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Corporate Social Values May Be Different Than Your Own

Last week in my posting “Marketing to Muslims, Part 2 of 2”, I mentioned that Muslims would find products to buy that are halal or sharia-compliant. Along those lines, a blog that I follow is called Practical Islamic Finance, run by Rakaan Kayali. Mr. Kayali has impressive credentials, and if you conduct an internet search, you will find he has several Web sites with many engaging articles. He conducts interviews with notable Islamic bankers and financiers. While I don’t think he is a credentialed religious scholar, his opinions on whether a financial product is halal or haram are worth reviewing.

While reviewing one of his postings, I came across an issue that caught my eye. The blog posting is entitled “Amana Trust Growth Fund (AMAGX) Review,” posted on July 12, 2020. In his analysis, he discusses the halalness (yes, that is a word) of 33 companies that Amana had in their portfolio. One company catches his attention: Lowe's, the home improvement store. His quote reads:

“The reason why I would personally not invest in Lowe’s is because in 2011 Lowe’s withdrew its advertising from a show that attempted to portray Muslims in a positive light.

To be honest, the show itself was a cringfest with zero entertainment value but that’s not the point. The point is that this show attempted to portray Muslims as normal people, and this upset people who hate Muslims.

These haters then lobbied advertisers to pull their ads from the show and Lowe’s gave in and pulled their advertisements.

While it is perfectly within Lowe’s right to advertise wherever it wants, it is equally within the right of the Muslim community to not forget Lowe’s decision and to express their disapproval with this decision with their spending and investment dollars.

Now some may say it’s been 10 years since this happened and I should probably let it go. However, I think if Muslims want to be respected and accounted for, they should not have such short memories.

What Lowe’s did was really bad. They gave in to pure bigotry and this should not just be swept under the rug before it is addressed properly.

Lowe’s should issue a very clear apology for giving in to pure bigotry against Muslims before Muslims start reengaging with this company.

This is my personal opinion on the matter, you’re welcome to make your own judgements and invest accordingly.

Besides, Lowe’s isn’t even that great a company. I personally prefer Home Depot.”

I do not know why Lowe's withdrew their advertising for that program, and if it was purely for the reasons specified, it was wrong. However, Mr. Kayali and other investors are looking at the wrong reasons to pull back from Lowe's or any company for that matter. Whether a company advertises for a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Christian program is immaterial to me unless that is part of their market. There are overriding social values that we should be focusing on. Let me explain.

Many of the retailers that we buy products from spend their revenues to support and fund issues and causes that oppose the very values we uphold. For example, take the issue of abortion. Some companies contribute money to programs that seek to advance a pro-abortion agenda. Many companies financially donate to charities or organizations like Planned Parenthood that openly advocate and support a pro-abortion stance. Islam and Christianity are both pro-life religions. So, where do Lowe's and Home Deport stand on that issue? Lowe's takes a neutral stand and spends no money on pro-life issues or abortion causes. Home Depot, on the other hand, does contribute money to pro-life organizations. Round one goes to Home Depot.

Another issue that is important to me is 1st Amendment rights. Living in the U.S., our Constitution espouses, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We recently saw big Tech companies like Twitter and Facebook actively censor conservatives or supporting companies and take away social media content they judged to be inflammatory, incorrect, or not helping their cause. So, how did Lowe's and Home Depot measure up against this issue? Lowe's actively supported organizations that advocated the censorship of 1st amendment rights. Home Depot took the opposite approach and supported organizations favoring 1st amendment rights. Round two goes to Home Depot.

Other issues can be monitored as well. Such as support for, or not, 2nd amendment issues (gun rights), the LGBTQ+ community, immigration and border control, environmental regulation, and climate change policies. Companies quite frequently contribute money to organizations that support the policies that the CEO and Board of Directors of a given company want to push. These contributions from public companies can be found in their annual stockholder’s report, and depending on the size of the charity, their contributors are frequently listed. One company and Web site that monitors this information is 2ndVote. This Web site is where I could see how Lowe's and Home Depot were spending their dollars on social causes.

While Mr. Kayali leaned towards Home Depot as a better choice, he did not know their social posture. In my opinion, it did turn out to be better than Lowe's. While their financial stance must meet halal standards for Muslim investment, I maintain we (Christians and Muslims) should not neglect a company’s spending on social causes.

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