Ramadan is upon us…

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Anthony Greenidge,

director at EMS, says it’s high time the advertising industry did more
to recruit and promote ethnic staff to reflect society.

 

Across the months of May and June up to 2 billion people around the world will celebrate the Holy month of Ramadan. To those brand managers out there, that’s a whole lot of potential custom. Virtually every country in the world will spend significant time both officially and informally recognising the importance and significance of these Holy days to followers of the Islamic faith.
The ninth month on the Muslim calendar is when Ramadan is observed, distinguished as the month when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad.
It is one of the most holy periods in the year. A time for spiritual cleansing. Ramadan begins with the sighting of the new moon, but the exact date often depends on the interpretation of the moon by Muslim clerics.

During the period, followers fast daily from dawn to dusk. Nothing can pass the lips during fast until Iftar in the evening which marks the end of the daily fast. Equally, followers are
meant to refrain from smoking, sexual activities, combat and false speech, such as lying, cursing, etc. This may sound pretty demanding to the average non-Muslim. Islam does come across as one of the stricter religions and its followers do come across
as a lot more devout than other big religions.

Islam is the world’s second largest religion and Muslims are going through what some would call interesting times at the moment. Seemingly under attack from many different sides, this could be seen as a test by many of their faith. Muslims today are facing some pretty tough opposition (or maybe oppression), from many Western governments, with
many politicians hoping to appeal to populist right wing voters. In the midst of angry critics screaming headline grabbing scare stories that appeal to the base fears of many non-Muslim people.

Extremism

It would be easy to dismiss the critics of the Islamic faith as hate filled irrational bigots, who are too dumb to know better or as small-minded muppets that are so brainwashed by society’s right wing press that they are too afraid to stand up against the unwarranted victimisation of our Muslim friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Yes, it would also be easy to take the route of less resistance and just blame the right wing racist. In fact I myself have written articles doing just that. The problem with taking the easy route is that it does not look at both sides of the topic. One side of the issue is staring us all square in the face, unblinking and piercing. But how to express this issue sensitively
and safely?

Basically, there are a load of absolute nutters that are trying to blow us all up, claiming it in the name of Islam! There, I said it…. How long have I got before someone puts a fatwa on me for saying something upsetting to Muslims? And that my friends, is a big part of the problem in a nutshell.
Many people across the world, and let’s not kid ourselves, it is a worldwide matter, find it difficult to separate Islam, the religion of peace from the radical; no, radical is the wrong word, it does not quite grasp the utterly incomprehensible, murderous, bat**** crazy, nightmare on Elm Street version of Islam that the mad ones claim to all sign up to. Let’s say extremist.
Yes, followers of these extremist versions of Islam, are well on their way to completely destroying all hopes of ever allowing Islam to ever be viewed as a normal religion, one that expects its followers to embrace and respect others.Instead, these extremists are proving amazingly successful at
portraying Islam as a religion of hate, interested only in causing as much pain and havoc to as many people on the planet as possible. Something that the right-wing hate preachers are all too ready to use to promote their own agenda.
However, let us not ignore the fact that these extremist have targeted and harmed more Muslims than any other people. In the West we are all totally aware of the dangers we face from these extremists. The daily reports give us regular reminders on what we should be aware of in terms of the threat from Islamic terrorist and Muslim extremist.

Terrorist? Or ‘Islamic terrorist’?

Interestingly, in countries that have an Islamic majority population, the terrorist are called just terrorist, and not Islamic or Muslim anything. There is no automatic relationship between the religion and the terrorist act. It seems that in the west we do struggle to separate the terrorist from their origin or their religion. There are some Muslims that have very strong, even mad views against the west, Christians, etc. Just as there are some Christian’s with crazy views against homosexuality, abortion, Muslims, and so on. Society is littered with groups of nasty minded people like the EDL, KKK, Aryan Nations and Britain First but none of these are the norm and they are all not labelled terrorist.

Stigmatised groups

A question sometimes posed by my non-white acquaintances is, why is it that society never demands that all white people are grouped together and labelled with some derogatory term every time a far right nutter targets innocents in a school children shooting spree or in a serial murderous rage?
In response, I explain being quite appalled as a young man back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, at the utterly abysmal way the Irish people were victimised and set upon by the newspapers and the television news reports. I was ultra-aware even back then of how the media classified and stigmatised whole groups of people. Specifically groups that could be separated from the Anglo Saxon white masses. The Irish were seen as Celts, so
foreigners to the great categoriser in the sky.

Blacks were all muggers or lazy. Asians were all rip-off shop keepers or suffering arranged marriages. The Irish were all terrorists or gun-hiding sympathisers and so on. The seizing upon anomalous behaviour from a minority individual and then associating that act as an identifier for the whole minority group. It seems ludicrous to think that people were convinced that these negative images were true reflections of the whole. Many a time I and my friends were on the receiving end of withering looks of disgust from several well-heeled white ladies whose paths crossed mine. I can still feel that sense of frustration and that flash of irritation welling up in my stomach, as they drew their little handbags closer and evermore tightly to their chest as I walked past them on the street or entered the same carriage on the tube.

