There has never been a better time to improve our understanding of Islamic traditions and Muslim values. Ignoring the current political climate in the US and elsewhere, the more important and long-term trend to know is the projection by PewResearchCenter that the number of Muslims in the world will increase from 1.6 billion in 2010 to an estimated 2.76 billion in 2050. The book Generation M could not be more timely.This is a fresh, insightful and optimistic view of a generation of younger Muslims and how they are shaping the world, in ways that are thoroughly modern while maintaining a strong sense of their faith and the values that come from it. The book explores Muslim faiths and traditions, explaining core concepts through a vast range of examples from modern Islamic practice, coming from Europe and the US, the Middle East and Asian countries including India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and China.
With separate chapters on music, fashion and beauty, food and more, this is a comprehensive overview for anyone who wants to understand and market too modern Muslims. In particular, the author explains why its important to go beyond the functional labels and explicit concepts to the set of values that lie beneath these. For example, she details how modern Muslims have gone beyond concerns of halal to the deeper idea of tayyab (wholesomeness, integrity), something that resonates in the work I have done on Muslim beauty.
Specifically on beauty she quotes eye-watering statistics that Muslims spent $54 billion in 2014 on cosmetics and personal care and that this is predicted to rise to $80 billion by 2020. Using the example of Wardah, a local Indonesian brand that has been hugely successful, describing their advertising in the following words, “soft, pure, elegant and modest, in pastel colours, but with the clear faces of the models, a modern picture of Muslim beauty”.
The brand represents a fusion of religious values and modest principles with a focus on natural and recommended ingredients (and also halal). On the more radical side she also talks about innovations such as ‘breathable’ nail polish (that you don’t have to remove to wash for prayers) and the increasing number of haircare brands creating advertising and product innovations that meet the needs of women who cover their heads.
The final chapter brings these ideas together to talk about green consumerism and the strong ethical principles that are increasingly attractive to Muslim shoppers. The implicit language of values is becoming even more important than the requirements of explicit technical terminology. It can’t be long before we see the rise of global Islamic brands with an appeal that stretches beyond the specifics of a religion to more international ethical ideas. In China, many non-Muslims buy halal products not because of their religious values but because they know they are made to certain ethical and quality standards. This is trend that is sure to grow, as local and international businesses wake up to the importance of ethical standards and sustainability as core principles that can help their brands thrive.
Generation M: Young Muslims changing the world by Shelina Janmohamed
The Future of World Religions: Population growth projections 2010-2050 by PewResearchCenter