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FaithSociety

The commercialisation of Islam

FaithSociety

The commercialisation of Islam

Is it a movement of empowerment or assimilation?

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I remember when Ramadan was the only time that the Muslim market would be at its peak; everything from halal samosas to Haribo’s would line supermarket shelves months before Ramadan even approached. At that time, it didn’t seem as though the words ‘halal’ or ‘Ramadan’ were being taken for granted, it was simply making Ramadan shopping easier for Muslims living in the West. But something changed down the line.

The more the media focused on the ‘Muslim terrorist’ and ‘oppressed women’ narrative, the more Muslims in the West turned to commercialisation, in an attempt to ‘normalise’ and display the religion as fun-loving and trendy, making Islam a brand.

Modest fashion and Hijab

dgcollageFashion is one of the biggest means of doing this; modest clothing lines have increased over the past few years with brands introducing luxurious versions of hijab and modest clothing in different styles and colours. On top of this, mainstream brands have recognised the gap in the market and capitalised on it.

Not long ago, H&M released its first advert featuring a Muslim model in a hijab, House of Fraser began stocking ‘sporty hijabs’ designed for Muslim women to wear while exercising and swimming and Dolce & Gabbana released its first hijab and abaya collection.

Ever wondered why a plain black hijab seemed more threatening in the West than one with floral patterns draped in an articulate manner? The media has framed the black hijab as a symbol of oppression and terror. Now with growing modest fashion industry, the commodification of the hijab and modest fashion has become a means to monetise.

Other forms of fashion include clothing with Arabic writing or Islamic wording. I remember being gifted a jumper which said “Quran and Sunnah” in the exact same style as the famous “Weed and Wasabi” brand. Arabic writing was something people used to directly associate with terrorism due to it being used by terrorist groups such as ISIS, however, Islamic fashion has attempted to remove that stereotype by introducing clothing, including everything from jumpers to baseball caps with the Arabic words for “peace” or “unity.” It’s as though our adherence to religious piety can only be validated through what’s trending and replicating it.

Islamic Musicdeen squad

There’s a real divide within the Muslim community when comes to music. Nasheeds are deemed acceptable by most, as long as there isn’t any use of background music. However, a new revolution of ‘halal hip-hop’ has changed the game now. Music now also plays a big part in the commercialisation of Islam.

Not so long ago, I discovered a group which identifies themselves as the Deen Squad, a Canadian-based hip-hop duo, who are known for their Muslim covers of popular mainstream hits. Much of Muslim community disapprove of their use of music, dancing and the fact that their songs are remakes of mainstream songs usually associated with drugs, sex, and money which they then convert and replace with ‘halal lyrics.’

Although many in the Muslim community strongly disagree with the Deen Squad’s ways, they evidently have a massive following and under the label of calling it a ‘nasheed,’ all manner of songs are being produced and in the name of religion, and so, a new money making tool is born.

Muslim Social media figures

Social media is the most powerful and influential marketing tool of the digital age. Everything from hijab tutorials, halal makeup to Muslims couples holding hands are displayed on our mobile screens.mufti-menk Social media has undoubtedly become a platform where Islam is being glamorised. In the name of religion people are now able to start businesses, launch brands, make music and show the world that they are “a Muslim and not a terrorist” and what better way to sell yourself than on social media, right?

There are many popular social media figures include Dina Tokio,  Habiba Da Silva, Zukreat and many more, who have launched their own brands, TV shows, campaigns and so on. These figures have more of a following than the scholars who have dedicated a majority of their life studying and teaching Islam such as Mufti Menk and Nouman Ali Khan. These social media figures endorse other Muslim brands and the cycle goes on, these people have become ambassadors of the religion and in turn, religion has become a brand.

Although some may perceive it as a movement of empowerment and pessimistic recognition, to me, the commercialisation of Islam is clouded in contradictions, considering the rise of this phenomenon started in western countries in Europe and the US. I fear that in attempting to eradicate stereotypes, we may just be slowly eradicating our identity and creating our own new narrative where instead of self-expression, we’re self-moulding simply because it sells.

by Khadija Ahmed for AnotherLenz Magazine


This post was originally featured here.

