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Firm apologises for Saudi flag on beer bottles

German brewery official says they were not aware flag carried statement of faith

Gulf News

Manama: A brewery in Germany has apologised after it printed the flag of Saudi Arabia on its bottle caps ahead of the World Cup.

Saudi Arabia is among the 32 countries that have qualified for the finals to be held in Russia from June 14 until July 15.

Marking the quadrennial event, the Eichbaum brewery in Mannheim, in south-western Germany, printed the flags of the 32 countries on the beer bottle caps.

The move sparked furore on global social media as the Saudi flag carries the creed of Muslims that there is only one God and that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is his messenger.

Flooded with the complaints on Twitter and on its Facebook account, the company offered its apologies and insisted that Eichbaum was not aware that Saudi Arabia’s flag contained the Islamic statement of faith, the company’s marketing director Holger Vatter-Schönthal said in a Facebook post he addressed to all Muslims.

“We did not know that the characters [on the flag] were a creed. We have only checked whether the flags of the participants are correct. I can understand your outrage over the confusion of confession and alcohol. We have no interest in religious or political manifestations — certainly not about our products. If we have offended you unintentionally, we apologise.”

The company said that it was working on removing the Saudi Arabia bottles from stores and that it would stop the production of country corks, following the advice of the police.

Reactions on social media ranged from light criticism to deep outrage.

“It is not the flag but what is on the flag that is dear to Muslims. Please remove,” Zain Osman posted.

Turki Al Fassam said the company should have been better “educated” about the issue.

“Kindly remove all the Saudi flag caps from the market. It is very disturbing and disrespectful to show the Islamic creed on non-halal product and on caps that will be thrown in trash. Educate yourselves.”

Mustafa Ashry drew a comparison to drive his argument home.

“Imagine if a German company put the Star of David on a brand of pork. Imagine how insensitive that would have been. What you did was to put the Islamic declaration of faith on something that is strictly forbidden in Islam.”

Fatima Akmal said the company obviously failed in its disastrous campaign.

“It is unacceptable and you are responsible for being offensive. Just to sell more alcohol, you had no regard for how your little idea of ‘celebration’ is disrespecting Islam. For trying to advertise you sure as hell suck at it.”

Zafar Iqbal said the publicity initiative was “insensitive, offensive, harmful and tasteless” while Sabina Sabz said it was “disgusting marketing and outright negligence.”

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