As far as CEOs go, Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish-born founder of Chobani Yogurt, is a fairly remarkable man. Earlier this year, Ulukaya made headlines after he gave away 10 percent of Chobani’s shares to employees, making some longtime workers millionaires in the process. In recent years, the company's founder has also started employing hundreds of refugees from war torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Still, despite Ulukaya’s humanitarian efforts, no good deed goes unpunished, especially when America’s extreme right comes into play.
According to the New York Times, conservative trolls have been sending Ulukaya racist messages and death threats due to the some 300 refugees that work at his factories in New York and Idaho. “Conspiratorial articles” have also appeared on conservative websites like Breitbart, and the sentiment seems to echo the xenophobic hate speech propagated by supporters of Donald Trump and his anti-refugee platforms.
Ulukaya, who is of Kurdish descent, has largely built his company with the help of employees he found at refugee resettlement centers, but fringe news sites are now claiming he wants to “drown the United States in Muslims.” Still, Ulukaya doesn’t seem to be giving into the right’s intimidation techniques.
“The minute a refugee has a job, that’s the minute they stop being a refugee,” Ulukaya said in a speech earlier this year. Chobani reportedly earns $1.5 billion in annual sales, and Ulukaya has pledged to give away the bulk of his fortune to help displaced families.
While there was perhaps a time when aiding refugees hardly qualified as a controversy, today the political rhetoric on the right is filled with talk of building walls, protecting borders, and keeping refugees and immigrants out of the U.S. In addition to the death threats and hate speech directed at Ulukaya on social media, there have also been calls to boycott Chobani’s products across the board.
“What’s happening with Chobani is one more flash point in this battle between the voices of xenophobia and the voices advocating a rational immigration policy,” Cecillia Wang, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Times. “It’s because he’s an immigrant himself.”
[via New York Times]