Traders cautious over boycott call in cartoon controversy

 


Supermarkets and hypermarkets across the UAE are waiting to hear whether there is to be an official boycott of Danish goods following a new controversy over the publication of a cartoon that insults Islam.


The controversial drawing of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was recently published again by a number of newspapers in Denmark. When it first appeared along with other cartoons in 2006 supermarket chains in the UAE cleared Danish goods off their shelves.

On Friday Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric based in Qatar, urged Muslims to repeat the boycott.

Danish companies operating in the UAE are concerned a repeat would further affect their business all over the world. The country is already suffering from weak exports due to the strong euro as well as constant fears of an impending world economic recession.

“We don’t have all the information to take a decision on pulling Danish products from our shelves,” said Bejoy Mathew, Marketing Manager, Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society.

“Last time we respected public sentiment and participated in the boycott of Danish products and brands. If there is an official call we will participate in the boycott and arrange alternative products for our customers.”

Most Danish goods sold in the UAE are dairy products. Mathew said: “There are local products that customers can use without feeling the pinch.”

A spokesman for the Abu Dhabi-based Emke Group, which runs Lulu hypermarkets, said: “We haven’t received an official communiqué. Last time we followed public sentiment and removed Danish goods – including dairy products, confectionery and chicken.  

Jens Lund, President of the Danish Business Council in Dubai, said: “We fear that a boycott call will affect Danish brands around the world. This time the impact could be more because exports are already down due to a strong euro and there are fears of a world economic recession.

“Danish companies have manufacturing plants not only in Denmark, but also in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh. A new boycott would affect Muslim employees working in these plants and damage Danish companies and products in the Middle East.”

Danish exports to Muslim countries fell by more than 11 per cent in 2006 during the boycott, according to Denmark’s national statistics agency. Lund added: “Our main business is in European and American markets. We believe it is not right for privately owned newspapers to publish these cartoons again.

“The Government of Denmark has distanced itself from these private newspapers. Last time the boycott call mainly affected Danish dairy products.

“However, we also have interests in transportation, engineering and environmental projects. We appeal for a dialogue among various religious groups to settle this matter.”
 
 
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