Sufi faithful raise a stink over sultry perfume ads

Sat Jun 28, 2014 8:05am EDT
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By Mary Papenfuss

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A sultry ad for a perfume created by Roberto Cavalli has touched a raw nerve with followers of Islamic Sufism, who claim the Italian design house has inappropriately used a symbol sacred to practitioners of their mystical faith.

Commercials for the scent Just Cavalli, featuring the scantily clad daughter of rock star Mick Jagger, have provoked demonstrations outside stores in cities as far flung as San Francisco and Beverly Hills in California and Dusseldorf, Germany. More protests are planned this weekend in Chicago and London.

Followers of the M.T.O Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, which counts some 500,000 adherents worldwide, say the logo of the Just Cavalli line resembles a trademarked sacred emblem and they want it removed.

The logo in question is a stylized "H" lying on its side. Sufis say it is based on their centuries-old upright symbol of an Arabic word that spells "Allah" and represents peace and harmony.

"To use something that means so much to us for corporate profit cheapens our sacred symbol," said one of the campaign organizers, Nasim Bahadorani, a doctoral student and ethnic Iranian born in San Diego. "It's disrespectful, offensive and degrading."

The Roberto Cavalli company, which has used the logo since 2011, says the symbols are neither similar nor mistakable. Last month, the European Union's trademark and design authority, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), agreed, and rejected an official request by the Sufis to invalidate the Just Cavalli logo.

"Roberto Cavalli SpA is deeply saddened by the distress expressed by the Sufist School students, but hopes that the sentence emitted by a competent authority such as the OHIM, will convince the Sufist religion of the complete good faith and the groundlessness of their requests," the company said this week in a statement.

Undeterred by the EU decision, Sufi followers have taken matters into their own hands. In recent weeks they stepped up their campaign with a Facebook page, YouTube videos, a #TakeOffJustLogo Twitter drive and a series of demonstrations outside stores selling Cavalli fashion, shoes and other products.   Continued...

Italian designer Roberto Cavalli acknowledges the audience at the end of his Spring/Summer 2014 collection during Milan Fashion Week in this September 21, 2013 file photo.  REUTERS/Max Ross/Files