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Muslim family's complaint over Christian toy giveaway provokes conservative backlash

As prominent Christian conservatives decry the supposed "war on Christmas" and retailers grapple with whether to say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" to their customers, a small incident at the Mall of America has sparked right-wing attention in such high places as Sean Hannity's website.

When a recent kid's meal at Long John Silver's came with a small coloring notebook bearing Bible verses and the words "Build with Jesus," a Muslim family became upset.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wrote a letter to the the franchise owner and the parent company of the restaurant franchise on behalf of the family, earning ridicule and derision from a multitude of right-wing posts and anti-Islam sites.

A lot of blog comments have used words like "hypersensitive" to describe the family and CAIR-MN's complaint. That may be a valid description, but then the term should apply equally to Bill O'Reilly's tirades against the "war on Christmas" and to Focus on the Family's angry response when stores remove the phrase "Merry Christmas" from their holiday publicity.

And Muslims may have a bit more reason to feel defensive. Sean Hannity's website is polling its readers about the Mall of America case, asking, "Does CAIR have a valid complaint?" One of the multiple-choice options is "ala akBARF," a rude reference to the common Muslim phrase "Allahu Akbar," which is Arabic for "God is great."

Below that, in the comment section, various readers insult the Quran or talk about Muslims wanting "to detsroy [sic] our way of life," while other sites accuse CAIR of trying to impose Shariah law on the Mall of America.

Closer to home, fortunately, the argument is much more civil. Steve Oborn, who owns the Long John Silver's Mall of America location where the incident occurred, wrote an apology to the family and was sending them a non-religious toy.

"Our policy is always that we have an alternative toy," he said Monday in a phone interview. (That is consistent with the chain's national policy.) "The problem was, whoever happened to wait on them wasn't aware of [the policy] or possibly didn't have any of the other toys left."

According to CAIR-MN's press release, when the parents discovered the toy, they went up to the counter to exchange it but were told that their only other options were similar notebooks with alternate Bible quotes.

CAIR-MN's board chair Lori Saroya said Monday she hadn't yet heard that the owner planned to apologize.

When the incident happened in November, CAIR sent a letter to Oborn and to Yum! Brands Inc., the Louisville, Ky.-based company that owns the Long John Silver's brand, as well as KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. When there was no immediate response, Saroya said, CAIR on Friday sent a release to the media. "Last we heard, they [Yum! Brands] were investigating," she said.

But Yum! had nothing to do with the free toy promotion, according to Oborn. It was his own initiative at his own store. "My wife and I both feel that the Bible promotes good, wholesome values," he said. "We just felt this was a wholesome thing to hand out."

But he always intended to have alternatives for non-Christian customers, he said.

Saroya said she's gotten a lot of emails in response to the press release — about three-fourths of them positive; the rest were hate mail. The positive responses were mostly from the local general community, she said, while the hate mail tended to be from out of state.

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Comments (32)

Wow.....

- Offering up kid's meals that include toys with Bible verses is a confrontation waiting to happen--especially in as diverse a place as the Mall of America.

- I'm willing to guess that there were other non-Christian families with kids who received these toys as well. They solved their problem quickly and quietly by disposing of it and--I am guessing--won't buy anything there again.

- Unfortunately, events like this sometimes occur. I had my own incident at another fast-food location at MOA a year or so ago, but the store manager resolved it to my satisfaction without the need for a press release and a list of demands. We quickly solved the problem working together. Because of that, I still stop there on occasion and purchase items.

I brook no argument with CAIR that there are certainly instances of overt racism "out there" that demand the attention of the organization. But maybe--just MAYBE--there are times where solutions could (or should) be found that do not have to needlessly provoke.

A religious toy at a nationwide fast-food chain? This is a huge issue and I don't know how the owner got away with it.

What if your kid received a toy with quotes from the Qur'an? There would be a massive backlash and Yum Foods would need to issue a very public apology. However, it's alright if it's biblical Christian verses?

Steve Oborn made a poor judgement call when he decided to push his beliefs upon his customers. It gives me a negative view of all Long John Silver restaurants now as Yum Foods evidentally condones such behavior from their inaction against this store owner.

Gotta love liberal "tolerance".

Don't like it? Don't go back. Vote with your feet and dollar.

