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Pressure Mounts On Sports Giant Nike To Recall 'Blasphemous' Sneaker

Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition for the brand to pull the Air Max 270 due to 'offensive' text bearing a resemblance to the word 'Allah' written in Arabic.

It started with one dissenting voice two weeks ago, and now a petition addressed to Nike and its CEO Mark Parker has more than 27,000 signatures.

When starting the movement, Saiqa Noreen argued that when viewed upside down, the logo on the shoe's sole appeared to look like 'Allah' in Arabic script.

"It is outrageous and appalling of Nike to allow the name of God on a shoe," Noreen wrote in her Change.org petition.

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"This is disrespectful and extremely offensive to Muslims and insulting to Islam. Islam teaches compassion, kindness and fairness towards all."

The Air Max 270 sneaker. Image: Nike.

More 20 years ago, Nike -- a brand with a track record in social activism -- agreed to stop selling a new line of basketball shoes for the same reason.

In 1997 Nike apologised for "any unintentional offense" caused by the word 'Air' being written in flames on the sneaker, which critics said looked like 'Allah' in Arabic.

The incident saw 38,000 pairs of the 'Summer Hoops' model called back, in addition to thousands more in retailer returns.

Nike promised to "tighten scrutiny of logo design" and committed to upgrading sporting facilities at an American Islamic elementary school.

Allah in Arabic script. IMAGE: Getty

"Through this process, our understanding of Islamic concerns has been deepened and we apologise for any unintentional offense to the Islamic community and we are glad we have been able to resolve our differences," Nike spokesman Roy Agostino said at the time.

Noreen's petition recalled the brand's earlier incident, asking why "a similar design has been approved".

"We urge Nike to recall this blasphemous and offensive shoe," she wrote.

IMAGE: Change.org

It is unlikely Nike's senior design and management team knowingly created an offensive product, according to retail marketing expert Danny Lattouf.

"I don't imagine anyone going through a mandatory process of checks and balances would see [the word 'Allah'] and give it the go-ahead," Lattouf said.

"Would you look at a logo in every possible direction? You might, but I don't know that you'd pick it apart.

This person has taken the 'a' and 'x' off the Air Max typeface and decided that in the middle, it resembles 'Allah' in Arabic. Which I think is incredibly unfair."

Nike released a Hijab Sports range in early 2017. IMAGE: Nike

Lattouf also said Nike was the first major sports retailer to release a hijab range.

"Nike don't appear to be marginalising or overlooking this customer base," he said.

Nike is yet to comment on the sneaker or the petition.

Representatives from numerous Islamic community organisations have been contacted for this story.

Contact the author samelia@networkten.com.au