Hindu Vivek Kendra
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'Stop bombings to stop boycott'

'Stop bombings to stop boycott'

Publication: Mid-Day
Date: November 20, 2001

Introduction: "City Muslims to continue ban on US goods despite Taliban'' defeat

The happy images on television of Afghans celebrating the flight of the Taliban from Kabul have not convinced Mumbai's Sadik Ali to give up his boycott of American soft drinks and food products.

As far as he is concerned, the celebrations will start only after the US-led forces leave the war-torn country alone. "Until then, I am sticking to the boycott of American products," says this owner of a soft-drinks stall on SVP Road.

Ali has stopped selling soft drinks with American brand names for the last two weeks, following the call by Muslim organisations to boycott the products to protest the killing of innocent civilians during the bombings in Afghanistan.

The images of Afghans rejoicing after being freed from Taliban rule have not yet caught the eye of Ali's neighbour, Yunus Abdul Rahim, manager of Paramount Restaurant. Rahim does not watch television during Ramzan. But from whatever information he has gleaned from newspapers, he is convinced that innocent people are still dying in Afghanistan.

Before the boycott call, Rahim used to sell five to six crates of soft-drink brands like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. But even the loss in sales cannot convince him to sell the products again. "Till our association tells us to stop the boycott, we will not sell American food products," says Rahim.

Adam Ibrahim, of Tipu Sultan restaurant on Masjid Street, too, says "We will reconsider the boycott only if our association gives us the order to do so."

The Indian Hoteliers' Association (IRA), comprising a group of Muslim restaurateurs, is leading the boycott. They say it is still too early to call off the boycott.

"We will continue with the boycott till America stops bombing Afghanistan. Innocent civilians are still being killed. We will continue with the boycott till the war ends in Afghanistan," says Shahabuddin Shaikh, IHA president and owner of Shalimar restaurant at Bhendi Bazaar.

"We are in touch with the American consulate. We have told them that we will continue with the boycott till the bombing stops. They have indicated that there could be a change in American strategy and that the bombings would stop. "Once the bombings stop, the association will meet to decide our future course of action," Shaikh adds.

According to the association, around 2,000 restaurants in the city are boycotting American and British products. "During Ramzan, the number will increase to 2,500," says a member.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Medicos Association, a group of Muslim doctors boycotting American medicines, says it too is continuing its boycott. "I have even stopped meeting medical representatives from the banned companies," says Dr M Ameen Kitekar, a pediatrician from Kurla and member of the association.

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