Just imagine that for a second… remove yourself from the warm comfort of a modern, tolerant and downright friendly London (or any other major conurbation) in 2017.
Try and imagine being 17 years old and a minority in your home city, a city that apparently does not want you here, does not trust you and looks upon you as dangerous.
I experienced this all because a few other West Indian teenagers decided to mug people. Envisage being prejudged and blamed for something you had not done or ever would do? Crickey why did I stay here? Why did I not just pack up and leave? Oh I remember…. I was only 17 and this was after all my home city. Why would I allow myself to suffer just because of a few negative stereotypes dropped on to me by lazy negative thinking? Today we call it racial profiling (or some such made up nonsense). It is what it is.

Unsurprisingly, black people are still suffering stereo types. The collective all, being judged by the acts of the few, knife crime, etc. We all know that kids of other races carry knives and are involved in crime? It is just, according to the media, somehow not as frightening as the stuff that those black kids do. In the 1970’s and 1980’s the Asian groups, Indians and
Pakistanis were less likely to be seen as ethnic career criminals. However, they still had an awful time of it from the National Front skinheads and the local racists, on the plus side though they were generally left alone by the police – we were almost envious of Asians.

“Ramadan has now become a time for mainstream advertisers
to actively engage with Muslim consumers across the period”

Simply discrimination

This simple element of discrimination in our lives made no sense to my generation. There you were young, gifted and Black, minding your own business, facing being stopped at any time and searched under the SUS law, whenever you were seen on the streets by the police. Then there were the Asian kids who all seen to be sweetness and light, actually getting on with the police! We thought they were fortunate, but then remembered
all the grief they got from the Front and the BNP.
I now look back at my 17-year old self and I realise that I had no idea of how bad it could get. Man! Today, Asians are really getting it. Whether you are Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani, you my friend are constantly being racially profiled and categorised as a possible Muslim terrorist. Not just here but around the world. I don’t care if you are Sikh, Hindi or if you have never ever stepped inside a mosque, when some people look at you, they
see an Islamic extremist.

If you don’t believe me catch a flight to America, or pop over to France or anywhere in Eastern Europe. I can guarantee you that you will be treated as a potential nut job extremist. Something that we all know is totally immoral but we go along with the idea, under the premise that it keeps us safe. We are also internally thankful that it is not us suffering such overt victimisation.

But why is it only minority communities that are treated this way? ‘Nutjob’ does something nutty and everyone else gets lumbered with it. Then some quasi appointed spokespeople have to openly condemn the act or face accusations of condoning said nutty act. Go figure??Last month eight young ‘nutters’ from Croydon nearly kicked a young Iranian kid to death, simply because he was seeking asylum. Yet Croydon’ites seem to have escaped the broad brushstrokes that would be applied if it was eight Iranian kids against one
Croydonian.
You see, people in the West are scared. Thanks to Ted Turner, News is now big business. Streaming news 24/7, so it makes good business sense to keep the viewers frightened. Every terrorist story is a budding hypothetical news goldmine with seam upon seam of credible conjecture and more ways to frighten the bejesus out of you the viewer. All of the possible mean that the frightened viewer, will stay tuned for insights on how we can stop these Islamic extremist or to see if the Muslim terrorist gets their comeuppance. Today’s News, ‘Collateral damage of 15 innocents killed by a western soldier on duty but it’s ok, we got the one terrorist’.Tomorrow. ‘I shot him on the street because he looked extreme’. Some call it Islamophobia, for many it is the dehumanisation of a cultural race of people in response to the mad acts of the few nutters.

‘So you were born in Kent were you? You don’t look English and your name is Asian for crying out loud. Are you sure you don’t want to kill all of the infidels and introduce Sharia law to our
women?’ Doesn’t matter mate, I am arresting on the grounds that you look like a terrorist.
The whirlpool of negativity that surrounds Islam and followers
of Islam is astounding but that’s because many non-Muslim
news producers around world have determined that the value of fearing Islam and Muslims is worth more than the suffering and torment experienced by the Muslims, Asians, people with Asian
sounding names or some who have visited a Muslim country in the last 10 years.

High viewer numbers

It makes no sense to label the whole because of the few. Remember, some media people like the high viewer numbers drawn to this negativity, it equals higher ratings to sell to advertisers, thus equals higher revs. It’s easy, advertisers like high numbers of
viewer’s regardless right?
Well, that is not really the big driver for many advertisers actually. I previously wrote how the ‘Stop the Hate’ campaign had won quite a few big named supporters who had withdrawn their spends from hateful rhetoric media.
On the other side of the same coin, a growing number of advertisers have decided to actually embrace those audiences that are being negatively battered.
They have seen an opportunity to drive sales and they are going for it.

Ramadan marketing

Ramadan has now become a time for mainstream advertisers to actively engage with Muslim consumers across the period. I was surprised this year at the sheer volume and involvement of some of the Ramadan focused campaigns.
These include, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Hasbro. All are working closely with media owners to really engage with Muslim consumers and on fundamental level. Rather than always focusing on the negative it seems that brand managers are
looking to start focusing on the positive. This is not the first time marketers of big brands have utilised religious events to connect to consumers.
There are the obvious popular ones, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. Diwali is now a mainstay in brand manager’s diaries. As is Hanukah, the
Jewish Festival of Lights and Raksha Bandan, the Hindu thread of protection celebrated by brothers and sisters. I know just how tricky it has been bringing UK advertisers to Muslim consumers but it seems like the old saying of ‘the mountain not coming to
Muhammad’ can be upended.
Ramadan in the UK had always been a slow mover in the attraction of mainstream advertisers. It now seems that Ramadan is now the conduit for the movement of the mainstream brand mountain to the Muslim consumer.

 

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