Muslim consumers: How do global brands become 'infidels'?

May 16, 2012

Among Islamists, certain global brands can be considered threats to Muslim identity, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"'Infidel! Infidel!' cries the six-year-old boy upon hearing his mother mention Nestlé during our interview," writes author Elif Izberk-Bilgin (University of Michigan-Dearborn). "Why would a six-year-old call Nestlé infidel? How do like Coca-Cola and Disney get tangled in a complex web of sociopolitical dynamics and become targets of religiously charged consumer activism?"

In describing a phenomenon she calls "consumer jihad," Izberk-Bilgin explores consumer boycotts of brands associated with Western influences and policies. The author conducted an ethnographic study of low-income Muslim in Turkey. Her informants were shantytown dwellers who had migrated to Istanbul for employment. Many of her interviewees had traditional upbringings and faced economic hardships and culture shock when they arrived in Istanbul's urban setting. "These informants embraced Islam not just as a matter of faith and a normative system, but also as a political and social model," the author writes. "As a result, this Islamist view reflected on their consumption choices."

Although study participants named Western multinational corporations as examples of infidel brands, some informants also named reputable Turkish brands as infidels. "This suggests that what fosters the infidel critique is not simply an anti-Western sentiment. Rather, it is the complex interplay of many socio-historical factors such as the informants' discontent with uneven economic globalization, the growing influence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in domestic policies, the elite-led modernization project in Turkey, and the stigmatized 'backward' social position of Islamists that fuel the infidel critique," Izberk-Bilgin writes.

Instead of merely rejecting Western values or modern market systems, Islamists engage in consumer activism as a way to "moralize the market" and embrace products (like gender-segregated resorts and alcohol-free perfumes) that reflect their values, Izberk-Bilgin concludes.

Explore further: Physicists create tool to foresee language destruction impact and thus prevent it

More information: Elif Izberk-Bilgin. "Infidel Brands: Unveiling Alternative Meanings of Global Brands at the Nexus of Globalization, Consumer Culture, and Islamism." Journal of Consumer Research: December 2012. ejcr.org/

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User comments : 21

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axemaster
4.6 / 5 (10) May 16, 2012
"'Infidel! Infidel!' cries the six-year-old boy

And here is the real crime of religion - indoctrination of the young. They have no way to judge for themselves, so they believe whatever they are told - and then they are saddled with it forever.

I don't have a problem with religion in general, people can believe whatever they want. But you'd think that if religion really had so many merits, people wouldn't be so desperate to convince little kids before they gain the ability to make rational judgements. After all, if given a real choice a lot of them wouldn't be religious, doesn't that just mean that it wasn't any good after all?

Also, if I were God, I wouldn't be impressed by indoctrinated religion. Coming to believe in something by following your own path is a lot more meaningful.
Terriva
1 / 5 (3) May 16, 2012
At France global companies are considered a killers of national identity and culture as well (McDonald's food-chain, for example). This stance has economical roots: the international companies bring the competition for traditional agriculture and they drain the money outside of country. So such stance can be understood as an expression of anti-liberal protectionism too. At the case of Islamics these tendencies are just way stronger and they're getting the religious and nationalistic connotations. After then the religion becomes just one of ways, how to keep the society economically and ideologically homogeneous, which brings various synergies. The homogeneous society works more effectively at the global level, which is advantageous for its leaders and various long-term strategies, whereas it remains less dynamic at the communal level at the price.

IMO the western society has a poor sense of these simple long-term connections, because is driven with atemporal free-market liberalism.
Terriva
1.7 / 5 (6) May 16, 2012
The laissez-faire free-market economy always operates with "real", i.e. actual prices so it cannot account into long-term and indeterministic connections (like the cost of endangered species), for example. It tends to remain less stable and it oscillates between periodical economical crisis. The western society is traditionally anticommunist, so it tends to underestimate the advantages of global strategies and centralist government. I'm not proponent of the socialistic approach to economy in any way - but I would prefer the optimized, ideologically unbiased approach, which involves the emergent synergies and long-term strategical planning. We should combine the best of both approaches (i.e. centrally driven and free-market economy) and apply them at the proper places and scale, while having consistent physical model of society on mind.
Anorion
4.3 / 5 (6) May 16, 2012
theism is the cancer of humanity
Terriva
1.7 / 5 (6) May 16, 2012
theism is the cancer of humanity
Whereas I do presume, just the religion did the civilization from the half-organized tribes and clans. If you organize many people under common idea, you will defeat all it neighbors both economically, both military. The primitive people don't understand the widespread synergies well (after all, in the same way, like the people don't understand the emergent motivations of dense aether model) - but what they do understand is the idea of common deity, which requires to plan and organize their lives.

