“We should also continue boycotting this company anyway as they are Israel-terrorist supporters.”
A controversial Facebook video called last week for a boycott on British department store Marks & Spencer for allegedly selling toilet paper products embossed with the Arabic iconography of “Allah.”
In the video, an unidentified man is seen unpacking and examining a roll of aloe vera toilet paper bought at M&S. Speaking in English, he points to a recurring pattern that faintly resembles the spelling of the Arabic name of the Muslim god. Both the name itself and its calligraphy is held In Islam as sacred.
“Salaam Alaikum, brothers and sister,” the man says in the video. “Recently I bought toilet tissue from Marks and Spencer and when I opened one of them, it has the name of Allah, as you can see.” The man then exhorts viewers to avoid shopping at M&S altogether.
M&S quickly jumped into the fray to assure the public that they have “investigated with their supplier,” concluding that there has been no attempt to disrespect the Muslim faith and that the symbol is meant to “categorically” represent the “aloe vera leaf.”
The motif on the aloe vera toilet tissue, which we have been selling for over five years, is categorically of an aloe vera leaf and we have investigated and confirmed this with our suppliers.
— M&S (@marksandspencer) January 19, 2019
The explanation didn’t satisfy everyone and over 2,500 people signed a petition to boycott the retailer.
“We need Marks and Spencers [sic] to remove the aloe vera toilet paper as it is deliberatly [sic] insulting our religion… This is a very weasly [sic] and pathetic attempt to insult Islam,” the petition reads, adding that fighting the company also serves the greater goal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. “We should also continue boycotting this company anyway as they are Israel-terrorist supporters.”
M&S’s Zionist connection — which is traced to the company’s deceased Jewish co-owner Simon Marks — has intrigued anti-Israel conspiracy theorists for decades, and has generated longstanding British Muslim suspicion towards the company.
“This is absolutely disgusting and has caused upset and sadness to me and many people,” commented one Facebook user on the video. “It’s even more upsetting that they are trying to say that the word is in actual fact a representation of an aloe vera plant. I for one will definitely be boycotting M&S products and encourage those who believe this product is causing [offense] to do the same.”
But many didn’t buy into the indignation. “Sorry you’ve had to deal with such a ridiculous thing M&S! Yet again I’m embarrassed by my fellow Muslims. I love your stores and will continue shopping in them,” tweeted user Amina Jane Ishaq.
Ironically, only three months ago Marks & Spencer faced another boycott (using the same hashtag), this time for selling fashionable hijabs for all ages, which some Brits saw as an act of capitulation to religious puritanism.
With growing frequency, social media is allowing savvy political influencers — from both left and right — to seize on the craven nature of corporations and stir up a morally-driven shoppers’ revolt, as politics and marketing become indistinguishable.
But it’s worth noting that cases of consumer outrage in response to perceived visual slights to Islam have long preceded social media. In 1997 Nike introduced a line of basketball shoes bearing a logo that some believed resembled the name of Allah. The Council on American-Islamic Relations supported at the time a boycott on the company and eventually Nike was forced to apologize for the “unintentional offense” and pull the product.