Anti-war e-mail spurs debate

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MILWAUKEE (AP) – An American GI in Iraq who e-mailed a Wisconsin company to ask for a shipment of some floor mats got a brusque reply: “We would NEVER ship to Iraq. If you were sensible, you and your troops would pull out of Iraq.”

The two-line e-mail response quickly circulated on the Internet and has led to threats against the Muslim-owned business and demands for a boycott.

Bargain Suppliers, an online retailer based in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis, shut down its Web site Monday and fired the unidentified employee who sent the e-mail, WTMJ-TV reported.

Co-owner Faisal Khetani, a Muslim from Pakistan, has received threatening calls, the TV station said. An answering machine at a number listed for the business said the mailbox was full and would not accept a message Tuesday.

In an e-mail dated Jan. 16, Sgt. Jason Hess asked about getting floor mats from the company.

“Do you ship to APO addresses? I’m in the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in Iraq and we are trying to order some mats but we are looking for who ships to APO first,” the e-mail said.

A response e-mailed the same day said the company did not.

“And even if we did, we would NEVER ship to Iraq. If you were sensible, you and your troops would pull out of Iraq,” said the e-mail, which was signed “Bargain Suppliers.”

In an e-mail to the AP, Hess said Tuesday the employee’s firing did not ease his anger over the original response.

“There should be standards set and upheld (by) the company on responding politely to e-mails from whoever goes to their site,” wrote Hess, a 31-year-old Fayetteville, N.C., native who is stationed in Taji, Iraq.

Hess said he wanted some mats to cover the ruts in a concrete floor in a former parking garage or storage unit now used as a conference room.

Bloggers spread the original e-mail exchange far and wide, along with the company’s address and phone number. At least one site included a link to a photograph of Khetani’s home.

“It’s really getting out of control,” Bargain Suppliers vice president Sajid Nasir told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Our main concern is for the safety of the family. That’s more important than the business.”

West Allis police said they were watching the situation but had received no immediate reports of any vandalism or threats from the Khetani family.

Othman Atta, president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, said the employee’s response was inappropriate. He said feared a backlash against Muslims.

“This whole thing is taking on a life of its own. It’s making me nervous,” he said, adding that the center would increase security.

Sgt. Colby Howser, spokesman for the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, said it is not unusual for soldiers to make purchases on their own.

“He wasn’t ordering for the unit,” Howser said. “If the unit needed to purchase something, it would be a lieutenant colonel placing the order, not a sergeant.”



On the Net:

Bargain Suppliers: http://discount-mats.com

AP-ES-01-23-07 1559EST

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