Posted by Amitabh Pal on August 12, 2011

Another month, another outburst of anti-Muslim vitriol.

This time the target was Whole Foods, for its impertinence in acknowledging Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting, which is under way right now) in its stores. The alternative food chain rapidly backpedaled when the store’s multiculturalism became the focal point of an Islamophobic campaign.

The campaign was led by Debbie Schlussel, an anti-Muslim blogger who doesn’t even inhabit the first rank of Muslim-bashers (the pride of place instead going to the likes of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer).

“Whole Foods is whoring itself out to Islam for profits,” Schlussel wrote on her blog. “And as more and more Muslims populate America through immigration and high birth rates, more and more corporations will shill for jihadist interests…. the values of savages will NEVER be in.”

Nice. Really nice. Schlussel in the past has accused “Pakis” (an utterly offensive term for Pakistanis) as being behind the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and has asserted that the young Norwegians murdered by Anders Behring Breivik at the youth camp deserved it because of their supposedly pro-Hamas and anti-Israel views. In response to Osama bin Laden’s killing, Schlussel wrote, “One down, 1.8 billion to go . . . many of ’em inside U.S. borders, with the U.S. government at all levels kissing their asses.”

The real surprise here is not that Schlussel went after Whole Foods, but that Whole Foods so meekly caved in to her and her ilk.

"It is probably best that we don't specifically call out or 'promote' Ramadan," said the Whole Food corporate office in an e-mail sent out to marketing teams. "We should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered 'celebrating or promoting' Ramadan." (Hats off to the Houston Press, an alternative weekly, which obtained the e-mail and broke the story.)

At “the beginning of Ramadan last week, we posted a product giveaway on the Whole Story blog (on July 31) to generate awareness and interest,” the e-mail also stated. “Some people have misinterpreted the blog post to mean we are celebrating or promoting Ramadan in our stores. The misinterpretation has generated some negative feedback from a small segment of vocal and angry consumers and bloggers."

This is the height of cowardice to surrender to “a small segment of vocal and angry consumers.”

Whole Foods went into damage control mode after the story broke, denying on CNN and NPR that it was making a U-turn. “Whole Foods Market is not cancelling our current halal [food made according to Muslim dietary guidelines] promotion, which is centered around the timeframe of Ramadan," spokesperson Libba Letton told CNN. Technically true, but completely misleading, since the issue here wasn’t the store’s promotion of halal, but of Ramadan.

Anti-Islam campaigns like this are so regular in the United States that it’s getting to be almost monotonous. Just last month, a decision to invite the Al Jazeera Washington bureau chief, Abderrahim Foukara, to speak at a museum fundraiser in Maine generated protests. Sometimes, the allegations border on the comic. Last year, an innocuous attempt by NASA administrator Charles Bolden to reach out to Muslim countries was attacked by several rightwingers.

Islamophobia has had serious consequences in the United States, from people being murdered to mosques being vandalized, defaced and torched. Whole Foods has done itself—and its clientele—a huge disfavor by capitulating to such vileness.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of The Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Nuclear Power Losing Favor in Much of the World."

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