Lawmakers in Iran are in a froth over beer maker Gaffel Kolsch's decision to print the Islamic Republic's flag on special edition bottles of its beer.
The German brewer, which has a tradition of issuing commemorative bottles for World Cup participants, this year has included Iran’s flag, which features the words “God is great” repeated across two stripes, on the labels and caps of some number of special edition beer bottles – appearing on shelves alongside bottles bearing the flags of the 31 other teams participating in this year’s World Cup.
Alcohol is strictly forbidden for Muslims in Iran, though non-Muslims can produce or import it for their own consumption.
Leading the charge against Gaffel Kolsch's marketing campaign is an Iranian MP named Hamid Rasaie, who told Fars news agency that he was angry at FIFA for “allowing” the flag to be “disrespected” – though FIFA’s involvement in approving the bottles could not be confirmed (it was late in Germany when Al Jazeera tried to contact the company). The complaint has apparently caught the ear of the country’s sports minister, who said he was reviewing “evidence” on the Gaffel Kolsch marketing stunt, according to Tabnak news.
Rasaie has been on something of a crusade to safeguard ultra-conservative Iran’s Islamic character as the national team participates in one of sport’s biggest international spectacles. He also related to Fars news his opposition to Iran’s flag being printed on a pair of tight World Cup-themed leggings “worn by half-naked women” in one promotional picture (the woman, in fact, has bared only her midriff).
Rasaie was widely ridiculed in Iran when a request he submitted for the state to cover his airfare for a trip to Brazil – in order to “monitor” the team – was leaked. After the fact, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani clarified that any government official who wanted to attend Iran’s World Cup matches would need to “pay their own way,” Le Monde reported.
But Tehran will be sending at least one minder: The head of parliament’s Commission for Culture, Hossein Azin, who traveled to Brazil on a mission to “monitor the attitudes of the national team.”
The top-ranked team in Asia, Iran kicks off its World Cup against Nigeria on Monday. Off the field, Team Melli (as the Iranian national squad is nicknamed) will be under Azin’s close supervision.
“We must make sure there is no behavior contrary to Islamic traditions,” Azin said.