To celebrate the World Cup, the German brewery Eichbaum decided to print the flags of the 32 competing countries on its bottle caps. But the presence of Saudi Arabia’s flag – which has the Islamic statement of faith written on it – upset Saudi authorities.
The brewery, which is based in Manheim, published images of its World Cup bottles on social networks. Negative reactions quickly started to pour in.
In the tweet below, a Saudi citizen addresses Turki Alalshikh, who is advisor to Saudi Arabia’s royal Diwan (the king’s executive office).
“The bottle caps of a German beer are decorated with the flags of the countries competing in the World Cup. Your excellency @Turki_alalshikh, we hope that you will reach out to FIFA so that it asks companies sponsoring the event not to use the flag of the Tawhid (oneness of God), but rather the team’s logo, so that the words of God do not end up in inappropriate places.”
Another Twitter user replied, adding: “In the doctrine of Islam, alcohol is one of the greatest sins. Putting the slogan of Saudi Arabia on this product is an insult to the Islamic religion. Please change your product and make an apology."
The Saudi flag is inscribed with the Shahada, the Islamic statement of faith. It has been translated as: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” Alcohol is officially forbidden in Saudi Arabia.
Numerous Twitter users asked for the advertising campaign to be stopped:
Saudi authorities quickly reacted. In a statement, the Saudi embassy in Germany regretted “a provocation towards the sentiments of Muslims” and a “humiliation for the Saudi flag”. The embassy also stated that it “immediately” contacted the German authorities, notably the foreign ministry, to demand that the bottles be taken off the market.
In a Facebook post on May 9 that has since been deleted, the brewery had announced that they had received “complaints” about their bottles, but defended their decision, saying it was “logical and fair” to create bottle caps with the flags of all 32 of the countries competing in the World Cup, including Saudi Arabia.
But faced with growing controversy, the German brewery ended up announcing on May 11 that it would stop the production of the offending bottles and take those with the Saudi flag off the market, “on the advice of the police and the authorities in charge of national security". It noted that only very few bottles would be affected, since the Saudi flag was only printed on one out of every 171 bottles.