Of course, the same ideological cement has become a brake of the further evolution later. After all, in the same way, like so-called the scientific method, which replaced the religion during last two centuries. Every good thing becomes a dinosaur gradually.
kaasinees
2.7 / 5 (7) May 16, 2012
They simply boycot capitalism.
Terriva
1 / 5 (3) May 16, 2012
They simply boycot capitalism.
It's not so simple. IMO they do support anti-liberalism, i.e. the separatism and protectionism. When French farmers strike against McDonnalds, they don't boycot capitalism, rather the globalism/liberalism. The Islamists aren't plain left-wing socialists. After all, their positive attitude for religion is typical rather for capitalism, than for socialism. Check the dimensions of the political compass.
kaasinees
2.3 / 5 (6) May 16, 2012
They simply boycot capitalism.
IMO they do support separatism and protectionism. The Islamists aren't socialists. The positive attitude for religion is typical rather for capitalism, than for socialism.

There are socialist religious movements though.
And muslims have been socialists mostly through history.
Only shia muslims are capitalists and they do not follow the koran as muslims should.

They are simply boycotting american products corporate products. We have no idea if this has something to do with religion.
Terriva
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2012
They are simply boycotting american products corporate products. We have no idea if this has something to do with religion.
The religion or ideology in general can serve as a glue for every possible extremist stance. For example, the Hitler was personally known as a God hater - but the German soldiers still wore the belts with "Gott with uns" phrase.
kaasinees
1.7 / 5 (6) May 16, 2012
They are simply boycotting american products corporate products. We have no idea if this has something to do with religion.
The religion or ideology in general can serve as a glue for every possible extremist stance. For example, the Hitler was personally known as a God hater - but the German soldiers still wore the belts with "http://en.wikiped...mit_uns" phrase.

True religion can be used to force opinions down people. But that still does not mean that religion is the reason, it is a deeper reason and that is boycotting and not sending money to your enemies.

How do you know adolf is a "god hater"? Cause he had connections with the vatican.
Anorion
4 / 5 (4) May 16, 2012
They are simply boycotting american products corporate products. We have no idea if this has something to do with religion.
The religion or ideology in general can serve as a glue for every possible extremist stance. For example, the Hitler was personally known as a God hater - but the German soldiers still wore the belts with "http://en.wikiped...mit_uns" phrase.


I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.

- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2

KingDWS
5 / 5 (2) May 16, 2012
Take the political compass test, its hilarious. Try to find one question that is not misleading or bigoted .
Try to find one that you can truthfully answer without being forced to chose something that gives too much weight to the response as a result.

Welcome to the modern world of neo-facism disguised as truth or science. Its a pitiful place to watch the antics of the few become facts for the many. But dude it was like on my friends. blog so like its fact!
Lex Talonis
2 / 5 (5) May 16, 2012
Islam is the cancer of humanity - just like every other cult.
that_guy
4.8 / 5 (4) May 16, 2012
and the stigmatized 'backward' social position of Islamists that fuel the infidel critique," Izberk-Bilgin writes.


Extremist shitheads are extremist shitheads no matter the situation.

Do you think islamists are stigmatized in Iran, causing them to act so terribly there?

...or even the unstigmatized role that evangelical extremists have here when they try to impose religious laws on us? You think that we're all that different? What if a proclaimed agnostic or atheist ran for president?

PS - Amen Axeman.
alfie_null
3 / 5 (2) May 17, 2012
Presumably, well-off Muslims in Turkey don't share these same attitudes.
Religion provides a convenient context, and big corporations (which mostly are western) are a convenient scapegoat. Adopting this sort of view isn't going to solve anyone's problems, however they are perceived. You can't shut out the rest of the world, no matter how high you build your walls.
Doug_Huffman
2.3 / 5 (3) May 17, 2012
Capitalism functions properly only in an intelligent and skeptical market, quite antithetical to depauperate cultures.
Nawangsari
5 / 5 (1) May 21, 2012
The rape of the minds of children, by religious indoctrination,
is by far the greatest threat to the world.
This planet will never survive unless religion is seen
for what it truly is: Idiots trying to answer an unanswerable question, with their own personable brand.
To all the Christians,Jews and Muslims out there: Tell the rest of us where are we supposed to go when when you have ruined it all.
Sarmad_Sabih
not rated yet May 24, 2012
This is the role of religion in raising awareness of what is bad and food products from unhealthy and forbidden in our religion. Professor Nawangsari Why do you ask this question that do not have the answer, who has his answer is the one who created you and created the world. To we see if the answer to those who claim to secular
Sarmad_Sabih
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2012
Islam is the cancer of humanity - just like every other cult.

Humans who has no religion, such as the machine that acted without controls. Human wants everything for example theft, murder and rape and all that is shameful of which restrict this behavior?? The answer is religion
Jimee
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2012
Any attempt to pressure corporations to become better citizens should be applauded, pure and simple.
axemaster
5 / 5 (2) May 25, 2012
Humans who has no religion, such as the machine that acted without controls. Human wants everything for example theft, murder and rape and all that is shameful of which restrict this behavior?? The answer is religion

Hi, I'm an atheist. We don't rape/murder/steal because we don't want to hurt the people around us. Isn't that a more moral, mature attitude than refraining out of fear of some sort of Godly retribution? Plus, religious countries tend to have a pretty scary record when it comes to these things. Europe for example, which is much more atheist, also has a considerably better human rights record than we do.

Atheism forces you to look INSIDE yourself for your morality - what emerges is very often a well-examined sense of self, as opposed to the superficial version you get when other people tell you what's right and wrong.