Lets see, if a fast food serves halah chicken its ok but a Christen toy is wrong. Also an employer must abide by a muslim's prayer schedule. Seems that tolerance is a one way street.

"I brook no argument with CAIR that there are certainly instances of overt racism "out there" that demand the attention of the organization."

Islam isnt a race.

As an atheist, I find this rather funny. The "christens" who are put upon by a store greeter saying "Happy Holidays" are telling the Muslims not to be so sensitive. Yes, I would just never go there again, but I would make a point of telling the manager why he lost my business.

CAIR has as much business speaking out about this is Mr. Billo does whining about the "War on Christmas." People who don't like "Happy Holidays," (cause lord knows we don't want to love all of our neighbors, just the Christen ones,) can also vote with their wallets.

I don't go to the Maul of America, and certainly don't eat what Long John Silver's colloquially refers to as "fish," so it really isn't a problem for me. But, judging by the response from Hannity and his site, I am reminded of the old hymn:

"They will know we are Christens by our love."

Would they have preferred "Issa the cross breaker" instead of "Jesus the builder"?

Perhaps the situation could be resolved amicably at the time, and for all I know it was. But that does not address the bigger problem that in the purportedly secular setting of a fast food restaurant religious dogma (in however benign a form)is being served with the food. CAIR is absolutely right to complain, and I feel saddened that anti-Muslim prejudice is the result.

Debbie,

I wasnt aware that a private restaurant was required to be secular.

"Offering up kid's meals that include toys with Bible verses is a confrontation waiting to happen--especially in as diverse a place as the Mall of America."

As divisive as Muslim prayer rooms in the Mall of America?

My guess is that the prayer rooms are simply a sound business decision on the part of MOA management designed to encourage a growing segment of the population to linger and buy more stuff.

I don't see it as any more divisive than McDonald's smart business decision to feature their Fillet-O-Fish sandwich during Lent, but I'm not a religious person.

"I don't see it as any more divisive than McDonald's smart business decision to feature their Fillet-O-Fish sandwich during Lent, but I'm not a religious person."

Yeah, thats the same thing. Mosques in the mall and a fillet o fish. I wonder how long before the MOA will make non muslim women cover up to be "sensitive" to the poor muslims. Think thats overboard? Already happening in no go areas of Europe.

Re :Long John Silver's/Mall of America
Toy incident (Report by Katherine Glover)
We are a nation of multiple cultures,religions and sensitivities.
Mr. Steve Oborn, has acknowledged it.
Greeting our fellow Citizens, is a very personal matter. We should , therefore, be
Ultra-sensitive, to the issue and participate
in the debate and Greetings with 'Respect ' to
ALL concerned.Same is true, in the distribution
of religiously sensitive material.
PRAY !! that we ALL mature, to being sensitive,caring and loving, WITH PEACE, for
ALL our 'Fellow Beings', all over the world.

Akbar Matadar,

A shame Islam doesn't practice what you preach.

As an agnostic, I have no dog in this fight, so, FWIW, a few comments:

There is no Constitutional right not to be offended. For Heaven’s Sake (pun intended), throw the darn thing away if you don’t like it.

The family in question couldn’t have been THAT religious or they wouldn’t be eating non-halal food. If they WERE that religious, why did they emigrate to a land of infidels where EVERYTHING they see would be offensive to a pious Muslim? In a free society there’s stuff going on that would offend ANY pious person. Deal with it and move on. That’s the American way. Believe what you want, just don’t try to shove it down my throat.

“CAIR-MN’s board chair Lori Saroya said Monday she hadn’t yet heard that the owner planned to apologize.”
Good, I hope the mother company doesn’t assume the fetal position over this trivia like so many of our politicians and PC companies do. I also hope that CAIR’s DEMAND for an apology AND “Sensitivity Training” goes into the Circular File where it belongs.

“Saroya said she’s gotten a lot of emails in response to the press release — about three-fourths of them positive; the rest were hate mail.”
Gotta love the double standard here - those who are not positive are classed at “hate”?
See next paragraph.

CAIR better watch out that they don’t make such a big deal out of these non-events or they will trivialize themselves much like the NAACP has done with their endless whining over perceived insults. Remember the boy who cried wolf?

CAIR, like everyone else, has the right to complain - that doesn’t mean any has to listen - or accede to their demands.

