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Muslim groups in London and Birmingham are demanding that McDonald's withdraw its new takeout bag issued to promote its soccer World Cup hamburgers for children.

Their complaint is that the paper bag carries the flag designs of all the World Cup finalists, including Saudi Arabia, whose green and white royal flag features a Koranic inscription in old Arabic calligraphy reading "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet."Muslims must treat any written text of the Koran with reverence as they are considered to be the words of God. Koranic texts subsequently cannot be sat on or wadded up, let alone thrown in the trash.

Iqbal Sacrane, convener of the United Kingdom Action Committee on Islamic affairs, said his group had received a number of complaints over the weekend since the bag had been issued.

"It is a very difficult situation for us," he said. "It is offensive to Muslims that the flag should be used in such a way on an item like a carrier bag which is thrown away.

"We are also worried that Muslims will think that the flag is an endorsement by the Saudi Arabian government that the meat inside the bag is halal meat."

A spokesman for McDonald's said perplexedly that the corporation had checked with its Saudi operations about using the flag in its promotion.

"We are now taking advice from the Saudi Arabian embassy in London, and when we have received it, we will consider it very seriously," he said.

A Saudi embassy spokesman said that McDonald's would be formally asked to withdraw the bags.