Souvenir soccer balls for the 2010 FIFA World Cup to be hosted in South Africa next year have angered South African Muslims because they have an Arabic inscription that is considered sacred and are going to be kicked around.
But FIFA has denied any knowledge of such balls, with local organisers believing that the balls on sale now are probably pirate versions of the officially sanctioned version of the ball.
The Jamiatul Ulama (Council of Muslim Theologians) of South Africa said that the balls being circulated featured the national flags of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, which all have the Arabic inscription with which Muslims proclaim their faith by declaring that there is only one Allah and that Mohammed is his messenger and prophet.
"These flags carry Islamic proclamations considered sacred by Muslims. Usage in this manner has the potential of offending adherents of the Islamic faith," the Council said in a statement.
FIFA's media officer Delia Fischer said a check with its licensees in South Africa had shown that they were not aware of any football advertisements using Muslim symbols.
Reassuring the Muslim community here that FIFA had noted its concerns and that they could be assured of FIFA's "utmost respect", Fischer added that FIFA as a sporting body would never use any religious elements or messages in its promotional items.
The Jamiatul Ulama said it had noted an upsurge in the use of Islamic texts in advertising in recent months for a wide range of goods.
"Muslims handle and dispose of such sacred texts with utmost respect. We would therefore like to bring to the attention of publishers, advertisers, printers, publicists and all concerned the sensitivities the Muslim community has about the use of any type of media with sacred Islamic text," the Council said, offering assistance to advertising agencies in determining the appropriateness of Arabic texts, arabesque art and calligraphy "which may have subtly embedded sacred text".