Richard Strand: got a lot of time on your hands over the holiday?

A private business has a right to engage in religious promotion and activity (Long John Silver's, apparently), but the public also has a right to complain about it (CAIR). And the public also has a right to complain about other's complaints (Richard Strand).

Furthermore, the public has a right to ignore all of this silly bickering, commercial pseudo-religious posturing, and gross mischaracterizations of various faiths. That's me.

Everybody wins!

Richard Strand,

The same is true for Christianity.

"The same is true for Christianity."

I suggest you read the qur'an and ahadiths and compare it with the NT. Quite a difference, especially when it comes to the treatment of non Muslims. Must be something to it if Islamic terrorists around the globe from many different nations, backgrounds, education and economic status all find comfort and motivation in Islam.

"gross mischaracterizations of various faiths."

Such as?

Richard Strand

I've read the Bible several times over and have traveled and lived in various parts of this country for extended periods of time. I have never found a Christian who has truly acted in a Christian manner or lived up to the teachings of the Bible. Maybe you should read it sometime too.

"I've read the Bible several times over and have traveled and lived in various parts of this country for extended periods of time. I have never found a Christian who has truly acted in a Christian manner or lived up to the teachings of the Bible. Maybe you should read it sometime too."

But Islamic terrorists do live up to the teachings of the Qir'an and ahadiths. But then, Mo had much lower standards than Jesus.

There seems to be some misunderstanding about halal food is. Fish is always halal. That's probably why the family was eating there.

Tony Wagner--
You do have the right to complain or ignore about alleged insensitivities to Muslims because you don't live in a Muslim country--not yet. That's the whole point. You fail to recognize that the historical DNA of Islam and Christianity are different. As Bernard Lewis has observed, Islam developed as the religion of the party in power, a religion of the state. Christianity developed originally as a religion of a persecuted minority--live and let live made more sense to them. That's why you have "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." As difficult as separation of church and state is for Christians, for Muslims it is much harder. So enjoy your right to ignore the bickering while you still have it, and hope you don't end up in a Sharia court someday (Sharia courts in UK were given enforcement powers in September of this year).

What a perfect piece of insignificant nonsense for Sean Hannity to dig into.

What does a Muslim expect when walking into a junk-food restaurant named "Long John Silver's" - some sort of enlightening experience?

Why are these religions so fragile and so easily threatened? Because they're being washed away by a steadily rising tide of scientific rationality.

I would be very curious to know what "CAIR sensitivity training" involves. I'll bet it hurts. I wonder if Keith Ellison was trained?

I'm absolutely amazed at some of the comments on here but not entirely surprised. How many people on here understand the fact that our constitution was rooted on Judeo-Christian values and fundamentals. What is happening however is the liberal left in this country which is predominantly secular; is pursuing a war against religion by attacking Christians specifically, followed by the Jewish. In their zeal to accommodate the Muslims, they are in fact bending to their (the Muslim people's) religious rights and putting them above our own rights and laws. This is wrong people.

They (The Muslim people) must understand that in this country, we are tolerant of each others religions, beliefs, etc. as long as they do not violate our laws. When you begin to tell me that I; as a restaurant owner, am forbidden from handing out something that has a bible verse on it, especially as a "throw away" type of add-in, then you are denying my right to be in business. You are also in effect challenging the rights of churches to exist in this country. If you seriously believe in this direction, you are also completely in the belief that our constitution and bill of rights should be null and void. Is this not correct???

Geez already, get over it! If you dont like the toy in the kids meal ask not to recieve one or buy something else!

A Professor speaks out. (as seen on http://www.allhomebased.com/Mohammed_Cartoons.htm)

Well, what do we have here. Looks like a small case of some people being able to dish it out, but not take it. Let's start at the top. The story begins at Michigan State University with a mechanical engineering professor named Indrek Wichman.

Wichman sent an e-mail to the Muslim Student's Association. The e-mail was in response to the students' protest of the Danish cartoons that portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. The group had complained the cartoons were "hate speech." Enter Professor Wichman.

In his e-mail, he said the following:

"Dear Moslem Association: As a professor of Mechanical Engineering here at MSU I intend to protest your protest.

I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey!), burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called "whores" in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting
and looting in Paris France.

