Whole Foods Market has reportedly sent an email to its U.S. stores instructing the locations not to promote Ramadan this year.
According to an internal email obtained by the Houston Press, the grocery chain instructed company officials not to "specifically call out or 'promote' Ramadan" just a week after it began a promotion of halal products throughout the Muslim holiday, which ends on Aug. 29.
"It is probably best that we don't specifically call out or 'promote' Ramadan," read a portion of the email. "We should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered 'Celebrating or promoting' Ramadan."
The directive is a "significant departure" from previous promotions by the famously tolerant grocery chain, the Houston Press reports, citing past signage for Ramadan that displayed a crescent moon, the symbol of Islam.
"We recently introduced a line of frozen products in Grocery that are Halal certified (meet Muslim dietary laws) called Saffron Road," the email continues. "With the introduction of this line company wide, and the beginning of Ramadan last week, we posted a product giveaway on the Whole Story blog (on July 31) to generate awareness and interest in the products. 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."
In response, the Texas-based grocery chain said on its Twitter feed that it was not canceling its current halal promotion.
"We never sent a communication from our headquarters requesting stores take down signs or remove parts from this promotion," the company's Twitter feed read. "We have 12 different operating regions and unfortunately, one region reacted by sending out directions to promote halal and ... not specifically Ramadan after some negative online comments.
"We're extremely excited about offering halal products ... for our shoppers and we stand behind them AND our promotion of them."