About 100 practitioners of Sufi Islam gathered outside the historic Water Tower along Michigan Avenue on Sunday to protest an Italian fashion designer who they claim hijacked a sacred symbol of their mystical faith to use as a logo.
People in the group sang and waved signs denouncing Roberto Cavalli’s use of a logo on his Just Cavalli line, which features everything from perfume to clothing. They say Cavalli’s logo is actually a sacred symbol that spells “Allah” and represents peace and harmony that Cavalli simply turned 90 degrees.
Many of the protesters were students of the M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, which claims about 500,000 adherents around the globe, according to Nasim Bahadorani, who traveled to Chicago from California to take part in the protest. She said the sacred emblem is under trademark.
Protesters, who want the fashion designer to stop using the logo, chanted, “Roberto Cavalli, shame, shame, shame on you!”
“He’s misusing it,” said Saloumeh Bozorgzadeh, a psychologist who lives in Wicker Park. “I don’t want its meaning to get lost.”
One Cavalli ad features nearly nude models who had a tattoo of the symbol on their necks.
Protests have been taking place around the world, and a social media campaign against Cavalli is underway.
“He’s trying to rebrand the symbol to represent sexuality, and it’s incredibly insulting,” Bahadorani said.
Cavalli has been using the symbol since 2011, she said. A representative of the fashion magnate could not be reached Sunday night.
Bahadorani said Cavalli previously ran afoul of religion when he featured Hindu deities on women’s bikinis.