February 09, 2006

The Sheikh-Makeover reality show & the “Islamic” franchise!

Picture this: the presenter of this reality show strolls the streets haunting lost souls to salvage, once the entrant is identified (with the prearrangement & endorsement of the applicant), they go through a rigorous set of guilt-trips with a definite dramatic cadence that eventually leads to an emotional –and psychological- breakdown… later on the vulnerable applicant is shown the bright path of leading a pious life…

At one scene, a spontaneous inauguration proceeding is thrown at a high profile mosque –Kaluti at Rabyih comes to mind-, another scene would be of an enthusiastic young man tossing away his Gelitte & electric shaver, and another scene would be the-must-be-good-looking girl going to a veil shop to get herself a fix…

Of course, this is merely a hallucination, it wouldn’t feel right, or would it? unless of course any of the newly airing “Islamically” themed satellite channels were interested in delivering “alternative” content to cater for the vast market of “religious” viewers out there…

Actually, the whole paradigm that I’m cynically building right now revolves around the despicable labeling of things to be, you guessed it, to be Islamic…

For the love of God, what sort of arrangement does certain banks, hospitals, trading companies, private schools, TV channels, bakeries, butcher shops, clothing stores, restaurants or even your average neighborhood mini-market; what arrangement do they have to qualify them to call upon themselves being “Islamic”? Did they sign a franchise agreement with someone to facilitate the use of the “Islamic” trademark?

I’m not the average oh-they’re-abusing-Islam fellow who doesn’t understand that the mere fact that some people do infact observe & adhere to Islamic teachings; and that inherently create a niche that dictates its own special requirements and demands; which should be considered and catered for, and I see no problem in that, in fact its rather profitable as will as tactful and courteous to try being understanding and capacitating of your –potential- customers needs:

I recall during my stay in the united kingdom, a grilled-chicken chain called Nandos used to get their chicken from certified Halal suppliers specifically for their locations with high density of Moslems, for them, it was a matter of good business sense (perhaps a hint of courtesy along with it), but they did not rub it in one’s face and labeled the whole branch as “Islamic”, a simple no-frills note on the door informs that this restaurant is certified Halal…

One might argue that in the case of the bank; the fact that it’s actually adopting a Sharia-compliant (a trivial on its own) system, then it only makes sense that they label themselves as “Islamic” to differentiate themselves in the marketplace… crude BS; they have no right to the name for starters, secondly, here in Saudi, where all banks are supposedly Sharia-complaint by default, not a single bank is called “Islamic” yet they ensure that they make their clients aware of this fact (being sharia-compliant & not Islamic, huh?) through their literature, ensuring that every time the term “bank” is mentioned its subliminally conjugated with the fact that it’s Sharia-compliant banking.

A bleaker prospect for my egoist-self to buy the case for labeling a hospital as being “Islamic”! so what, they’ll lavishly treat you with piety for the mere name of the hospital, what if they were not up for the job, the least they’ll get is bursting curses touted upon “Islam” & its “hospitals”! Should we discuss the case of the butcher selling “Islamic” meet or the restaurant labeled as Islamic… I’m already vomiting.

If you’re a pious trader, or running your business with accordance to Sharia whenever applicable, then by all means; make this visible through your sincerity, honesty, professionalism & customer service, perhaps educate your vustomers of how “Islamic” your establish is without labeling your business as such… it just doesn’t cut it as common sense!

I would have wanted to extend my utter despair from the abuse of the “Islamic” label to include political parties, NGOs & any other non-profit organization, yet the issue becomes problematic in essence; the counter argument is rather valid, if a group of people believe that they adhere to something and they’re adjoined together to serve this something or at least they go about their activities in light of their adherence to it, why not declare thier association with this something!

Perhaps it’s hard for me to swallow, given that many groups claim adherence to Islam while they’re far away from it (left, right & center) but it seems like its one of these distasteful facts of life that one needs to acknoweldge as is.

Then comes the cultural aspect that I seem to be hooked onto bashing upon (as one might observe throughout my writings), especially in our contemporary society, take for instance whenever me or my fiancée are asked “are you -love birds- going to have an Islamic wedding?” Once again; for the love of God, well someone define what does an Islamic wedding constitute?


Is it about gender segregated seating arrangement or the Lack of music entertainment in favor of a bunch of women chanting makeshift Arabic songs with “appropriate” lyrics synced with the beat of basic percussion instruments (the Duf, anyone?)…

Whether those snippet of scenes were complaint with an Islamic doctrine or not, the fact of the matter is that there’s no such thing as an "Islamic wedding" per se, at least within a Moslem society! An outsider may observe that “Oh What an oddly yet lovely Moslem wedding” as he would associate with any other observation within a Moslem community!


It’s a matter of perspective believe it or not, for I view “ordinary” weddings to be “improper” and the weddings others may label as “Islamic” is merely due to their departure from the Islamic understanding of things, hence deeming an islamically compliant wedding as “ordinary”!

Besides, with God’s will; my wedding will neither be ordinary or host chubby women chanting makeshift songs, it’ll be extraordinarily compliant with our marvelous Islamic teaching... our stagnated society wouldn’t even know what to label it with, for some sad reason; novelty lost its way in the midst of our continues deceits & defeats!

The same fallacy manifests itself when labeling a song as "Islamic" due to its content! I’m aware that songs –especially Arabic ones- usually get labeled as love songs, love songs or long songs… with the occasional wave of –oddly- popular patriotic songs, but I still feel allergic towards identifying a new genera of music being labeled as Islamic!

It seem that I may have landed myself on a landmine, for Islamic art did -and still- exist since the establishment of the Islamic state, yet in my book, I see no validity in labeling any song as Islamic, be it Arabic, oriental rock, hip-hop or folkloric for all that I care! The matter is not even equivocal to the existence of a whole genera of Christian music in the west, for some would rather delude themselves into such an analogy …

Finally, if I was to answer the call of my bigot self, then I would’ve bought an Islamic franchise myself for my blog and entitled it “The Islamic ranting of a Sheikh” how would that sound? Perhaps I’m just little too sensitive & emotional… perhaps not.

4 comments:

Sami said...

well said, buddy!.

Bashar said...

Nice one, it's a bit long but I could not except to read it all :)

So what do you think as individuals should we do to face this Islamic Branding issue :)

I mean some people use Islam obviously hit the passion and minds of customers.

I mean who would be the judge if this is Islamic or not?

Hala said...

You're definitely not sensitive neither emotional, you're wayyy too realistic, I loved your "ranting" ;) which touches the core of our daily lives and how we fool ourselves of being adherent to Islam by merely using the name ONLY as a label.

This bring to mind one of the newly opened modern schools here in Amman, The School of Life, it is called, and they say it is going to be an Islamic school, when i asked them about the cirriculum they said they'll be IB (International Baccalaureate) compliant, oh?? and what's so Islamic about ur school?, oh, well our students upon graduation will have memorized the Quran !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
enough said??

Farah said...

Salaam - reminds me of a thing I wrote a couple of years ago https://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&&note_id=18265403787 We should have a coalition of like-minded Muslims in Jordan and the Greater Sham against the Commodification of Islam - or something :)