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Omar Alfarouk
    July 18, 2017 7:21 am

    I think there is a point where the person using the platform to promote their religion or their “brand” of Islam needs to be aware of the consequences of their actions. I’m thinking along the lines of teaching impressionable youth that what they’re doing is Islamic, while it may not be so. In the end, it’s up to the parents of these youths to teach them the difference between a cultural practise and a religious one. I know a few Internet personalities who blur the lines and expose themselves as either ignorant or self serving. However, most have good intentions, but use the wrong manner of highlighting whatever it is they’re trying to promote. This is the Internet age. We can’t expect everyone to be the perfect example. However, we can try to educate our children and/or loved ones about the proper etiquettes of being a Muslim behind closed doors and out in the open(ie. YouTube, twitter,etc). Islam is dynamic, not static. It stands the test of time. We may be in a different era, but it doesn’t change the fact that Islam reaches people regardless of how obscured or falsified some people make it. Itops also ok to try and teach people that Islam is normal. It’s our counter to media propaganda. Sometimes, these brands bring people to research and find the truth. Remember, Allah(SWT) guides whom He wills. We don’t know a persons intentions, so we can’t accurately assess why they may be doing something we think isn’t so Islamic.

    Reply
  • Islam isn’t a jamboree kind of a thing. You can’t customised Islam according to your desire and be thinking that you are promoting Islam. People who have gotten themselves into modernizing Islamic life styles and so should really re think and work in accordance with Islamic principles when doing their own fashion or whatever.

    Reply
  • While the article is well written, I disagree with its position. Muslims have always and should remain as a cultural and normative force in the world. If we look at the contemporary world to which we live, one of the biggest issues we see from many of the Muslim youth are well known figures who represent their ideals, thoughts and belief. And the reality is, if they aren’t gaining a sense of identity from other Muslims, then they will surely gain it from un-Islamic elements.
    I feel we need to move on from this mindset of living in the past, particularly as it relates to culture because the Prophet Muhammed (saw) and the sahabah were people of their time and dressed accordingly. And in addition, they addressed the masses via the best mediums to attract the masses, thus if social media is today’s vehicle, then why shouldn’t Muslims be at the forefront?

    Reply
  • The highly mediated society we live in is inherently problematical not only for privacy but for the attention span required by a spiritual life. We become first and foremost consumers and the logic of the marketplace takes over religion. I doubt many people are willing to disengage from this addiction stream of information; this will be a struggle for the next generations, to take back its hearts and minds from the commodification machine.

    Reply
  • NAK and Mufti Mensk are doing a decent job of reaching out to people and endorsing deep and in-depth understanding of Islam and they are doing so by being in contact with the great scholars of today … to malign them as brand ambassadors is just plain wrong! I urge the author to listen to their lectures and judge before giving any misinformed opinions.

    Reply
    • I agree, many of the Islamic speakers are doing a fantastic job reaching out the public, the world. I wouldn’t put them on the same platform as the fashion industries.

      Reply
  • Islam Isn’t Fashion! DEEN Squad has nothng to do with Islam. Those hijabi models, tell them that what they are wearing isn’t what Aisha (r.a.) used to wear. Wake up Ummah. Really. Don’t attach your hearts to these Dunya stuff. Let’s be honest, Islam isn’t for Fashion. Assalamu alaikum

    Reply
  • Or rather, muslim youth BORN and RAISED in the west is finding a way to live their lives combining all their identities (the one they get from being part of a certain society, and the culture they inherited from their parents). There is nothing wrong in incorporating all cultures in order to form a new one that represents who they are at heart. I think that process is very much part of an islamic way of thinking, and rather than having to choose where they belong or being ostracized by their OWN environment, they are creating a way to be citizens and part of a society, still with morals and ethics drawing from islamic teachings. Taking these examples and making them look like their are “social media figures” trying to focus on the “studying and teaching of Islam” is highly erroneous and quite dishonest. Any social media figure (regardless of religion) probably has more following than high religious figures. However, people like Mufti Menk and Nouman Ali Khan are very much important and influential when seeking religious knowledge and guidance, and the number of following does not affect that. Before the era of social media, religious scolars did not have “huge following”, nor did they have global exposition when one does not seek for them. Nonetheless, they impacted the transmission process of Islamic teachings and continue to do so without social media. They still provide messages, teachings and wisdom of Islam, as well as contribute to a better understanding of Islam.
    This has nothing to do with wanting to portray a different image of Islam, it has primarily to do with muslim youth trying to find an identity that represents ALL of them. And finally, it certainly takes nothing from cultures of different regions of the world, and does certainly not contribute to “eradicate our identity” (who is “our” btw? Moroccan? Turkish? Senegalese? Malian? Saudi? Their cultures are doing fine if you ask me, they’re still flourishing and very much shape the life of the people there).

