Hungry for Ramadan

Hungry for Ramadan

Ramadan 2007/1428: Brought to You by Burger King

burger_king_ad.jpgOne of the best things about Ramadan in America is that it is still under-the-radar. After all, it doesn’t take long for entrepreneurs to realize the commercial potential around religious holidays, as the “holiday season” can attest to. And even as Ramadan’s visibility increases, it would seem odd that a religious holiday centered around self-restraint and denial of impulse could be seen as an opportunity to promote consumerism.
But in some parts of the Muslim world, that’s exactly what is happening. There are indeed aspects of Ramadan that involve consumption–gifts for children at the end of the month, dressing up for the Eid holiday in your finest clothes, and of course going out for dinner during the month–and which open the door for enterprising business to move it. Hence advertising like this Ramadan greetings ad from Burger King, which implies that you should be breaking your fast with a Whopper.


So what happens when you combine Ramadan with rampant commercialism? In some places, a holiday of introspection and self-restraint becomes a shop all night affair. Instead of filling the evening with prayer, the malls are open all night with a shopping frenzy very similar to the Western holiday season. Huge sponsored Ramadan tents are erected that that combine dinner with shopping and promotions. The restraint of fasting during the day is offset by a public feeding frenzy. And the solemnity of Ramadan is turned into a joke.
This kind of commercialization is starting to happen here in America as well, albeit slowly. I remember my jaw dropping when I got an Eid card from AT&T offering special rates for calling overseas relatives to wish them Eid Mubarak (blessed Eid). But aside from a few isolated examples such as this, American businesses are still reluctant to court Muslim purchasing power, even though a recent study pegged the total at $170 billion a year in the US alone.
The creeping commercialization of Ramadan in the Muslim world gives me pause, but I am hopeful that, because we are in the early stages of defining Ramadan in its American incarnation, we can head that off. It would take a concerted effort to solidify the practice of Ramadan in America based values such as charity, reflection, and self-restraint — values that don’t easily lend themselves to opportunistic advertising. If Muslim Americans are successful in doing this, perhaps it can offer an example of how other religious holidays can be reclaimed from the marketplace.

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posted October 1, 2007 at 4:29 pm

I think thats pretty cool that Burger King and At&t want to cater to me. It says to me that they recognize and accept me as a human being who likes to eat whoppers and talk on the phone, and not a frothing religious extremist as seen on CNN or Fox.
But I’m with you on the anti-shopping frenzies and gluttonous iftars. How do you GAIN weight during Ramadan? And the other side of the coin, people fasting to lose weight, is beside the point.

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posted October 2, 2007 at 11:25 am

At first, I was a bit apprehensive about this- I don’t want advertisements to make me feel more human or more like everybody else. I don’t feel more respected as a human, just more respected as a consumer.
Then I read this from a link ($170 billion) within your (Shahed’s) post:
“Marketing to Muslims is, of course, mostly intended to increase the companies’ sales. But advertising has also long been a mirror of changes in society.
Salzman pointed to ads in the 1960s that featured Jewish products like Levy’s rye bread, which, she said, helped bring that group more into the mainstream. She also noted that ads from companies like McDonald’s in the 1990s portrayed busy mothers who admitted that they did not cook every night like their mothers did.”

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farida mohammed

posted October 3, 2007 at 8:13 am

A whopper hmmm….. is that meat halal?I see some of my muslim brothers and sisters eating meat at places that does not have any Halal signs.Can someone enlighten me on this.

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Shahed Amanullah

posted October 3, 2007 at 9:52 am

The Burger King ad was run in a Muslim country, and it is safe to assume that Whoppers there are halal.

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posted October 3, 2007 at 12:00 pm

There is the understaning that: “The food of the People of the Book is halal to you and yours is halal to them.”-5:5
Opinions of the Scholars:
That or they just don’t care.

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posted October 4, 2007 at 1:21 pm

i think they are talking about ads in Muslim countries not in the U.S or Canada and yes, I believe the meat is halal there. i saw similar ads in Egypt during ramadan this year at McDonalds and KFC too. and i saw a lot of people getting takeout for iftar or sohour at fast food places

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posted October 10, 2007 at 6:01 pm

All (esp religious) people should stop eating animals. It is nothing more than a money maker profited by murder of intelligent beings, disgustingly cruel and horrifying (halal and not) destroying the environment, the cause of food shortage, completely unneccessary degenerative waste of life from all aspects. Vegetarians generally live more disease free, healthier and longer. I myself have not even had a cold in 7 years. (OK, I also gave up take aways) Wake up

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posted October 12, 2007 at 2:19 pm

In America I can understand why some people may break their fast with fast food. Many times it is the only thing around to eat if you are working all the time. I personally bring fruit and water from home but some Muslims are just use to eating fast food.

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