A rumor is abounding in Egypt: that an insult to Islam is woven into Coke's century-old logo.
Buried in the script's curls, rumor has it, is "No Mohammed, No Mecca" in Arabic _ blasphemous words about Islam's prophet and the Muslim world's holiest city, which millions turn toward daily for prayer.
The rumor so disturbed consumers and vendors that the company secured a religious edict clearing Coke from Egypt's mufti, the top religious authority.
The mufti, Nasr Farid Wasel, scrutinized Coca-Cola's logo. The question was put to committees of Islamic scholars, masses of Muslims visiting the House of Fatwa headquarters in Old Cairo and a meeting the mufti headed.
On May 10, he concluded that "there was no defamation to the religion of Islam from near or far." Those who spread false claims, the mufti's edict reminded the pious, "will be plunged into hell for 70 autumns."
Nonetheless, as Nike learned in the mid-1990s, offending religious sensibilities can have dire consequences. Under threat of a worldwide Muslim boycott, Nike recalled 38,000 pairs of shoes in 1997 because its flaming "Air" logo resembled the word "Allah" _ or "God" _ in Arabic.
The Coca-Cola rumor spread in February, when Egyptians began receiving e-mails carrying the mirror image of the logo and calling on the faithful to boycott Coke, Hamdi said.