Manchester United replica shirts have become a banned item in Malaysia after local clerics took exception to the presence of a red devil on the club's crest, branding the image "dangerous and un-Islamic", Sky News reports.
Malaysian fans of the team have reacted angrily to the decision, voicing their disapproval on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Some even accused the imams of supporting Liverpool, the Old Trafford club's arch-rivals.
The clerics remain unmoved, arguing that the symbol of the devil on the crest is unacceptable. "This is very dangerous. As a Muslim we should not worship the symbols of other religions or the devils," warned one cleric.
"It will erode our belief in Islam. There is no reason why we as Muslims should wear such jerseys, either for sports or fashion reasons."
The red devil has appeared on Man Utd's crest for decades so it's something of a mystery why the religious objection has surfaced only now, instead of during one of the club's regular off-season, money-making tours of the far East. Manchester United Malaysia Fan Club, which boasts 7,000 members, declined to comment on the ban.
The religious leaders also object to football shirts featuring Christian symbols, such as the cross. The ruling means that national kit of Brazil, Portugal and Serbia is on the banned list along with the club shirt of Barcelona.
Malaysia is religiously moderate but its senior clerics have form in imposing eyebrow-raising bans. For example, one recent edict banned the ancient practice of yoga because of its links to the Hindu faith. ®