Commercialization of Eid al-Fitr is a welcome thing: NPR
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As a Muslim child growing up in England, I and many of my friends suffered from a strange annual disease which invariably flared up about a month before December and was quite debilitating. It was only recently that an American rabbi friend revealed she was another survivor, giving her an apt title – “Christmas Envy”.
Today, there are still captive communities across the country that cannot escape the weeks of relentless buildup before the mother of all holidays unleashes an explosion of national cheer, brimming with bonhomie shots and endless festivities. . The schadenfreude remains high as one watches the sharing of beautifully wrapped gifts and twinkling decorations that light up homes, public buildings, community parks and downtowns.
For many Muslims, Western holidays like Christmas once seemed like the kind of universal affirmation we could never achieve. But, today, it’s a markedly different story. Celebrating Muslim holidays like Ramadan and Eid is now a booming business. In the ultimate act of anointing, Muslims are wooed by large retail stores selling our themed holiday decor.
Business inclusivity is everywhere
This year, in addition to giving away brightly colored Eid gift cards, Target invited Muslim families to share their Ramadan and Eid stories for its holiday series on the “Welcome To” Youtube channel. This tribute to their diverse patrons comes with an inclusive mantra of “No matter what you celebrate, or when you celebrate, we celebrate you”, and the Eid Ul Fitr trailer amassed nearly a million views in just a few days.
However, it was Party City that initially broke the mold in 2018, followed by Walmart and sites such as Amazon that now collectively offer thousands of party favors and decorations. Who could have imagined that posh stores like Crate and Barrel would offer Muslim-friendly advice on “how to decorate your home for Ramadan” and clamor to join “the countdown to Eid”?
For some, awareness dilutes and diverts
But not everyone believes in the joy of Ramadan and Eid, nor cares about cultural parity when it comes to religious holidays. Some conservative Muslims lament that moving from abstinence to excessive consumption of materialism will dilute and detract from the essence of the faith. They fear that the Muslim holidays will replicate the excessive consumerism of Christmas, whose retail sales have surpassed the $1 trillion mark here in the United States in the last 5 years alone.
Despite inclusive ads, retailers aren’t driven by social altruism. It is more likely the financial incentive of the so-called “halal economy” (modest fashion, halal food, cosmetics and decoration) estimated at $2 trillion internationally, according to a report on the state of the world islamic economy released last year. .
Nearly a decade ago, branding consultants Ogilvy Noor, part of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Inc, estimated the spending power of American Muslim consumers at around $170 billion. This number can be multiplied many times today. Proof, for some, that it is indeed commercial exploitation.
There are compelling counter-arguments
Yet there are very compelling reasons to sidestep these caveats, most forcefully illustrated in the advent of COVID-19.
Mental health nationwide has plunged sharply since the pandemic, but for Muslims there has been a sharper rise in depression and even suicidal ideation. According to a JAMA Psychiatry study last July, Muslims are more likely to have attempted suicide in their lifetime than Catholic, Protestant and Jewish respondents.
When it comes to children, according to a 2020 annual survey by the Muslim think tank Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), 51% of Muslim children are likely to be bullied at school, compared to 27% in the general population. Additionally, 56% said they felt “unsafe, intrusive or uncomfortable at school”. So it can’t help when many school districts refuse to consider your religious holiday a statutory holiday. For some students, Eid isn’t even an excused absence.
In fact, psychologists and the counseling community have written extensively about the dangers of making children feel left out, designating Christmas as a holiday that puts undue pressure on those who don’t celebrate it. This means that Muslim parents and the community itself must elevate the status of their religious holiday to help make vulnerable people, especially children, feel more connected, valued and in community.
It is also a way to support Muslim businesses
Marketing Muslim holidays also means supporting thousands of Muslim-owned small businesses, which in many cases are run by women. The founder of ModernEID JOmana Siddiqui was taken over by Macy’s in 2014. Pinterest and Etsy alone have tens of thousands of searches for Eid decorations and are packed with thousands of direct sellers offering gifts, aesthetic decorations and ideas for decorating homes – all a perfect fusion of eastern design and western modernity.
COVID-related isolation and remote working have driven nearly $420 billion in national spending on home improvement and decorating projects, which is why so many Muslim decorating businesses record a record increase in sales. Offering crafts and edible treats throughout the pandemic was a way to uplift morale, express love or affection, and forge community bonds when physical fellowship stalled.
The desire to build a legacy of family religious traditions for any community is natural, but for minority communities it can be a vital crutch. Hopefully, Muslims will put taboos aside and see this trade-driven trend with benefits as a sign of progress.
Rifat Malik is the founding editor of American Muslim Today, a national nonprofit digital newspaper that is “transforming the narrative” about Muslims in the West.