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Saturday, 13 May, 2000, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Muslim cleric defends Coke
Reflected Coke logo
Logo reflected: Or an anti-Islam message
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

One of Egypt's most senior religious figures is reported to have condemned allegations that the logo of the soft drink Coca Cola could be offensive to Muslims.

The mufti, Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel, is quoted as describing them as empty rumours that could put thousands of Coca Cola employees in Egypt out of work.

A local Coca Cola official said the company's US headquarters were now investigating the source of the rumour which, he said, was having an effect on sales.

For several days the rumours have been circulating that if the Coca Cola logo is viewed in a mirror or upside down, it appears to read in Arabic: "No to Mohammed," "No to Mecca."

It does require a leap of the imagination, but Coca Cola, which has huge sales in the Middle East, has apparently been sufficiently alarmed by the possible consequences of the perceived insult to seek help from Egypt's mufti.

According to the weekly, Rose Al-Yousef, magazine, Coca Cola contacted him after pamphlets appeared calling on Egyptians to boycott the drink on the grounds it is destroying their religion.

The mufti is now quoted as saying the logo has been thoroughly examined by a panel of religious experts and given the all clear.

The campaign against Coca Cola coincides with a much more serious one against a book, which Islamists say is blasphemous and secular intellectuals say has been taken out of context.

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