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Reebok ad in India offends Muslims

NEW DELHI, Oct. 17 -- U.S.-based Reebok International offended India's Muslim population with a promotional campaign showing a prominent athlete named for the Prophet Mohammad autographing shoes, a news report said Tuesday. A newspaper photograph of Indian cricket team captain Mohammad Azharuddin signing his name on Reebok footwear offended many Muslims who felt writing the name Mohammad on a shoe was blasphemy, the Pioneer newspaper said.

Shoes are considered unclean in the Islamic tradition, and worshippers are required to remove them before entering a mosque. The cricketer Azharuddin's father has apologized on his son's behalf, saying he would ask him to refrain from signing any contracts with the sporting goods giant. The athlete has denied putting his autograph on the shoes or on the dotted line with the $3.28 billion company. Reebok announced the launch of its consumer line in India earlier this month. It plans to offer as many as 65 types of sports shoes and 100 sports apparel items and accessories. Reebok's subsidiary in India is a joint venture between Reebok International Limited, which holds 80 percent equity, and India's Phoenix Overseas. As part of its marketing drive in India, the company is planning to present custom-made shoes to popular Indian sports personalities and sponsor sports events in major cities.

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