x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Muslims in India boycott Coke and Pepsi in silent protest against Gaza attacks

More than a hundred members of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association will stop serving Coke and Pepsi at their premises until attacks on Gaza cease.

Members of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association have decided to take Coca-COla andPepsi off their shelves in a silent protest against Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip. Seen here is a street vendor selling Coca-Cola Co. products on a cart in New Delhi, Indiaa on July 28, 2012. Sanjit Das/Bloomberg
Members of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association have decided to take Coca-COla andPepsi off their shelves in a silent protest against Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip. Seen here is a street vendor selling Coca-Cola Co. products on a cart in New Delhi, Indiaa on July 28, 2012. Sanjit Das/Bloomberg

NEW DELHI // A group of Muslim restaurant owners in Mumbai has boycotted American colas such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, in protest against United States support of Israel during its recent attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The restaurateurs belong to the Chiliya community of Muslims, whose origins lie in the state of Gujarat and who run hundreds of eateries in Mumbai.

“We have taken a collective decision to boycott these products as a silent protest to the bombings that are killing so many innocent people, including children,” Omaer Sheikh, managing director of the Shalimar hotel, in Mumbai’s Muslim-dominated Bhendi Bazaar neighbourhood, told the Mumbai Mirror newspaper last week. “We will continue this protest until the bombings are stopped.”

The decision was taken on July 16 by members of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (IHAR). More than a hundred members met at the Shalimar Hotel to find a way of protesting Israel’s attacks on Gaza.

“We’re going to keep the boycott going until the bombings stop,” Rashid Hakim, the owner of a restaurant called Noor Mohammadi, also in Bhendi Bazaar, told The National on Saturday. “We just want to do our bit to ensure that there’s a return to humanity in that region.”

After the boycott began, his customers frequently asked him and his waiters about the lack of Coke and Pepsi, Mr Hakim said.

In response, he has installed a giant banner above the door of Noor Mohammadi, announcing the reasoning behind his decision.

Instead of colas, the restaurants resolved to serve fruit juices and jal jeera, a peppery, cumin-laced drink that aids digestion, particularly after fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

But Arvind Shetty, the chairman of the Mumbai-based IHAR, emphasised that his organisation was not officially backing the boycott.

“The members who are behind this form perhaps three per cent of our total community,” Mr Shetty said. “They did request us to support their boycott. But we didn’t agree.”

Mr Shetty explained that his organisation was reluctant to take stances on religious issues. “Morally, of course, we condemn the killing of innocent people,” he said. “But in this particular case, the restaurants are acting on their own.”

ssubramanian@thenational.ae