In 2016, How US Brands Promoted Muslim Inclusion

NEW YORK – Amidst a traumatic year for Muslims, a slew of major American brands prominently featured everyday Muslim men, women and children in their marketing in 2016, in a move viewed as bold and even risky.

It was “a glimmer of hope in the midst of a greatly traumatic year for Muslims,” Mona Haydar, an American poet and activist who appeared in a recent Microsoft commercial with a variety of community leaders, including a transgender teenager and a white policeman, told The New York Times on Monday, January 2.

“For me as a Muslim woman, I represent something right now in the country that for some people incites fear,” said Haydar, 28, who wears a hijab and hails from Flint, Mich.

“This normalizes the narrative that we are just human beings.”

Microsoft is one of several American brands that featured everyday Muslims in their ads.

The brands include Honey Maid, Chevrolet, YouTube, CoverGirl and Amazon.

The ads, focused on themes of community and acceptance, were viewed as bold, even risky, in a year when there were campaign statements by Donald J. Trump about a Muslim registry and a ban on Muslim immigrants.

Amazon’s latest ad for its Prime service features a Muslim imam for the first time in a television ad shown in the United States.

The advertisement tells a story of a Christian vicar and a Muslim imam who are lifelong friends but who aren’t as sprightly as they were in their youth.

One day the vicar has a moment of inspiration and decides to do something to make the imam’s life and work a little easier. What the vicar doesn’t know, is that the imam also has the same idea for the vicar.

“This type of a project is definitely a first for us,” said Rameez Abid, communications director for the social justice branch of the Islamic Circle of North America, one group Amazon worked with.

“They were very aware that this was going to cause controversy and might get hate mail and things like that, but they said it’s something that they wanted to do because the message is important.”

Nevertheless, Haydar is hopeful about the potential.

“In 10 years, this commercial might have lived on in the heart of some young kid who saw a Muslim woman in a commercial and didn’t see the boogeyman in my face, and instead saw a normal human being,” she said.

“Then if somebody says something about Muslims that’s kind of crazy, maybe that kid can say, ‘I saw this commercial, and she actually just seemed kind of normal.’ You don’t know what the reverberations look like.”