Fact Check

Shell Refuses GIs Service

Was a serviceman in uniform refused service because the establishment's owners didn't support the war in Iraq?

Published Sept. 3, 2007


Claim:   A Shell service station owner in Tennessee refused to do business with a U.S. soldier.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2005]

How is this guy still in business in East Tenn with all us good old Patriotic Rednecks living here?

The Shell Station At The Corner Of William Blount Drive And 411 Hwy.

One day last week the Iranian Owner refused to sell items to a local Soldier, when he put his items on the register counter, he said "We Do Not Serve Soldiers Here" and refused to sell the items to him. There were
several people standing in line and when he did this they put their items on the counter and walked out.

This is the same owner that when 9-11 happened, witnesses in the store said he laughed and applauded in the store and some one attacked him and beat him up.

How is this guy still in business in East Tenn. with all us good old Patriotic Rednecks living here. I don't use this store anyway. Just thought some of you would like to know what we have in our back yard.

Thanks for your time. If you do not agree just disregard. It's my personal opinion. Everyone has one.

Proud Mom of Operation Iraqi Freedom Soldier

Origins:   The years since the September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001 and the U.S. military invasion of Iraq in 2003 have brought us a panoply of (mostly false) rumors about business owners and employees in the U.S. who have supposedly openly celebrated terrorist attacks on America and/or refused to do business with U.S. servicemen. Most often the businesses targeted by such rumors are gas stations, convenience stores, or other small shops, since those types of business are frequently owned, operated, or staffed by immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, or by persons mistakenly assumed by Americans to be Mid-East immigrants). (See, for example, "The Hole in the Middle," "This Bud's Not for You," "Leatherneck Cold Shouldered," and "The Shunned Serviceman.")


item quoted at the head of this page began circulating in November 2005 and combines both aspects of this rumor type (i.e., the celebration of terrorist attacks and the shunning of servicemen) by claiming that the "Iranian" owner of a service station and convenience mart (one who had "laughed and applauded" after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.) recently refused to sell goods to a U.S. serviceman, brusquely sending the serviceman away empty-handed with a "We do not serve soldiers here" retort.

Although no specifics of time or person are provided, the account specifically identifies a Shell station at the corner of William Blount Drive and U.S. 411 South in Maryville, Tennessee, as the scene of the alleged snubbing. However, no independently verifiable information has surfaced to confirm that an event like the one described in the e-mailed account ever took place at that location.

The business referred to is the Rocky Top Quick Stop Market & Deli, which is owned by Muhammad Jahangir. Mr. Jahangir was born in Pakistan (not Iran) and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1991. His wife is also a naturalized U.S. citizen, and all three of the couple's children were born in the U.S. The Jahangirs and their employees have vehemently denied that anyone at their business celebrated the 9/11 attacks, refused service to a soldier, or harbors any ill will towards the U.S. or its servicemen, proclaiming that:

We are all American citizens at this store. Some of us were born to this citizenship after many generations of American ancestors; others of us achieved citizenship more recently after going through great difficulties because we wanted to be a part of this wonderful country of justice and opportunity for all. Please be assured that we fully support all of the men and women in service to our country, and all of our veterans, and please stand with us during this troublesome time.

Other evidence attests to the falsity of the claim:

  • The Rocky Top Quick Stop Market & Deli is monitored by a video surveillance system. Mr. Jahangir has offered that if anyone can provide the date and time of the alleged incident, he will pull and provide the corresponding security tape for examination. So far he has had no takers.
  • The Rocky Top Quick Stop Market & Deli receives a fair amount of business from military personnel belonging to the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment (headquartered in Knoxville) and others stationed at the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Alcoa, Tennessee (about 3 miles from Maryville). If Mr. Jahangir or his employees truly harbored an antipathy towards the military, a significant portion of his customer base would be affected. Nonetheless, no one else has come forward and claimed to have received similar treatment at the store. In fact, personnel from McGhee Tyson have attested to just the opposite:

    Capt. Lisa Godsey, executive officer with the 134th Air Refueling Wing at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, said several personnel from the base who live near the Shell store visited the store Nov. 11 after hearing the rumors and were treated well.

    Godsey was in the area herself on Nov. 12 and stopped at the store for a snack.

    "Everyone was pleasant, professional and courteous," Godsey said.

  • The earliest versions of the e-mail were signed "Terressa," but attempts by authorities and reporters to locate the originator of the e-mail or anyone by that name in the area have come up empty.

In fact, the alleged incident at the Rocky Top Quick Stop Market & Deli sounds suspiciously like a mistaken retelling of an event that had taken place between members of the National Guard's 278th Armored Cavalry and convenience store employees in Sparta, Tennessee, well over a year earlier:

According to informed sources, one or more employees at the Raceway Convenience Store on Bockman Way had allegedly refused service to two of Sparta’s National Guard members, while they were in uniform. On another separate occasion [an employee] had asked a guardsman's wife to leave the premises after finding out her husband was a member of the military. The manager and employees involved are all of Indian descent.

Unfortunately, the result of the opprobrious e-mail — whether motivated by racism or some other form of spite — has been to harm the Jahangirs' business and make them fear for their safety. Flyers bearing the rumor have been distributed at nearby businesses, and Mr. Jahangir has had to request additional patrols of his store from the police.

Last updated:   6 December 2005

  Sources Sources:

    Coleman, Lance.   "Store Owner Upset by Accusation He Refused to Serve Soldier."

    Blount Today.   14 November 2005.

    Millard, Bonny C.   "Store Owner 'Hurt' by Rumors."

    The [Maryville] Daily Times.   15 November 2005.

    Millard, Bonny C.   "Attorney: Businesses, E-Mail Users Should Be Warned."

    The [Maryville] Daily Times.   15 November 2005.

    Wood, Kim Swindell.   "Protesters Rally to Support Military, Problems Resolved with Mediation."

    The [Sparta] Expositor.   10 June 2004.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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