Islam needs the equivalent of an Emily Post; otherwise, someone unfamiliar with all the ways a nonbeliever might give offense could lose his or her head over the most innocent violation of etiquette.
Like wearing the wrong flip-flops, for example.
Habib M. Iskandar Alkadri, a spokesman for the Islam Defenders Front, or FPI, in Indonesia is demanding the government respond immediately to the discovery that a brand of flip-flops or sandals appears to carry the name Allah on its soles.
“FPI West Kalimantan urged the government and relevant agencies in this regard … to act decisively, by taking concrete steps. This is related to the abuse of Islam,” said Alkadri to the Tribune Pontianak Wednesday.
Alkadri called for decisive action because the blasphemous footwear may not yet have spread to other markets, where it will cause greater offense.
“It must be addressed immediately, traced and withdrawn from the market. We as community organizations can only make a non-formal appeal. The government can issue rules, but they must be executed firmly,” he added.
Whether or not it was the designer’s intent, the controversial design on the shoe’s sole closely approximates the name Allah on the black flag, or Black Standard, carried by Islamic State fighters, its top line repeating the Shahada: There is no god but Allah. Mohammad is the messenger of Allah.
And while Allah’s name on a flag that spreads murder, mayhem and terror raises no theological qualms, having it on the bottom of a shoe is a great insult.
In Islam, the shoe is considered unclean. It is considered dirty because it’s in contact with the ground and associated with the lowest part of the human body. Muslims must remove their shoes before prayers or entering a mosque.
Even crossing one’s ankle over a knee and displaying the sole of the shoe while conversing with another is considered a great insult.
In December 2008, Iraqi journalist Muntazer al Zaidi threw his shoes at former President George Bush during his last visit to the country. His rebellious insult was applauded across the Arab world.
Alkadri warned the flip-flops could cause unrest in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation, calling it a SARA issue, referring to former President Suharto’s “SARA-policy,” which banned public discussion of ethnic, religious, racial and tribal issues that could upset public peace.
“This is very sensitive!” said Alkadri. “We are aware of the educational background of various communities – it is feared things could happen that are not desirable.”
The FPI spokesman issued a warning to businesses to be more careful and sensitive so nothing this insulting happens again.
“Never again let there be abuse like this,” Alkadri said. “We must maintain the comfort and safety of religion.”
In 1997 Nike agreed to dump a style of athletic training shoes after Muslims complained the flame-like logo resembled the name Allah. In exchange for the suspending sales and issuing an apology, the Council on American-Islamic Relations agreed to urge Muslims around the world not to boycott Nike products. The company also agreed to donate a $50,000 playground to an Islamic elementary school in Virginia.