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1/24/2007
05:23 PM
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Online Retailer's Anti-War Comment Sparks Anger

Employee fired after a U.S. soldier's request was met with negative response.

An online retailer's site was down this week after an employee made a comment about the war in Iraq, sparking online retaliation, as well as calls to e-mail, fax and call the owner and his family members.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Hess, stationed in Iraq, e-mailed Discount-mats.com to ask whether the company would ship rubber gym floor mats to an Army Post Office. According to media reports in the Army Times and other publications, an employee responded by writing, "We would NEVER ship to Iraq. If you were sensible, you and your troops would pull out of Iraq."

The news spread quickly through military blogs, discussion groups and media around the world. Several people used the Internet to post the address and phone number of the Web site's co-owner, Faisal Khetani, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, as well as information about his parents. Some called for people to look up more information on the Milwaukee-area business and its co-owner. One urged readers to "pay him a nice visit."

A representative from the FBI's Milwaukee field office said it was not investigating any threats against the Khetanis or the business Wednesday.

The local NBC affiliate media reported that the employee who responded to the soldier's request was fired.

Khetani's Web site was down Wednesday afternoon and automatic voicemail messages for numbers listed under the business and family said the mailbox was full. Messages left at other numbers were not immediately returned. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee did not respond to requests for comment.

Shahed Amanullah, an editor for a Web site providing a critical analysis of news about Muslims, said that he thinks it was inappropriate for the employee to air political views during a business transaction. He said the company did the right thing by firing the employee, but it was not working hard enough to address the fallout.

"There needs to be some serious damage control," he said, adding that the backlash was predictable and understandable given people's frustrations and differences. "Turning off the lights on the Web site and shutting down the business now is only going to play into the perception that Muslims and owners agree with what happened."

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