This is what offends me, a soft-spoken person and academic, and many, many, many of my colleagues. I counsel you dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile "protests."

If you do not like the values of the West -- see the 1st Amendment -- you are free to leave. I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option. Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.

Cordially, I. S. Wichman, Professor of Mechanical Engineering"
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Well! As you can imagine, the Muslim group at the university didn't like this too well. They're demanding Wichman be reprimanded and mandatory diversity training for faculty and a seminar on hate and discrimination for freshman. How nice. But now the Michigan chapter of CAIR has jumped into the fray. CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, apparently doesn't believe that the good professor had the right to express his opinion.

For its part, the university is standing its ground. They say the e-mail was private, and they don't intend to publicly condemn his remarks. That will probably change. Wichman says he never intended the e-mail to be made public, and wouldn't have used the same strong language if he'd known it was going to get out.

How's the left going to handle this one? If you're in favor of the freedom of speech, as in the case of Ward Churchill, will the same protections be demanded for Indrek Wichman? I doubt it. Hey guys send this to everybody and ask them to do the same and tell them to keep passing it around till the whole country gets it. We are in a war to the bitter end.

Wow, I really think Jeff Kline hit the nail on the head when he said and I quote him "They (The Muslim people) must understand that in this country, we are tolerant of each others religions, beliefs, etc. as long as they do not violate our laws. When you begin to tell me that I; as a restaurant owner, am forbidden from handing out something that has a bible verse on it, especially as a "throw away" type of add-in, then you are denying my right to be in business.".

If I were to receive some sort of Christian proselytizing at a place of business whose product is not religion, I as a Jew, would be annoyed, offended, pissed off. In this case I would give the coloring book back to the owner and let them know s/he lost my business.

I find it interesting that over and over again it is Christians, not Muslims or Jews, who are so into pushing their beliefs on others, thinking they are doing everyone a favor. I can recall the first time this happened was when I was a young kid and someone gave my mother a tract on a city bus, and the incidents have taken many forms and contexts over the decades. I wouldn't try to prevent you from doing it, but don't expect me to like it.

"I find it interesting that over and over again it is Christians, not Muslims or Jews, who are so into pushing their beliefs on others, thinking they are doing everyone a favor."

-Laura Weber

I very much agree with this statement. I have never in my life, nor anywhere in this country or any other country, been approached by anyone other than a Christian to join their religion. As matter of fact I feel I have been threatened or warned to an extent, while at work, by a fellow employee who insisted on engaging me in a conversation (sales pitch) warning of my imminent demise for eternity in hell. Again, this happened in Georgia as well as in Minnesota as well as in Iowa by several groups. I am also very familiar with many Jews, Muslims, and Hindu who have never once attempted to "recruit" me nor even consider suggesting that I would spend eternity in hell. They would consider that rude.

"How many people on here understand the fact that our constitution was rooted on Judeo-Christian values and fundamentals."

-Jeff Kline

You should study your history. Our Constitution was written by men of the Enlightenment. Yes they had their own self interests in mind, but that's a different argument. The founding fathers did believe in a higher power but not necessarily the God depicted in the Bible. These were men of science, business, philosophy, craftsmen and statesmen. They avoided as often as they could in referring to the word "God", especially George Washington, who incidentally disliked attending services on Sunday. So much so he was actually forced one Sunday as President while passing through a small town in Rhode Island where it was the mandatory by law to attend Sunday services. John Adams referred to the Evangelical movement in the early 1800's as the end to all that they had accomplished, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson wrote his own version of the Bible omitting all the miracles and the virgin birth to remind people about the teachings that existed within the passages.

'I find it interesting that over and over again it is Christians, not Muslims or Jews, who are so into pushing their beliefs on others, thinking they are doing everyone a favor."

LOL Really? Try vacationing in the Maldives then. You will see Islamic "tolerance" at its finest.

I am a moderate Muslim with a Islamic website business that teaches tolerance and understanding.it is muslimtoysanddolls.com I want to say that the Muslim family had a right to be upset.the united states is for all people and public places are not forums for a specific religion they are just that public places for all,Muslims,Jew,Christians,Buddhists,and more.Toys should be generic and sensitive to all religions or lack thereof.I understand where that family is coming from and not just because I am muslim but because I am american.and america is about respecting diversity.I think I made my point.