Meet UK’s Leading Voice on What Muslims Want

Shelina Janmohamed calls for a deeper understanding of the misunderstood western Muslim consumer

Like a growing legion of British Muslims, she won’t be celebrating Christmas, but will enjoy her time off on December 25th with a hearty meal and loved ones

LONDON – UK will be celebrating Christmas in nearly a month and its growing Muslim community has applauded a gesture made by Tesco supermarket which featured Muslims in its festive adverts for the first-time.

Yet, consumers were disappointed that the supermarket isn’t selling halal turkeys on Christmas despite its ‘inclusive’ ad, Arabian Business reported on November 28.

As vice president of leading ad agency Ogilvy Noor, the first Muslim branding firm in the UK, this is a subject close to Shelina Janmohamed’s heart, who has put her life’s work into rallying for a true understanding of Muslim consumers.

“This is the point around understanding what the Muslim lifestyle actually is. Everybody is off for Christmas; everything’s closed so people get together. It’s a big family day,” Janmohamed said.

“A lot of younger Muslims and children might want to decorate the house and get into that festive spirit; so, it’s basically just like everyone else – Christmas is an excuse to get together and eat with your family,” she added.

The hijabi official says that there are ‘assumptions’ about how Muslims behave and what they’re seeking. She cites Ogilvy Noor’s most recent report, ‘The Great British Ramadan,’ which found that the most popular Iftar meal in the UK this year was chicken and chips.

She says: “However, if you go into the supermarket during Ramadan, what you actually find is rice, chopped tomatoes, mangos, and samosas and that’s not what young people are eating at all.”

The female official also raises the point that British gyms in areas with a higher population of Muslims are finally altering their opening times in order to accommodate for the daily fasting cycle.

Janmohamed says: “You need to dig a lot deeper about the tension that Muslims are facing in their lives that you’re trying to solve for them and the role that brands can play in their life.”

“The basics of it are you have to treat your Muslim consumer as you would any other audience. You have to really sit down and get to know them and their lives.”

The official who has been trying to ‘demystify’ those challenges for a number of years informed that “It’s a mystery why when you present industry audiences with the idea of talking to Muslim consumers as real humans, there is a real awakening that happens in the room and it’s hard to know why.”

According to Ogilvy Noor, British Muslims contribute $40 billion to the economy every year, and they have spending power overall of $27 billion.

Islam is the second largest religion in the UK with results from the 2011 Census giving as much as 2,786,635, 4.4% of the total population.