger issue that is affecting a large portion of society. Islamophobia can manifest itself in violence; bullying against Muslims, Sikhs, Arabs, South Asians, students; vandalism against institutions, or even legislation that can affect large groups of people. If a major corporation is selling an item and is rewarding manufacturers of these goods with a platform to spew hate, then it should be called out,” said Siddiqi.
Local community members responded to the product, some expressing little sympathy for Sears’ position.
“Companies need to know what products they are selling and be responsible for the products they are selling,” said Corinne Laimeche, 44, of Phoenix.
Others, like Nihal Hassan, 44, of Scottsdale, felt the offense was great enough to avoid the store altogether. “I feel angry and not wanting to purchase anything from their store,” he said.
Acknowledging the right for Sears to sell certain products, Aishah Rashid, 26, of Phoenix, suggested that ignorance played a role in an ultimately poor decision. “They did not do proper research before they started putting these items up for sale. It seems that they are just selling this for what the majority thinks those words [mean],” said Rashid.
Sears suggested that a third-party seller was the culprit, an excuse that Lilian Alsharbaji felt required a swift and serious action. “They should never put anything like that on any kind of item insulting people if they’re Muslim or non-Muslim. It does not matter how they phrase it, it is inappropriate. So people that do things like this should not be selling these kind of items. They should be dismissed from stores,” said Alsharbaji, 55, of Gilbert.
Phoenix and other major cities around the country have seen a recent rash of rallies and protests featuring anti-Islam rhetoric. Siddiqi believes movements like these in Phoenix are uniquely concerning, but indicative of a larger problem. “What you are seeing is a troubling confluence of gun-culture and Islamophobia. Whether it is these armed protests outside of mosques, the NRA (National Rifle Association) convention hosting Islamophobic speakers and sessions, or ‘Muslim-free’ gun stores in five or six states. This is the output of the ‘Islamophobia industry’s’ work for all these years,” said Siddiqi.