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Tue 2 Oct 2007 11:39 AM

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MPs attack 'Zionist' fashion brand

Iran tightens grip on un-Islamic clothes as Italian retailer Benetton comes under fire as bad influence.

Italian clothing brand Benetton has come under attack in Iran as a group of parliament members on Sunday cautioned over the retailer's presence in the country.

Five MPs have protested against Benetton through a written warning to parliament, saying the brand's Westernised fashions are a bad influence on female consumers, AFP reported yesterday, citing Iranian newspapers.

"The MPs on Sunday made a warning about preventing the influence of the Benetton investor in fashion and women's clothing design," the newswire quoted reformist paper Etemad-e Melli as saying.

Some MPs have even asked parliament to shut down Benetton in Iran because of the retailer's alleged links to "Zionists".

Ultra-hardline newspaper Siasat-e Ruz wrote that the MPs warned the interior ministry "to prevent the influence of the Zionist millionaire Benetton in the field of women's clothing and fashion," AFP reported.

Tehran's moderate mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has also come under fire for having supported expansion of the retailers' stores in the capital, according to local media.

Several Benetton stores have been opened in Iran over the past year, with four in the capital.

Iran's parliament last year passed a bill to promote local designers to focus on Iranian and Islamic fashion, in a bid to fight the widespread Western styles favoured by young Iranians.

Other major retailers like Zara and Mango have also cropped up in the country in the past few years, a rare event for the Islamic Republic which essentially saw an absence of global brands after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

However each spring the capital faces a crackdown on any clothing considered un-Islamic as women start wearing skimpier clothes because of the hot weather. Thousands of Iranians are warned or arrested each year over their poor Islamic dress, or "bad hijab."

The country's police chief boasted that 150,000 people - a number far larger than usual - were detained in the annual pre-summer sweep this year, according to the New York Times.

But despite the crackdowns, tight overcoats, heavy make-up and revealing hair are still prominent on streets in the capital.

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