Inside the Middle East
November 28, 2011
Posted: 1232 GMT
Emiratis say flag on footwear is insult to nation
Emiratis say flag on footwear is insult to nation

From website of local UAE show Emirates 24/7

Ahead of the United Arab Emirates' 40th National Day on December 2nd, international sportswear brand Puma have launched a pair of limited edition trainers in the colours of the UAE flag, which have sparked anger across a wide section of Emaratis and Arabs living in the UAE – who see the flag colours on footwear as an insult to a nation.

Abdullah K, an Emarati professional, told this website, “Puma should have borne in mind the cultural sensitivities of the people of the UAE. The flag is a very sacred symbol for the UAE. It cannot be trivialised, especially not as footwear.”

Ahmed S, an Emirati businessman adds that while in some countries the flag can be draped in any manner as any accessory, this will never be acceptable in the UAE. “You cannot wear your nation’s flag on your feet. That is just disrespectful,” he said.

Ramzi Khalaf, an Arab expatriate working in advertising and marketing, said he was dissapointed that a big international brand like Puma had gotten it seemingly wrong.

"Big brands have to realise that you cannot have one idea for the whole world. Each area you operate in has to have tailor-made solutions. Especially here in the Middle East, where cultural senstivities are key, you have to be very careful."

At the time of filing this report, several complaints were coming in to this website about the Puma shoes, as anger seemed to be widespread.

Puma was yet to release a statement to the press.

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Filed under: UAE

Share this on:   November 29th, 2011 8:50 am ET

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ahmedignity   December 1st, 2011 11:00 pm ET

puma why you pick up on the australian flag

kiranbabu naidu   December 4th, 2011 3:48 pm ET

come on people.............
its just design,,,,,,,,,,,,
dont take serious

adidas   December 4th, 2011 8:02 pm ET

mossad shoes

sarino tesandori   December 7th, 2011 10:32 am ET

I only wish that we get angry from serious infringements on our cultural rather than a simple use of colors on shoes.

The design and colors are very nice and no one should be offended. Many flags have the same colors used and yet no one complained.

I love the UAE and I am proud to wear its colors.

Expat JD   December 7th, 2011 10:00 pm ET

Leave it to the extremely oversensitive, victimization mentality of an Arab to find a problem where none exists. IT'S colors, not the flag. God forbid that you will find the same colors in a carpet on your floor, OMG, burn down the house for that! But, you would have no problem burning and trampling the flag of the USA or Britain, or Israel would you! This is the 21st century: grow up!

tina   December 17th, 2011 5:11 am ET

As a military officer and being deployed to the Middle East I can relate to the challenges of operating in a different culture. When I was deployed a lot of my time was spent dealing with the local populace in the workplace. Prior to my deployment we were given cultural awareness training but it was only partly effective. In my opinion, understanding another country’s culture requires time and being physically immersed in the society. During the first few months of my deployment, I did not fully understand how much culture impacted my job. It was definitely a learning experience that came with many mistakes. Eventually, I came to understand the fundamental differences of the Middle Eastern culture and my job became a lot easier. My job involved a lot of ceremony planning which in most cases required me to deal personally with Kuwait’s top officials. My knowledge of culture ensured their customs and courtesies were always respected. I know my deployment experience and placing the UAE flag on an athletic shoe are two very different issues. However, I believe some parallels can be made. American society has become relatively deficient when it comes to culture sensitivity. The same could also be said for the military. A large part of what the military does is based on relationship building. However, the military’s role in Iraq was significantly hampered by its lack of cultural awareness. Subsequently, in an effort to learn from past mistakes the military has gone to great lengths to bridge the cultural gap. This blog does not reflect the views of the military or its leaders.

Ahmed   December 18th, 2011 6:25 pm ET

i think the emarati peopel have very limited mind thinking why thy thing like that PUMA made is very cool peaty shoes all of you uae peopel have to think positive you have to open mind like sex cutler in uae so why any one ware shoes like this ? im very glad you make lot of sex spot and clubs its call very open mind culture but why you think like this so chill out have a fun ..

Mirza Shahnawaz Baig   December 19th, 2011 7:17 am ET

Manufacturer should not hurt any one feelings as they have the end user every where in the globe, what's the use of making issues such like big companies as I have seen lots of time big companies and intelegent people are busy in making issues, If it is stunt or publicity then its in wrong way. there are many ways to gain and same there are many ways to lose also.

Anya   December 20th, 2011 7:37 am ET

What marketing genius came up with this idea? Sad but funny.

sara   December 25th, 2011 7:10 am ET

why is it disrespectful? as a UAE national, I am thrilled to be seing how big brands like PUMA are putting an effort to commercialize UAE 40 year anniversary, regardless of where it is layed out. So many uae nationals buy t-shirts, socks, hats and belts filled with our flags colors, they should be proud and not insulted.

David in the 4th   December 27th, 2011 12:57 pm ET

While the Arab Spring continues with so much death in Syria, destruction in Iraq, this tiny kingdom can only grouse about the color of shoes. It was insensitive of Puma not to understand what a shoe carries in Arab society, but really? Just don't let the shoe be sold in your country!