    Reply

Share your thoughts!

Is it a movement of empowerment or assimilation?

I remember when Ramadan was the only time that the Muslim market would be at its peak; everything from halal samosas to Haribo’s would line supermarket shelves months before Ramadan even approached. At that time, it didn’t seem as though the words ‘halal’ or ‘Ramadan’ were being taken for granted, it was simply making Ramadan shopping easier for Muslims living in the West. But something changed down the line.

The more the media focused on the ‘Muslim terrorist’ and ‘oppressed women’ narrative, the more Muslims in the West turned to commercialisation, in an attempt to ‘normalise’ and display the religion as fun-loving and trendy, making Islam a brand.

Modest fashion and Hijab

dgcollageFashion is one of the biggest means of doing this; modest clothing lines have increased over the past few years with brands introducing luxurious versions of hijab and modest clothing in different styles and colours. On top of this, mainstream brands have recognised the gap in the market and capitalised on it.

Not long ago, H&M released its first advert featuring a Muslim model in a hijab, House of Fraser began stocking ‘sporty hijabs’ designed for Muslim women to wear while exercising and swimming and Dolce & Gabbana released its first hijab and abaya collection.

Ever wondered why a plain black hijab seemed more threatening in the West than one with floral patterns draped in an articulate manner? The media has framed the black hijab as a symbol of oppression and terror. Now with growing modest fashion industry, the commodification of the hijab and modest fashion has become a means to monetise.

Other forms of fashion include clothing with Arabic writing or Islamic wording. I remember being gifted a jumper which said “Quran and Sunnah” in the exact same style as the famous “Weed and Wasabi” brand. Arabic writing was something people used to directly associate with terrorism due to it being used by terrorist groups such as ISIS, however, Islamic fashion has attempted to remove that stereotype by introducing clothing, including everything from jumpers to baseball caps with the Arabic words for “peace” or “unity.” It’s as though our adherence to religious piety can only be validated through what’s trending and replicating it.

Islamic Musicdeen squad

There’s a real divide within the Muslim community when comes to music. Nasheeds are deemed acceptable by most, as long as there isn’t any use of background music. However, a new revolution of ‘halal hip-hop’ has changed the game now. Music now also plays a big part in the commercialisation of Islam.

Not so long ago, I discovered a group which identifies themselves as the Deen Squad, a Canadian-based hip-hop duo, who are known for their Muslim covers of popular mainstream hits. Much of Muslim community disapprove of their use of music, dancing and the fact that their songs are remakes of mainstream songs usually associated with drugs, sex, and money which they then convert and replace with ‘halal lyrics.’

Although many in the Muslim community strongly disagree with the Deen Squad’s ways, they evidently have a massive following and under the label of calling it a ‘nasheed,’ all manner of songs are being produced and in the name of religion, and so, a new money making tool is born.

Muslim Social media figures

Social media is the most powerful and influential marketing tool of the digital age. Everything from hijab tutorials, halal makeup to Muslims couples holding hands are displayed on our mobile screens.mufti-menk Social media has undoubtedly become a platform where Islam is being glamorised. In the name of religion people are now able to start businesses, launch brands, make music and show the world that they are “a Muslim and not a terrorist” and what better way to sell yourself than on social media, right?

There are many popular social media figures include Dina Tokio,  Habiba Da Silva, Zukreat and many more, who have launched their own brands, TV shows, campaigns and so on. These figures have more of a following than the scholars who have dedicated a majority of their life studying and teaching Islam such as Mufti Menk and Nouman Ali Khan. These social media figures endorse other Muslim brands and the cycle goes on, these people have become ambassadors of the religion and in turn, religion has become a brand.

Although some may perceive it as a movement of empowerment and pessimistic recognition, to me, the commercialisation of Islam is clouded in contradictions, considering the rise of this phenomenon started in western countries in Europe and the US. I fear that in attempting to eradicate stereotypes, we may just be slowly eradicating our identity and creating our own new narrative where instead of self-expression, we’re self-moulding simply because it sells.

by Khadija Ahmed for AnotherLenz Magazine


This post was originally featured here.

