A sultry Roberto Cavalli advertisement is angering Islamic Sufi followers, who say that the Italian design house has inappropriately used one of their sacred symbols on the packaging of their perfume line. The commercial for Just Cavalli, one of their signature perfumes, features a scantily clad Georgia May Jagger, the daughter of rock star Mick Jagger and his ex-wife, Jerry Hall. In one of the promotional video, Jagger sports the controversial logo tattooed on her wrist, saying it represents a “snake bite,” and is a “sign of seduction.” Another video shows Jagger, 22, stripping down to her bra, showing off her tattoo, and flirting with a shirtless man.
The ad campaign, shot by famed photographer Mario Sorrenti has provoked multiple demonstrations in a diverse range of far-flung cities, from Beverly Hills, Chicago, New York and San Francisco to Dusseldorf in Germany, London and Paris. Explaining the protests, Sufi Rights, an organization that describes its main purpose as providing a voice to Sufis by “protecting the sanctity of their faith” and raising awareness about its misrepresentation, said that they were working on getting Cavalli to remove the emblem, which has offended the Sufi faithful. The group has orchestrated a social media dialogue, through the use of Facebook, YouTube videos and the launch of a Twitter campaign using the hashtag, #TakeOffJustLogo.
The focus of the anger is a symbol that is being used as the logo of the Just Cavalli line. According to the M.T.O Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, which counts some 500,000 adherents worldwide, the logo resembles a sacred symbol that is trademarked and needs to be taken off. The school, which grew out of the Iranian diaspora, has branches in several countries According to them, the symbol at the center of the controversy is a stylized ‘H’— two arcs linked in the middle — that the designer has rotated by 90 degrees and is using on the packaging. Sufi adherents say that the symbol is based on the centuries-old upright sign of an Arabic word that means “Allah” and stands for peace and harmony.
Calling the use of the symbol by Cavalli for “corporate profits… disrespectful, offensive and degrading,” one of the campaign organizers, Nasim Bahadorani, an ethnic Iranian who was born in San Diego, says the logo needs to be changed to prevent further cheapening and degradation of their sacred symbol.
The battle over the logo, which the Roberto Cavalli company has used since 2011, was taken to the European Union’s trademark and design authority, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). Agreeing with the design house, the OHIM rejected the claims of the Sufis and did not invalidate the Just Cavalli logo.
The Islamic Sufi followers, angered by the sultry Roberto Cavalli advertisement, are not giving up. Rejecting the design corporation’s position that they are “deeply saddened by the distress expressed by the Sufist School students,” Bahadorani says the use of this symbol of “blessed peace” and “refuge…is heartbreaking.”
This is not the first time that the Cavalli design company has been accused of exploiting religious symbols. About a decade ago, Hindus challenged the design house for using sacred deities on a bikini line that was being sold out of London’s Harrods department store. In that case, Cavalli withdrew their line, saying that the use of Hindu deities on swimwear was not meant to offend religious sensibilities. It is uncertain how the latest tug-of-war will end but the Islamic Sufi followers angered by the sultry Cavalli advertisements appear determined in their quest for the removal of their sacred symbol.
By Monalisa Gangopadhyay
South China Morning Post
The Asian Age