Water brand Evian created a storm after its social media post sparked a backlash for apparently offending Muslims observing Ramadan.
On Tuesday, when the faithful were marking the start of a month-long fast between the hours of sunrise and sunset, the Danone subsidiary brand posted a message on its French Twitter page that read: “Retweet if you have already drunk a litre of Evian today.”
The message generated an angry response from some users who found it thoughtless and insensitive. “Worst timing,” wrote one person, responding to the post that was retweeted more than 5,000 times in one day.
“There are millions of us fasting in France, right?” another said. There are more than five million Muslims living in France, the second-largest religious group in the country.
Users asked why the mineral water brand decided on the tweet that day, with some accusing Evian of racism and religious insensitivity.
However, other users defended the brand, pointing out how it posts regular statements and questions about water consumption on its Twitter feed.
Journalist Mathieu Slama criticises the apology of mineral water producer Évian to users in the French daily “Le Figaro”.
The confrontation, but also the way Évian reacted, says a lot about the “state of our public debate” and about “our collective failure in the face of the religiosity and entrism of the Muslim religion”, says Slama.
First of all, corporate brands, like politicians, would now be subject to ever-increasing pressure from minorities and would adapt their communication as a result. When they apologised, all these brands believed they were playing politics, “when in fact they were submitting to the market logic of pandering to communitarian sensibilities in order to protect their business”. This is because a dispute over communitarian issues can have a strong financial impact: “Therefore, brands want to prove themselves progressive and ‘woke’, even if this leads to defending ideas that are dangerous from a democratic point of view”. Évian has apologised because they got scared in the face of a possible boycott by Muslims”.
Moreover, according to Le Figaro, this confrontation shows us how much France is threatened by an Islamist entrism “that denies almost all the traditional values of our culture. In the name of the respect owed to a religion, we would have to renounce certain freedoms. In the name of this respect, we would have to accept limits to freedom, we would have to satisfy certain sensitivities”. After all, Évian had been accused of “lacking consideration for a community and practically committing blasphemy by disregarding the great importance of Ramadan for practising Muslims”. In other words, this meant “requiring Évian – and other brands or institutions – to take into account the religious specificities of a community in their communications. How could one not see in such an instruction an extremely dangerous bias for our democracy?” Therefore, France should “under no circumstances give in to the demands of these new puritans”.
In addition, one can see in this debate “the increasing rise in France of an Anglo-Saxon concept of freedom of expression, in which it is linked to the consideration of this or that minority. This is called ‘cancel culture’, which presupposes the banning of any expression that might offend a community or a minority”. Évian had posted an apology tweet “out of fear of calls for boycotts” and because the company did not want to harm “its responsible and progressive corporate image”. But this “Cancel Culture”, Slama continues, “this product of an Anglo-Saxon puritanical and intolerant culture, is destroying careers and companies the more it gains influence. One must not give in to this new intolerance and now more than ever proactively defend the values on which our society is based”.
Évian previous tweets never attracted this level of attention, with most barely surpassing double digits in retweets or likes.
A few hours after the message was posted the brand apologised, calling the original post clumsy. Evian said the tweet was not meant to cause offence.