The Burger King Boycott: Another View
The corporate world often poses a striking resemblance to the seedy underworld of drug trafficking where two-bit street hustlers who wear leather jackets and drive BMWs occupy one end of the supply line, while well-respected "businessmen" who own entire islands and fleets of BMWs sit atop that same food chain.
In the corporate world, many companies, easily recognizable to consumers, are but two-bit cash cows for huge corporate entities of which most consumers have never heard.
Take, for example, the London-based Diageo, PLC (NYSE: DEO). Given the name alone, most consumers wouldn't be able to name a single-product related to this conglomerate which employs 85,000 people and did L12.03 billion in sales in its fiscal 1998. But if you begin to name companies that, as subsidiaries, fuel the engines of Diageo, consumers will no doubt show recognition of these businesses. A few companies that help comprise the Diageo empire are Pillsbury, Green Giant, Haagen Dazs, Old El Paso, Progresso and yes, Burger King.
With reference to Burger King, a point of order is probably necessary for those not aware of the current controversy surrounding the fast food giant. The advocacy group American Muslims for Jerusalem (AMJ) has called on Muslims to boycott Burger King for its corporate decision to open a franchise in the Israeli, settler-occupied, West Bank town of Ma'ale Adumim. Many Muslims have taken heed to this call and Monday the Arab League threatened to join that boycott as well.
But Muslims need to realize that this is not just an issue of abstaining from greasy fries and calorie and carcinogenic-filled burgers, which from a health perspective, should probably be avoided anyway. This is an issue of the hegemony of multi-national corporations and their ability gain almost carte blanche access to even the most war-torn, economically crippled parts of the world, with the blessings of governments and under the aegis of "free market capitalism."
Why, you ask, should this dispute be viewed from such a macroscopic perspective? Because generally speaking, the Burger Kings of this world don't have the influence to maneuver into spots as tight as the occupied West Bank. Large, multi-national corporations, however, do have that sort of influence.
But with power comes responsibility. And as a company that professes in its own corporate guidelines (http://www.diageo.com/ccdiageo/home/index2.html) that "it is essential to the long-term wellbeing of Diageo that we are sensitive and responsive to the wider world in which we exist," Diageo needs to be held accountable for the blunders of its constituent companies. And in the case of Burger King, the blunder was monumental.
But wait, there's more.
The issue for Muslims goes well beyond the cuddly image of the Pillsbury DoughBoy and the distinctive taste of Burger King's charbroiled sandwiches. You see, all of the above noted companies are but small fries compared to the favorite arrow in Diageo's quiver of consumer products: alcohol.
A visit to Diageo's website (http://www.diageo.com/f_bp.htm) turns up a laundry list of products that include some of the most recognizable brands of alcoholic beverages on the market: Bailey's Original Irish Cream, Christian Brothers Brandy, Glen Ellen Wines, Hennessey Cognac, Johnnie Walker Whiskey, Jose Cuervo Tequila, Popov Vodka, Smirnoff Vodka, Tanqueray Gin...and the list goes on.
All of these products are readily available at most large grocery store chains. And these same products are the ones ruining so many communities and lives right here in America. From the intoxicating smell of its freshly grilled meat, to the truly intoxicating effects of its beverages, Diageo seems to have forgotten its own mission to be "sensitive and responsive" to the consumers of the world. So why should Muslims support Burger King or anything else Diageo owns?
The world doesn't need another hamburger and it surely doesn't need another drunk.
Ali Asadullah is the editor of iviews.com