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Letter to Patty Smith

Reader comment on item: Amazon.com's Koran Desecration Problem

Submitted by Stephen Browne (United States), May 21, 2005 at 11:19

To: Patty Smith

Re: selling an allegedly desecrated Koran

Dear Ms Smith,

I have read with interest about the demands made by the Muslim Public Affairs Council on behalf of one Azza Basarudin over allegedly receiving a (used copy) desecrated Koran from Bellweather Books, ordered through Amazon.

While a public apology is certainly in order, I strongly urge Amazon not to give in to demands for monetary support for MPAC or conspicuous public groveling. To begin with, the circumstances at the most, indicate an innocent mistake in vending a used book. And, there are strong reasons to suspect deliberate fraud on the part of someone acting as an agent provocateur.

If this seems far-fetched, may I point out that I have worked as a teacher in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and remember well that a common tactic used by students who feared that a teacher was about to write them up for disciplinary reasons, was to proactively complain to the administration that the teacher had "insulted our religion".

I know that it is an unfortunately common practice for many firms to pay off nuisance lawsuits and write it off as a cost of doing business. I suggest that this practice is disastrously short-sighted. You are dealing with people with a long-term strategy - and this is only the opening sally.

If you feel that you cannot afford to alienate customers, please consider that I have been quite a good customer over the past several years and giving in would certainly alienate me.

There is a saying, "Once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you'll never be rid of the Dane." If you give in to these demands, there will be more forthcoming. And ultimately they will be for more than just public abasement and money.

Stephen W Browne

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