Media Monitors Network
The Other Coffee Boycott
by M. A. A. Khan
Minneapolis - A well orchestrated nationwide
email campaign by Jewish individuals against Caribou Coffee, USA's second
largest chain of specialty coffeehouses, has been called off after the company
and its Islamic investor bank disassociated themselves
from Sh. Yusuf Al Qaradawi. For past several months
Jewish chatrooms, email listserves
and synagogues were abuzz with rumors that Caribou Coffee "indirectly
funds terrorism." Caribou Coffee is owned 87.8% by the Bahrain based
First Islamic Investment Bank which until recently had Sh.Yusuf
Al Qaradawi as the chairman of its Shariah Supervisory Board.
The email campaign
against Caribou, began soon after after
Crescent Capital which is backed by First Islamic Bank acquired a majority
stake in the company in December 2000. The emails accused Sheikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi of making anti-Israeli
statements and called for a boycott of Caribou unless and until it severs its
ties with the scholar. Al Qaradawi was the chairman
of the bank's Shariah Board since its inception in
1997. The emails also mentioned Al Qaradawi's
association with a Palestinian charity,I'tilaf
al Khayr. The charity is not on any of the federal
lists of organizations that support terrorism.
Eventhough the boycott call wasn't backed by
any of the major Jewish organizations, several Jews
were reported to have quietly boycotted Caribou for several months. Amidst this
controversy, Al Qaradawi recently retired from First
Islamic. Gaye Bentham, spokesperson of First Islamic
Investment Bank, insists that the Caribou boycott campaign had nothing to do
with Al Qaradawi's retirement. In response to a
question by this correspondent Bentham responded:
"It is with
reluctance that we have accepted Dr. Yusuf Abdullah
Al-Qaradawi's long contemplated decision to retire
from his position as Chairman of First Islamic's Shari'ah Supervisory Board. Dr. Al-Qaradawi
has acted as Chairman of the Bank's Shari'ah Board
since its inception in 1997 and we are grateful for his wise counsel and
service to First Islamic.
Dr. Al-Qaradawi's decision to step down from First Islamic's Shari'ah Board will
enable him to devote more time to his many personal interests, and we wish him
every success with future endeavors."
"Kindly note that
this is unrelated to the Caribou boycott campaign," she added.
However a July 11th
letter from Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota
& the Dakotas (JCRC) claims that Caribou
and First Islamic have "severed" their ties with Al Qaradawi. The letter reads: "JCRC’s
respectful and fair approach has helped influence First Islamic Bank to sever
ties with Youssef Al-Qaradawi,
who until recently was chair of First Islamic’s
Islamic law advisory committee, provide JCRC with their list of charitable
donations and make a strong statement rejecting the Arab League boycott of
It further states:
"First Islamic has issued a statement rejecting the Arab League boycott of
First Islamic says that the one business it owns that is worldwide in nature
maintains a distributorship in Israel.
First Islamic also says it has no restrictive policies with regard to Israel or Jews.
It has numerous business relationships with Jewish attorneys and investment
bankers. Caribou has told us it has no plans to expand internationally, and
that it has received no instruction to avoid business with Israel or
First Islamic has also
hired a major law firm's Washington
D.C. office to review its
charitable donations. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has
certified that no charitable contributions go to groups banned under U.S. law.
On its Shariah Supervisory Board, First Islamic retains Shaikh Abdullah Sulaiman Al Meneea, Dr.Abdul Sattar Abdul Kareem Abu Ghuddah
and Justice Muhammad Taqi Usmani.
Intriguingly while the
Arab boycott campaign against Starbucks (Caribou's main competitor) gained
widespread media coverage, the controversy surrounding Caribou went virtually
unnoticed with only a few newspapers covering it.
by courtesy & © 2002 M.
A. A. Khan
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