After receiving complaints of Internet merchants selling items that were offensive to Muslims, including doormats, bathmats and other goods imprinted with verses from the Koran, Amazon has pulled dozens of items from its online marketplace.
The items were first flagged to the online retailer by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group. CAIR said it received complaints about the items from members of the community, leading the group to alert Amazon. In a news release last week, the group said the products are offensive to Muslims because the scripture and other Islamic references “would be stepped-on or otherwise disrespected by customers.”
Amazon began removing the items soon after CAIR registered the complaints.
“All sellers must follow our selling guidelines, and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account,” Amazon said in a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday. “The products in question are being removed from our store.”
(Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
CAIR is continuing to send offensive product listings to Amazon, according to spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, who said that Amazon has been swift and courteous in its response and that it continues to audit its listings for similar products.
The items in question are imprinted with Islamic calligraphy, include references to the prophet Muhammad and verses from Islam’s holy book. Another item that CAIR recently flagged was a toilet seat cover depicting Islamic art from the Alhambra palace, a UNESCO world heritage site in Spain.
Hooper said that Muslims are particularly sensitive to the Koran and images of Islamic text being stepped on. But he said the objections to these types of items apply to other religions, too. “It should be offensive to anyone that a religious text would be on a mat that goes in a bathroom or is on a toilet seat,” he said. “If it was a Bible or an image of a Bible on the toilet we would object in the same way to that.”
Hooper added that for most of the items with the offending material the offense was likely not intentional, but a result from manufactures slapping a variety of designs onto their products.
CNN earlier reported on the product removals.
As the online retail giant hosts a sprawling global marketplace with a broad array of third-party merchants, it has had to contend with the sale of inflammatory goods. Last year, watchdog groups found that Amazon shoppers could purchase items displaying symbols of white supremacy, including swastika jewelry and a child’s backpack featuring a neo-Nazi meme, even as the company’s policy restricted the sale of products that promote hatred.
At the end of the trading day Monday, Amazon surpassed Microsoft as the most valuable public company in the world by market value, according to reports, closing at $797 billion.