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

8 Comments. Leave new

  • Omar Alfarouk
    July 18, 2017 7:21 am

    I think there is a point where the person using the platform to promote their religion or their “brand” of Islam needs to be aware of the consequences of their actions. I’m thinking along the lines of teaching impressionable youth that what they’re doing is Islamic, while it may not be so. In the end, it’s up to the parents of these youths to teach them the difference between a cultural practise and a religious one. I know a few Internet personalities who blur the lines and expose themselves as either ignorant or self serving. However, most have good intentions, but use the wrong manner of highlighting whatever it is they’re trying to promote. This is the Internet age. We can’t expect everyone to be the perfect example. However, we can try to educate our children and/or loved ones about the proper etiquettes of being a Muslim behind closed doors and out in the open(ie. YouTube, twitter,etc). Islam is dynamic, not static. It stands the test of time. We may be in a different era, but it doesn’t change the fact that Islam reaches people regardless of how obscured or falsified some people make it. Itops also ok to try and teach people that Islam is normal. It’s our counter to media propaganda. Sometimes, these brands bring people to research and find the truth. Remember, Allah(SWT) guides whom He wills. We don’t know a persons intentions, so we can’t accurately assess why they may be doing something we think isn’t so Islamic.

    Reply
  • Islam isn’t a jamboree kind of a thing. You can’t customised Islam according to your desire and be thinking that you are promoting Islam. People who have gotten themselves into modernizing Islamic life styles and so should really re think and work in accordance with Islamic principles when doing their own fashion or whatever.

    Reply
  • While the article is well written, I disagree with its position. Muslims have always and should remain as a cultural and normative force in the world. If we look at the contemporary world to which we live, one of the biggest issues we see from many of the Muslim youth are well known figures who represent their ideals, thoughts and belief. And the reality is, if they aren’t gaining a sense of identity from other Muslims, then they will surely gain it from un-Islamic elements.
    I feel we need to move on from this mindset of living in the past, particularly as it relates to culture because the Prophet Muhammed (saw) and the sahabah were people of their time and dressed accordingly. And in addition, they addressed the masses via the best mediums to attract the masses, thus if social media is today’s vehicle, then why shouldn’t Muslims be at the forefront?

    Reply
  • The highly mediated society we live in is inherently problematical not only for privacy but for the attention span required by a spiritual life. We become first and foremost consumers and the logic of the marketplace takes over religion. I doubt many people are willing to disengage from this addiction stream of information; this will be a struggle for the next generations, to take back its hearts and minds from the commodification machine.

    Reply
  • NAK and Mufti Mensk are doing a decent job of reaching out to people and endorsing deep and in-depth understanding of Islam and they are doing so by being in contact with the great scholars of today … to malign them as brand ambassadors is just plain wrong! I urge the author to listen to their lectures and judge before giving any misinformed opinions.

    Reply
    • I agree, many of the Islamic speakers are doing a fantastic job reaching out the public, the world. I wouldn’t put them on the same platform as the fashion industries.

      Reply
  • Islam Isn’t Fashion! DEEN Squad has nothng to do with Islam. Those hijabi models, tell them that what they are wearing isn’t what Aisha (r.a.) used to wear. Wake up Ummah. Really. Don’t attach your hearts to these Dunya stuff. Let’s be honest, Islam isn’t for Fashion. Assalamu alaikum

    Reply
  • Or rather, muslim youth BORN and RAISED in the west is finding a way to live their lives combining all their identities (the one they get from being part of a certain society, and the culture they inherited from their parents). There is nothing wrong in incorporating all cultures in order to form a new one that represents who they are at heart. I think that process is very much part of an islamic way of thinking, and rather than having to choose where they belong or being ostracized by their OWN environment, they are creating a way to be citizens and part of a society, still with morals and ethics drawing from islamic teachings. Taking these examples and making them look like their are “social media figures” trying to focus on the “studying and teaching of Islam” is highly erroneous and quite dishonest. Any social media figure (regardless of religion) probably has more following than high religious figures. However, people like Mufti Menk and Nouman Ali Khan are very much important and influential when seeking religious knowledge and guidance, and the number of following does not affect that. Before the era of social media, religious scolars did not have “huge following”, nor did they have global exposition when one does not seek for them. Nonetheless, they impacted the transmission process of Islamic teachings and continue to do so without social media. They still provide messages, teachings and wisdom of Islam, as well as contribute to a better understanding of Islam.
    This has nothing to do with wanting to portray a different image of Islam, it has primarily to do with muslim youth trying to find an identity that represents ALL of them. And finally, it certainly takes nothing from cultures of different regions of the world, and does certainly not contribute to “eradicate our identity” (who is “our” btw? Moroccan? Turkish? Senegalese? Malian? Saudi? Their cultures are doing fine if you ask me, they’re still flourishing and very much shape the life of the people there).

    Reply

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