Is this logo offensive?
Nike has come under fire for the design of its Air Max shoe, with some calling it insulting to the Islamic faith.
According to a recent petition launched on Change.org, the Air Max logo on the bottom of some Nike Air Max sneakers resembles the word “Allah,” the word for God in Arabic, written in Arabic script.
“Nike has produced the Nike Air Max 270 shoe with the script logo on the sole resembling the word Allah in Arabic, which will surely be trampled, kicked and become soiled with mud or even filth,” Saiqa Noreen, who started the appeal, wrote on the petition’s homepage.
“It is outrageous and appalling of Nike to allow the name of God on a shoe,” Noreen wrote. “This is disrespectful and extremely offensive to Muslims and insulting to Islam. Islam teaches compassion, kindness and fairness towards all.”
Noreen also urged Nike to “recall this blasphemous and offensive shoe and all products with the design logo resembling the word Allah from worldwide sales immediately.”
Nike’s Air shoes have faced criticism in the past for their branding. In 1997, Nike came under fire for using a flame-shaped logo that resembled the world “Allah” in Arabic script. The company apologized and stopped selling shoes with that design.
In this case, Nike maintains that the logo is nothing more than a stylized representation of the Air Max brand.
“Nike respects all religions and we take concerns of this nature seriously,” a Nike spokesperson said in a statement to TODAY Style. “The AIR MAX logo was designed to be a stylized representation of Nike’s AIR MAX trademark. It is intended to reflect the AIR MAX brand only. Any other perceived meaning or representation is unintentional.”
As of Jan. 29, the Change.org petition has racked up more than 9,600 signatures.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has also been fielding complaints about the Nike logo in recent weeks.
“A number of community members have reached out to us about the design,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director, told TODAY.
Hooper says this is not the first time a company has been accused of using Islamic script on their products.
“We’ve dealt with a number of cases over the years. The typical kind of case would be a jeans manufacturer who liked a design, and the design happened to be verses from the Quran in Arabic,” he said. “They don’t necessarily see a problem, they may not even know what it was; it was just a nice design to them, but obviously it’s completely inappropriate to do that kind of thing.”
Hooper also pointed to a recent case in which Amazon was selling doormats, bath mats and toilet seats emblazoned with Islamic calligraphy and verses from the Quran. (Amazon has since pulled the products.)
Hooper says the Nike case differs from these more blatant examples.
“There’s the two categories, where it’s actual Islamic, religious text and then where it’s perceived to be a religious text. And this logo is more in that category,” he said.
Hooper says he is hoping to open a dialogue with Nike, given the recent public controversy surrounding the logo.
“Obviously, Muslims are concerned that references to God, which in Arabic is the world Allah, would be on the sole of a shoe,” he said. “Now, there are widely varying opinions as to … what is actually seen in this particular design. But it’s something that Muslims are always concerned about, and we’ve reached out to Nike to discuss the issue.”