(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.”
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.