I found the problem quickly enough: their CSS templates were wrong. And the reason they were wrong is that one of their admins -- quite possibly the same clever dick who caused the initial problem -- had a clever idea.
Arial, scourge that it is, is ubiquitous. Almost every damned computer in the world has it or can display it, substituting Helvetica if Arial isn't installed. But Arial is only a simple codepage 1252 set of 222 glyphs. Worse, it's not Unicode-compliant. When a character which isn't in the set is specified, for instance a "Latin Capital Schwa" (Ə -- U+018F), a box will be drawn. The proper behaviour is to get the operating system to find a font which does have that letter. A font like "MS Arial Unicode" which is only available from Microsoft when you purchase Office.
Most systems with Arial also have Arial Narrow and Arial Black. Not one of these three is Unicode-compliant. There is only one MS Arial Unicode and it has no variants other than the stretching and compressing tricks most graphical word processing programs can now do.
$CompCorp had been using Arial Narrow for all Western characters because it looked best in conjunction with the Arabic font they used. But since they're now using Unicode they had to change the font in their CSS sheets to "MS Arial Unicode". Which they did. Almost.
They'd made changes but the screenshots were such exercises in ugliness that even the most experimental modern art museum director would cringe. The pages were next to impossible to read. The text was bloated, it was clipped, it pushed the Arabic characters out of the way. I took a look at the CSS files.
Clever Dick figured since "Arial Narrow" had been specified before, "Arial Unicode MS Narrow" made perfect sense. Since there's no such font the operating system went to its look-up and substitution lists and settled on Arabic Transparent since the display characters it needed were in there.
I explained it all and sent back corrected CSS files. Again, not even a thank-you.
Specifying a font which doesn't exist: Root Cause: 17-Fuckwits
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