The outrage stems from a logo for the Just Cavalli line that is shaped similarly to a Sufi symbol that represents “Allah,” or God, and has been revered by the faithful for decades as a sign of love and unity. Cavalli has used its logo on ads for its perfumes and clothes, including some particularly troubling to Sunday’s demonstrators that featured mostly naked models with the logo tattooed on their necks.
The symbol “means everything that the advertisement isn’t,” said Saloumeh Bozorgzadeh, a Chicago psychologist and student of Sufism who was among about 100 anti-Cavalli demonstrators on the Magnificent Mile.
The company has denied charges of ripping off the sacred symbol, and a European Union trademark commission recently sided with Cavalli when Sufis requested that the corporation be barred from using the logo. Roberto Cavalli officials didn’t respond to an interview request from the Tribune on Sunday.
The protest in Chicago, which took place during the first weekend in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, is part of a global effort to put pressure on the company. A change.org petition started in the United Kingdom has more than 3,000 signatures, and demonstrations have taken place in California, Texas, Germany and elsewhere.
The sacred symbol in question is trademarked by the M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, which claims about a half-million adherents worldwide. Sufis, many of whom insist on being called “students of Sufism,” are Muslims who seek a direct and personal relationship with God.
Maziar Saleh Ziabari, a student of Sufism who also attends DePaul University, was among the protesters Sunday who said the symbol has a personal, spiritual meaning to him. He said it’s offensive seeing it used with sexual overtones in Cavalli’s ads.
“He’s basically stealing an identity, a religious identity, and doing this,” said Saleh Ziabari, who lives in north suburban Zion. “He’s desecrating it.”
Nasim Bahadorani, a Sufi student from California who helped organize the Chicago demonstration, handed out literature to passersby Sunday as protesters chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, take off logo,” among other choruses. She said the company’s contention that its horizontal design was unrelated to the vertical Sufi symbol was false.
“When you rotate such a symbol, the meaning does not change,” she said. “It still spells out, ‘God.’ When he’s using it tattooed on naked models … he’s literally saying this is a sign of sin and it represents lust.
“You can only imagine how outrageously insulting this is to us.”