Fashion and homeware retailer Shein has apologised for selling Islamic prayer mats labelled as “fringe trim” or “tassel trim” Greek carpets on its website.
The mats, which retailed for £14, included pictures of the Kabaa; the black building at the centre of Mecca, considered the most sacred place for Muslims around the world.
The mats were sold with no reference to Islam or the importance of prayer mats in the religion, leading customers to accuse the brand of cultural appropriation and being insensitive to Muslim customers.
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One customer said: “You have got to be joking. SHEIN really taking prayer mats and reselling it like this? RELIGIOUS PRAYER MATS??????? AS RUGS?”
The criticism grew on social media at the beginning of July before Shein finally issued an apology to its 11m Instagram followers on 7 July.
The first slide says: “We’re sorry!” with a heart emoji, followed by a second slide with a full statement.
It begins: “To our community – we made a serious mistake recently by selling prayer mats as decorative rugs on our site.
“We understand this was a highly offensive oversight and are truly sorry. Since it was brought to our attention, we immediately removed the products from our site and asked our vendor to stop selling to others.”
The global brand said it has now formed a “product review committee” featuring employees from “different cultures and religions” to ensure a similar mistake is not made.
It continues: “As a global brand, we vow to do a much better job in educating ourselves on different cultures, religions, and traditions to ensure our diverse community is respected and honored.
“We offer our sincerest apology to all whom we have hurt and offended, and hope we can earn your forgiveness.”
The post has been liked 7,000 times but some are still frustrated that it has taken such a public incident to have the brand commit to including diverse staff within the product consultation.
One said: “Now you want to hire people with diversity? How long have we told you guys to do that? But now you only do this just because you got backlash? Clown s**t.”
This isn’t the first fast-fashion retailer to be accused of cultural appropriation in recent years. In 2019 PrettyLittleThing was criticised for designing an “oriental” collection based on traditional Chinese dress.
The collection, advertised by Little Mix, was accused of “fetishing” Asian women.