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1/29/2007
12:32 PM
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Web Retailer Apologizes After Employee's Anti-War Comment Stirs Controversy

Discount-mats.com says it fired the employee who made the anti-war comment and disagrees with the views he expressed.

A routine question by an Army sergeant mushroomed into a national controversy when an employee of an online retailer responded with an anti-Iraqi war comment. That employee is now unemployed and the company has posted an apology on its Web site.

Last week, U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Hess posted an e-mail exchange in which he asked whether Discount-mats.com would ship floor mats to an Army Post Office. An employee responded by writing, "We would NEVER ship to Iraq. If you were sensible, you and your troops would pull out of Iraq."

Military blogs, discussion groups, and reporters sent news of the reply around the globe. Critics identified and posted personal information about co-owner Faisal Khetani and his family members. Complaints poured in through Khetani's business and personal phone lines and e-mail addresses. The companyWeb site shut down for several days.

By Monday, the Milwaukee-based company's home page contained an apology and an explanation of what had happened.

"We have been bombarded by e-mails and phone calls literally within 12 hours of the event occurring, which sent us in a state of complete shock," the statement read. "As a company, we would like to say that it is against company policy to treat anyone disrespectfully, and we condemn any such behavior. The member who was responsible for stating their personal opinion is no longer associated and no longer working with Discount-mats.com."

The statement said the remaining employees "strongly disagreed with the views and actions of this member."

"We, as a company, are sorry for the events that took place and we do not condone unprofessional, rude behavior from any members within our company," the statement continued.

Discount-mats provided said it is working to get its Web site up and running as soon as possible. Khetani and other company representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

In the meantime, Othman Atta, president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, said he thinks most people would agree the "tone of the e-mail was inappropriate, rude and disrespectful."

He said some people indicated the e-mail reflected the attitudes and actions of most Muslims.

"That's dishonest, untrue, and an attempt to malign the Muslim community," he said. "Unfortunately, some of these individual bloggers, and whoever, have made a lot of threats and have written really vile and vulgar comments and e-mails -- not just to them but to the entire Muslim community."

Atta said he would have no problem if people had called for a boycott. He said some people crossed a line by targeting Muslims in general. Atta, who does not know Khetani, said that someone who was upset over the Discount-mats employee's comments, e-mailed him to say, "Muslims are a scourge and should go to hell."

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