Billy Joe   December 28th, 2011 9:39 am ET

Don't like them? Don't buy them. Simple solution. Since when has your flag looked like a pair of shoes anyway?

Get a grip on reality.

John Doe   December 31st, 2011 5:12 am ET

The UAE wants to own colours. Ask them to go fly kite.

KeninTexas   January 5th, 2012 2:17 am ET

Abdullah K, an Emarati professional, told this website, “Puma should have borne in mind the cultural sensitivities of the people of the UAE. The flag is a very sacred symbol for the UAE. It cannot be trivialised, especially not as footwear.” ,,,, the folks at Puma are so busy trying to make a buck with their greed, they didn't put any thinking into this dumb decision. Maybe this will be a leason for other companies in the future. Think about your customers instead of the money you want to make. If you do, you'll still make money.

bribarian   January 6th, 2012 7:28 am ET

man these people will get angry about anything

cryssy   January 9th, 2012 3:33 am ET

What doesnt offend the muslims?

Erika   January 13th, 2012 8:47 am ET

Come on cryssy................stupid statement. It's talking about nationism not religion. If this were in any other country you wouldn't bring up that country's prodominant religion. Ignorance is ignorance and sounds like you are a contributor to it as well.

Sara   January 14th, 2012 2:18 am ET

i have been here for the month long celebration.

the flag has been displayed in far worse settings than on a pair of sneakers.

i'm not so convinced that the UAE is all that sensitive. i have seen their flag used as all kinds of items.

Puma has quite a presence here.
Someone approved the import, someone accepted shipment, someone displayed the merchandise, and of course the people of the UAE bought them.

ytuque   January 14th, 2012 8:40 am ET

These people take shoes way to seriously!

Carley   January 27th, 2012 4:51 am ET

Puma is going to have to do some work in restoring its image and brand in the Middle East after this incident. A few things crossed my mind when reading this:
1) What was Puma’s goal and did they think that this would be a hot-selling item? In the US & Canada where I live, products with the American and Canadian flags on them are popular items. It is evident that companies like Puma need to consider the values of different cultures before going ahead with such a bold product.
2) I also was wondering whose idea it was to market this item. Was it a foreign person, perhaps from the West? Either way, the company should have done a lot more research about the UAE and the values of the people before going forward with this item.
3) One could also argue that the flag is not printed on the shoe, but instead, just the colors green, red and white. Does this mean that this color combination can never be featured on shoes? However, the fact that the shoe was launched just before UAE Day makes me think that this was an intentional use of the UAE national colors.
Overall, I do not think Puma intended to offend anyone. However, it seems like they went into this project blindly, without fully understanding the UAE culture, and this is ignorant. One way for Puma to try to restore its image in the Middle East would be coming out with a public apology, assuring the people of UAE that they did not mean any harm… (assuming they did not mean to anger anyone).

CMJR375lafram   February 1st, 2012 1:14 am ET

"Puma have launched a pair of limited edition trainers in the colours of the UAE flag, which have sparked anger across a wide section of Emaratis and Arabs living in the UAE – who see the flag colours on footwear as an insult to a nation." Clearly Puma's brand did not think globally about their reputation when he launched their new idea of putting the flag color on shoes-shoes that get dirty, stepped on and worn over time. To some people it was hurtful and righfully so becuase know one wants to see their flag/colors in shoes get dragged around the ground. Why Americans may love to see their flag on all different clothing print, its not the same for everyone. Puma should have acted upon thia quickly and in a timely manner. Apolgizing for their hurtfulness. This has now created a set back for Puma and what they look like as a brand globally.

miriam   February 2nd, 2012 12:54 pm ET

Perhaps Puma didn't imagine there would be a problem since Emiraties have no problem wearing shoes with other national flags on them.

I find it hard to believe that no UAE representative was involved in the design and marketing.

Umar   March 28th, 2012 8:35 am ET

Emaratis, play sensibly. how about banning any puma imports in UAE for a year two. If you are really hurt, then hit 'em hard where it hurts the most ).

josemanuelsoto   March 28th, 2012 9:37 pm ET

we have to respect countries values, culture sand not try to set the pase. lLet it be.

alfredomavila   April 13th, 2012 8:50 pm ET

Been in the ME for a long time and sensitivities of the people here are just kind of selective and infective.Once someone suggest a certain kind of conspiracy like opinion it will spread like a wildfire and you will have
an interesting issue.I would have empathized with those onion skinned emiratis if PUMA had the color in the underside of the shoe.But on it's side it looks fantastic with the balanced color distribution!I like it with no hint of insult.

Howardhemtoe   May 28th, 2012 11:37 pm ET

long time no see gaza sorry iv took so long i think this is the contact
filing address ,ring them if you need them in a hurry ,just say Howardsy told you to ring

michaelnalsim   June 27th, 2012 7:30 am ET

hello there tony if you are still in need of them here is there contact
and some info ,ring them if you need them in a hurry ,tell them nalsim put you on

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