The clothing giant has recalled a children's stockings model with Lego motifs, after a customer complained that the pattern may be read as "Allah" in Arabic, possibly insulting Muslims, the Swedish economic daily Dagens Industri reported.
The seemingly innocent socks show a Lego figure drilling in the ground. Turned upside down, however, the residue around the jackhammer could be "read" as "Allah," a customer pointed out in a Facebook video.
Following the criticism, H&M chose to withdraw the controversial model not to denigrate Muslims' feelings.
"The print on the sock represents a Lego figure, and it's merely a coincidence that it may be interpreted as a sign for something else. However, because customers have responded, we have chosen to remove the socks altogether, H&M press officer Petra Buchinger told Dagens Industri.
Only weeks have passed since a similar scandal engulfed the Swedish clothing giant after letting a black boy model pose in a sweater reading "coolest monkey in the jungle." This fashion faux pas led to a public outcry, with a torrent of accusations of racism streaming in from across the globe, culminating in riots in South Africa.
On Swedish social media, the company was mocked for being overcautious.
"H&M… Probably the world's most gutless company. A SINGLE ‘tinfoil hat' thought a sock held upside down looked like the Arabic spelling of Allah,' user Ludwig Sundberg tweeted.
H&M.. kanske världens räddaste bolag. EN! EN enda foliehatt tyckte att en strumpa hållen upp och ner liknande arabisks stavningen av ALLAH 😁😁😁— Ludvig Sundberg 🐊 (@PDefer) 27 января 2018 г.
H&M:s barnstrumpor plockas bort efter kritik https://t.co/hANb72WaKY
"Everything looks like Arabic symbols, some strokes and a little dashes," user Carina Råhlin wrote.
De letar efter fel för att få smälla en bomb för bombning är inte så hemskt jämfört med en strumpa! Allt ser ju ut som arabiska tecken, lite streck och nån krumelur.— Carina Råhlin (@CarinaRahlin) 28 января 2018 г.
Another user wondered whether Muslims were going to define what socks people should wear, introducing the concept of "halal-socks."
This is far from the first time the Swedish fashion house has got itself in trouble.
In 2012, the Swedish Cancer Foundation slammed H&M's bikini advertisement, citing models that were "extremely sunburnt." Critics argued that such ads unwittingly contributed to more people dying of skin cancer.
In 2013, H&M landed in hot water for "propagating anorexia," as critics around the globe argued its models were severely malnourished.
In 2014, customers were upset by a tank top with a skull and a star resembling that of the Jewish Star of David, accusing the company of both anti-Semitism and Satanism.
In 2017 an H&M striped pajamas-like outfit drew suggestive parallels with the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz.