Anger in Malaysia over shoes bearing logo resembling Arabic word for God. Company head apologizes

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian shoe company has apologized and stopped selling some of its footwear after some Muslims said the logo resembled the Arabic writing for the word God.

Vern’s Holdings said the logo stamped on the soles of some high-heeled shoes depicted the silhouette of a stiletto heel with an ankle spiral wrap. It acknowledged, however, that shortcomings in the design may have led to the logo being misinterpreted. The company also said it acted immediately to stop sales of the shoes and issue refunds to customers who bought them.

“We have absolutely no intention of designing a logo aimed at belittling or insulting any religion or belief,” Vern’s said in the statement posted on social media. “The management would like to humbly apologize and seek forgiveness. We hope for compassion so we can rectify this mistake.”

Police said Monday they confiscated more than 1,100 shoes from Vern’s stores. The Department of Islamic Development, an agency that handles Islamic affairs in Malaysia, also summoned the company's founder, Ng Chuan Hoo.

The local Star English-language newspaper quoted NG as saying he regretted the uneasiness caused and hurting the Muslim community. “I hope to learn from the incident and to be more careful and sensitive in the future,” he said.

The Islamic department said if evidence that the logo was deliberately created to mimic the word “God” in Arabic, legal action will be taken to prevent similar future incidents.

It also urged businesses to remain vigilant of sensitive issues that can threaten the country's racial unity.

The footwear controversy followed a furor last month over socks printed with the word “Allah” on the shelves in a large Malaysian convenience store chain. The owners of KK Mart and representatives from one of its suppliers were charged on March 26 with offending the religious feelings of Muslims, and some stores were hit with small petrol bombs. No injuries were reported.

Religion is a sensitive issue in Malaysia, where Muslims account for two-thirds of a population of 34 million, with large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. “Allah,” the Arabic word for God, is sacrosanct to Malaysian Muslims and many found it offensive to associate the word with feet.

The matter came to light after critical social media posts highlighted the logo's resemblance. Religious authorities and police have said they were investigating the matter after receiving complaints from the public.

Meanwhile, tensions have remained over the earlier case. KK Mart Group, the country’s second-large chain of convenience stores, has said the supplier sent items the company had not agreed to stock. The supply company founder has said the socks were imported from China as part of a large shipment and apologized for being careless in their inspection.

The leader of a Malay nationalist party's youth wing in Malaysia's government has pressed for a boycott of the chain and is being investigated for alleged sedition over a social media post showing him wielding a sword.

Critics say the party seeks to woo ethnic Malay support after heavy losses in the last general elections.