Designer issues apology for outcry over 'Allah' text on clothing
PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival has issued an apology after an Eritrean-Australian Instagram model called out a fashion label for the “disgraceful display” of religious texts on its garments at the event.
Mona Khalifa, a Melbourne-based model and influencer who was at the event, took to social media to condemn the fashion label Not A Man's Dream over a sheer outfit that was printed with the words "Allah walks with me" in Arabic.
“There is a fine line between art and disrespect and this falls way, way over disrespect,” Khalifa said in a video posted to her Instagram account, where she has over 170,000 followers.
“There is no reason for someone to put the word Allah or anything Islamic on something like this… It is transparent fabric.”
For Muslims, Allah - Arabic for God - is deemed sacred and should be treated with respect. Khalifa's video, in which she criticises the designer, has been shared thousands of times online.
The outfit, which was shared online by Not A Man's Dream, which makes made-to- order pieces in Australia, has garnered widespread criticism from social media users.
"The question is now that they have apologised, are they going to stop the sale, manufacture and distribution of the item?" lilamore21 asked on Instagram. "It's one thing to apologise but it's another thing to completely say we are not going to sell or distribute this item."
The sentiment was shared by others, who commended Khalifa for speaking out on the matter.
"Forever proud of you for standing up and speaking out for matters that need to be heard. Never stop being the amazing human you are," was another comment under Khalifa's post.
The sheer piece is plastered with the words “Allah walks with me”. The model also wore a headwrap, which some social media users claimed mimicked the hijab worn by Muslim women.
According to Khalifa, Christian Arabs may also find the garment offensive, as they also use the word Allah for God.
In screenshots shared by the influencer, she says that she reached out to some of the models at the event who said they were "concerned and confused" about the wording on the clothing, and that some models had gone so far as to refuse to wear the collection, but the designer "disregarded the concerns".
Many people have stated that they believe the choice to use Arabic religious text on the sheer clothing was a deliberate provocation.
Not A Man's Dream describes itself as an androgynous, women-led brand that defies the rules of gender archetypes. The brand sells street-wear-style clothing, with bold and oversized designs.
Apology for 'any offence'
After facing a backlash online, the fashion festival issued an apology through Instagram on Sunday, stating: “We understand certain pieces shown as part of last night's Closing Runway have caused offence to some members of our community.
“The Festival did not intend to disrespect anyone and we apologise for any offence caused.”
The founder of the Melbourne fashion label, Samantha Saint James, has also publicly apologised: “I apologise for any offence or disrespect caused by certain pieces I showed in Saturday evening’s MFF runway. I have come to understand how some garments have caused offence. It was the opposite of my intentions and for that, I’m truly sorry.”
The apology has since been deleted, with only screenshots of the Instagram story being shown online.
'The use of certain words and symbols which carry a religious significance ought to be used with respect'
- Bilal Rauf, Australian National Imams Council
Not A Man's Dream’s Instagram page has since been made private as a result of the outcry.
Middle East Eye contacted both the brand and PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival for comment, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
The spokesman for the Australian National Imams Council, Bilal Rauf, said the outfits were disrespectful, and noted the word Allah is used by people of different religions.
“The use of certain words and symbols which carry a religious significance ought to be used with respect,” Rauf said.
“Sadly, there is an increasing incidence of sacred symbols and words being flippantly used. Allah, which means God in Arabic, is used by Arab-speaking Christians and Muslims around the world.”
The festival and Not A Man's Dream have agreed to remove some of the online content of the outfits since the scandal broke.
Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.