Several Muslim and Arab groups are calling for a global Muslim boycott of Burger King to protest the chain's opening of a restaurant in an Israeli settlement on disputed West Bank territory.
Led by the Washington-based American Muslims for Jerusalem, the 10 groups intend to formally announce the boycott today at a news conference across from the Burger King on Columbia Pike near Glebe Road in Arlington.
The action came after the Miami-based company "ignored Muslim concerns over the opening of a restaurant" in a settlement whose development is considered illegal by Palestinians and many Muslims, a statement from the AMJ said.
"We try to be respectful of all religions, nationalities and cultures," countered Burger King spokesman Charles Nicolas.
"Burger King is a global brand and our policy is to take the brand to its customers, and give them the opportunity to enjoy the Burger King experience wherever they live," a company statement said. "It is not the intention of either Burger King or its franchisees to enter into political debate."
AMJ spokesman Fahhim Abdulhadi noted that since only members of the Jewish faith can live in Israeli settlements "I'm not sure how everyone can enjoy the Burger King experience" at the new restaurant.
The Burger King franchise was opened by Israeli-owned Rikamor Ltd. several weeks ago in Ma'ale Adumin, a huge, urban bedroom community on the edge of Jerusalem.
Built on land wrested from Arab control by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the settlement violates international covenants barring population changes in occupied territories, the Muslim groups said.
Burger King, whose corporate motto is "Have It Your Way!," has 82 restaurants in Arab countries where predominantly Muslim populations may be receptive to a boycott call.
There are no Burger Kings in Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank. The Israeli franchisee, Rikamor, runs 47 of the restaurants in Israel.
A 1997, a threat to boycott Nike Inc. by another Washington-based Muslim advocacy group resulted in the firms's decision to recall a line of basketball shoes with a logo that offended Muslims because its script resembled the Arabic word for God, Allah.
Abdulhadi said other U.S. companies no doubt operate in Ma'ale Adumin, since it "has one of largest malls in the West Bank."
But his group has decided to make an issue of Burger King's presence because "you gotta start somewhere."