The Halal Journal WHF 2012 Special Edition Muslim Youth Culture A New Hip Hop Grunge


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The Halal Journal WHF 2012 Special Edition Muslim Youth Culture A New Hip Hop Grunge

  1. 1. The Halal Journal | World Halal Forum 2012 Special Edition | 32 A rguably the most exciting and significant segment in today’s global market lies in the hands of Muslim Youth. Advertising and Branding agency Ogilvy Noor has estimated that over half of Muslims are under 24 years old and that makes for over Muslim Youth Culture A new wave of Hip hop Grunge The exciting new wave of Muslim Youth culture embodies the modern-day phenomenon of collective individualism and hybrid personalities – which connects people across nationalities and ethnicities. This article highlights some of the key trends and offers further insight, from a marketing communications and anthropological perspective. 10 per cent of the World’s population. Furthermore, more recent academic opinions on globalisation are taking alternative positions than previously argued. de Mooij (2011) gives consideration to the effects of globalisation and global consumer culture – and in particular those that produce negative effects. de Mooij (2011) observes that, “In practice, notwithstanding the worldwide reach of television and the internet, in many people’s lives, in consumption or entertainment habits, be it music or sports, the people of different nations continue to have different habits, tastes, and loyalties. Instead of causing homogenisation, globalisation is the reason for the revival of local cultural Words by Jonathan (Bilal) A.J. Wilson Feature.indd 32 3/26/12 4:52:09 PM
  2. 2. The Halal Journal | World Halal Forum 2012 Special Edition | identities in different parts of the world.” (p.5). This is a view also supported by Giddens (2000) and Featherstone (1991). This is because de Mooij challenges Levitt’s (1983) rational view of global markets, where technology leads to the homogenisation of consumer wants and needs – as they will crave high-quality and low price standardised products over customised high-price offerings. de Mooij (2011) points to observation of Usunier (1996), that there exists no empirical evidence to show homogenisation of tastes or the appearance of universal price-minded consumer segments. Furthermore, that those consumers are in fact not after profit maximisation. Instead, “Convergence at a macro level (e.g., convergence of GNI [gross national income] per capita) does not necessarily imply convergence of consumer choice. As people around the globe become better educated and more affluent, their tastes diverge”. (de Mooij, 2011 p.6). In support both of de Mooij and Levitt’s views, further technological developments have now made it possible to offer more customised, high quality and low-price offerings – which are driving opportunity and growth. When looking specifically at Muslim youth, I argue that rather than these Muslims becoming ‘Westernised’, as has been suggested by traditional Muslim quarters and many Western non- Muslim sources, Muslim Feature.indd 33 3/26/12 4:52:14 PM
  3. 3. The Halal Journal | World Halal Forum 2012 Special Edition | 34 youth is in fact entering an age of new becoming. For if this is a simple case of Westernisation, does this mean that the ‘West is best’, and are Muslim youth moving away from Islam as understood and practiced in the Muslim world? Or is it that they see Islam as not just being the property of Muslim nations? Therefore, is it that they are open to inspiration and truth wherever it exists? Evidence for the last perspective lies in the increase in visible practice of Islam by Muslim youth – most notably in their dress and the conversations on the internet, which are there for all to see. Muslim youth are consuming commodities that were thought of not to necessarily have any Islamic reference or relevance and they are Islamifying them. In addition, I would argue that East/West, or Muslim/The West thinking harms the development of Muslims – as it implies separation. And more importantly by inference supports the idea that the strongest brands, media platforms and educational systems lie outside of the hands and inception of the Muslim world, which profiles the Muslim majority as being intellectually impoverished. Therefore, if this is the case, Muslims may now and in the future be profiled as romantics who were once great, but now live in the shadow of the enlightened West. Furthermore, if profit maximisation is taken to more socio-cultural and intangible rather than just financial, then this encapsulates the essence of cultured human existence. MuslimYouthPalette fight injustice FreedomofChoice Allah is with me Feature.indd 34 3/26/12 4:52:27 PM
  4. 4. The Halal Journal | World Halal Forum 2012 Special Edition | For people are both rational and emotional. And for Muslims this also means being spiritual, which takes existence from the transient ‘here and now’, to the transcendent ‘hereafter’. Further evidence for more faith-based calculations can be derived from the Islamic concept of rizq. Wilson and Liu (2011) charted the development of the term ‘risk’: “which has its linguistic roots derived from the Arabic word Rizq and the Classical Greek… Rizq is a wider and more inclusive term, which more correctly translated means “sustenance”, with that sustenance ultimately being attributable to God. Its passage into English and Italian has restricted the term – largely to focusing on loss of current or future wealth” (p.39). Therefore, Muslims will always balance evaluations and calculations according to this life and the hereafter – either of which could be short, medium or long term, but work in parallel. Another key development has been the ascendance of English language. English in particular, because it is the worldwide language of business. In