An American soldier in Iraq who e-mailed a U.S. company to ask for a shipment of 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 response quickly circulated on the Internet and led to threats against the Muslim-owned business, including demands for a boycott.
Bargain Suppliers, an online retailer, shut down its Web site Monday and fired the unidentified employee who sent the e-mail, television station WTMJ 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.
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."
In an e-mail dated Jan. 16, Sgt. Jason Hess asked if the company could ship floor mats to Iraq. He wanted the mats to cover the ruts in a concrete floor in a space now used as a conference room.
The e-mail response came the same day.
In an e-mail to the AP, Hess said Tuesday the employee's firing did not ease his anger.
"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 stationed in Taji, Iraq.
Othman Atta, president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, said the employee's response was inappropriate. He said he 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.
Police said they had received no immediate reports of any vandalism or threats from the Khetani family.