tandem, whilst Arabic is the language of Islam and with Islam spreading across the globe, Arabic it is not the mother tongue of most Muslims, which means that it is often used alongside another mother tongue to derive meaning and understanding. Therefore, today it could be argued that English has grown in its importance in connection with Islam, as it is more widely understood. However, a key question is what sort of English – as most people who speak English have it as a second non-native language. Also, non-English languages are in turn influencing Figure 1: C.H.A.N.G.E.S. model (Wilson, 2011) English – as collectively they all express culturally specific patterns, which are embedded in contextual situations. Evidence points to the strongest global brands being known according to strong linkages with English language text and English derivatives, shaped by non-English language natives. Examples of colloquial terms are: Americanisms, BBC English, Business English, Engrish (sic), Indian English Jamaican Patois, and Malaysian English, amongst others. Language is especially central to youth culture in general – as it is subject to context, group and rapid fashionable change. What may be cool for some, or today, may not be the case in the future. The following model (Figure 1) is one that I’ve used to outline this process of global culture, communication and commerce. Gaining insight into tAke IT to da sTreEt my Mosque is my university Culture Surrogacy Aunthenticity Nation Branding Global Positioning/ Game Theory Faith Feature.indd 35 3/26/12 4:52:35 PM Hybridi ation English Hybrids s
  5. 5. The Halal Journal | World Halal Forum 2012 Special Edition | 36 MuslimYouthPopCulture stakeholder perceptions – concerning individual and group identities, are central components of any good marketing. Arguably, the youth market is tough: because how many brands can predict whether they’ll be the next cult, or cool thing – especially when tastes change so quickly? If we add into the mix the fact that Muslim youth are balancing adherence to their faith (which is taken from information largely based upon classical texts), with living in the here and now (meaning that some texts have to be brought up to speed with the world today) – then there are plenty of debates to be had. Amongst the younger generation especially, patterns are being broken up by additional displays of conspicuous consumption – the all- important accessorising and customising. However, an additional level of understanding worth considering is, are more Muslim youth accessorising and customising Muslim dress and entertainment; or in fact the opposite – that they are Islamicising non-Muslim sources? For example, some more orthodox Islamic quarters see women wearing jeans as: a departure from Islamic convention; attempting to be Western (the inference being that Western is bad); and imitating men (“because men wear the pants in the house”). However, an alternative view would be that jeans are: technically comparable with, for example, female Pakistani shalwar trousers, or in fact are a step up – as they have more practical uses. Furthermore, whether to wear jeans or not is not the key issue – it’s how, when and where. Therefore, does that mean that: Muslim dress = national dress, from Muslim countries non-Islamic dress = items from East/West not associated with Islam, e.g. baseball cap, Japanese tabi (split toe socks) Islamic dress is really about covering certain body parts; in addition to some parts, which should be covered to hide also their shape. The informed tribes of Muslim youth social networkers understand this concept, perhaps at times better than their elders – and this basic principle allows youth to experiment. There also appear to be two staring points: Muslim dress, with non-Islamic ‘peripherals’ (accessory items) e.g. male: wearing thoub/kandora (long white robe), with a Yankees baseball cap and Timberland boots Non-Islamic dress, with Islamic peripherals e.g. female: wearing rah-rah mini skirt over jeans, with a headscarf and dog tag chain saying ‘Muslim and proud’. But from these two ends of the spectrum: fashion, customisation, personalisation and collective individualism appear to be on the increase. They are encouraging youth to congregate around brand- centric tribes and to associate brands with their faith. Furthermore, from a marketing perspective, you have youth who are more likely to wear more clothes, layers and use Feature.indd 36 3/26/12 4:52:43 PM
  6. 6. The Halal Journal | World Halal Forum 2012 Special Edition | greater volumes of fabric – so that means more brand site opportunities and consumption. So for marketers, the present suggests that future young Muslim consumers will become more vocal, experimental, are brand hungry, and marketing savvy. Therefore we look set for more cool culture and celebrities, as has been seen with Malaysian recording artist, Yuna. We are seeing how stakeholder networks and Web2.0 are driving increasingly dynamic communications, which are both influencing and engaging more parties. The result is the creation of ‘collective individuals’, who converge around culturally embedded and ‘human’ brands; and supports the idea of global identities, which enhance local cross-border sub- cultures. In the face of this, Transformational Leadership will be a powerful tool for shaping the thoughts, feelings and actions of empowered clusters of engaged stakeholders. Furthermore, consumers don’t just consume, they look to do two things. Firstly, they share as a form of social capital and gains from the idea of reciprocity. Evidence can be see on YouTube where consumers are reviewing their purchases, sharing fashion tips and entertainment. Secondly, where possible, consumers seek to monetise what they own. Consumers think about whether this sharing can lead to a revenue stream, future career, sponsorship opportunity, or if items can be sold in online auctions. This however doesn’t mean that Muslim youth are spending more money on everything. Some spending on designer labels has increased; but equally spending on movies and music has declined in favour of illegal downloads. Therefore, Muslim youth look to get the best value for money, from a holistic standpoint. The Hip hop Grunge of Muslim Youth In the 90s, Hip hop and Grunge music rose as two global phenomena which crossed ethnic, socio economic and national identities. To their followers they were two sub-cultures, which were more than a music form. Also, in some places later on, each began to influence each other. Hip hop originated from ethnic America, whilst Grunge from white America. Central to them was the role of the media and entertainment industry. Both movements were held to be a state of mind, a way of life, a culture, a language, and a social commentary. Islam pulls the faithful beyond cultural ethnicity, so it is likely that Consumers don’tjust consume, theylook to do twothings. Firstly, theyshare as a form ofsocial capital andgains from the ideaof reciprocity.Secondly, wherepossible, consumersseek to monetisewhat they own. Feature.indd 37 3/26/12 4:52:48 PM
  7. 7. The Halal Journal | World Halal Forum 2012 Special Edition | 38 References: • de Mooij, M. (2011), Consumer Behavior and Culture: Consequences for Global Marketing and Advertising, (2nd Ed.), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. • Featherstone, M. (1991), Consumer culture and postmodernism, London: Sage. • Giddens, A. (2000), Runaway world, New York: Routledge. L • evitt, T. (1983),“The globalization of markets”, Harvard Business Review, May-June, pp.2-11. • Usunier, J-C. (1996), “Consommation: Quand global rime avec local (Consumption: When global rhymes with local), Revue Française de gestion, 110, pp.100-116. • Wilson, J.A.J. (2011a),“New-School Brand Creation and Creativity – lessons from Hip-Hop and the Global Branded Generation”, Journal of Brand Management, Vol.19 Issue 2, Oct/Nov, pp.91-111. • Wilson, J.A.J. and Liu, J. (2011c), “The Challenges of Islamic Branding: navigating Emotions and Halal”, Journal of Islamic Marketing, Vol.2 Iss.1, pp.28-42. About the Author: Jonathan Bilal is currently the Senior Lecturer in Advertising and Marketing Communications Management at the University of Greenwich in London, UK, and is also editor of the Journal of Islamic Marketing by Emerald Group Publishing. Jon has over 15 years of collective academic and practitioner experience in: marketing communications (advertising, sponsorship, sales, public relations); branding; key account management; magazines and new media; management and training – in both the private and public sectors. Jon became a Muslim at the beginning of 2000 and chose the name Bilal. Since then he has travelled in the Muslim world extensively, researching marketing, branding and management issues linked with multiculturalism and cross-culture. He has won several awards for his published work looking at: sports and national/ ethnic identity; and Halal and Islamic branding. *Opinions expressed by contributing writers do not necessarily reflect the views of The Halal Journal. Figure 2: The 10 Cs of Youth Culture Muslims feel comfortable with drawing from wide sources, which could see them flip-flop between the ‘white’ and the ‘ethnic’. Also initially, Hip hop and Grunge were categorised as forms of rebellion and separation. However, with more understanding it can be argued that they represented a signal of redefining and asserting what ‘their view’ was of wider society. Now, with their relative successes signalled commercialisation and wider acceptance within the establishment. Therefore, could the same fate await Muslim youth culture and if so, inevitably it is likely set to change over the next decade. So key considerations will be whether trends can be predicted or engineered, as opposed to being responded to; and the role of media and entertainment. The key elements to mapping Youth Culture So what of the future? Be prepared to witness the reigns being taken by a generation of informed, self-mediating, empowered and technologically savvy urbanites. For them, heritage is progressive: they embrace the eradication of hierarchy and knowledge that simply translates to power. Instead: diverse networks; the sharing and adaptation of information; and ultimately the positioning of Islam as a ‘co-brand’ with other spheres of life offer more of a pull. So perhaps it could be argued that we are coming full-circle to the early golden days – where Islam gifted social mobility and empowerment through structured innovation. Moving forward, Muslims seem set to gravitate towards greater collaborative consumption and new ways of interpreting what faith means – and how it shapes life in the here and now. This could mean that the role of the imam or scholar changes. Rather than being autocratic sources of knowledge and verdicts, they will be brought into an arena of democratic collaboration and consultation with the wider Muslim community. Muslim youth check and check again, from wide ranging sources and they aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. Perhaps a notable example of this can be taken from the Arab Spring – where communities mobilised themselves using social media, in a form of leaderless opposition. If this can be understood then that’s great – because messages and ways of understanding can be reached transparently, quickly and virally. If misunderstood, then equally as transparently, quickly and virally things can move against organisations and brands. To finish, I’ve put together the following model (Figure 2) to see how we can map youth culture, using The Cs. Culture Creativity Create Connect Communication Conspicuous Consumption Consumer Commerce Cool Feature.indd 38 3/26/12 4:53:04 PM