Brand Islam The Marketing and Commodification of Piety By Faegheh Shirazi (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016. 281 pages.)

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Sophia R. Arjana

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Abstract

Brand Islam: The Marketing and Commodification of Piety examines the
growing business of Muslim merchandise, ranging from food products considered
ḥalāl (permissible) to children’s dolls that represent devout Muslim
behavior through sartorial choices such as modest clothing and the wearing
of the veil. Faegheh Shirazi illustrates how a growing Muslim market
often intersects, in both problematic and intriguing ways, with capitalism.
Using an extensive survey of case studies, illustrations, and diverse Muslim
communities (Iran and Indonesia are often cited), the book provides a useful
exploration of the question of Muslim consumption and contributes to
larger discussions surrounding material religion.


In chapter 1, Shirazi begins her investigation into these topics by discussing
the problem of Islamophobia and how it may influence Muslims
to seek out markers of religious identity, thus influencing the market. Her
definitions of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and Islamoparanoia are useful,
although I felt myself wanting a richer discussion of how these trends intersect
with white supremacy, colonial politics, and misogyny. Symbols—
especially the veil and the mosque—can be used, as other scholars have
shown, to generate anxiety in non-Muslim populations. Although Shirazi
is less interested in how these symbols are used to shore up white, male,
Christian, or secular authority, she employs them to show the ways in
which Islamophobia and radical, literalist Islamic rhetoric feed off each
other. The manipulation of this rhetoric is even used when non-Muslims
make concessions in an effort to improve relations with Muslims, such as
Queen Elizabeth’s 2010 visit to the UAE, when she covered her hair. As
Shirazi points out, “Sheikh Yasser Burhani, one of Egypt’s leading Islamic
scholars, jumped on the queen’s gesture as justification for furthering an oppressive,
fundamentalist Salafi Islamic position” (p. 32). The ways in which
the body—in this case a white, regal body—is used in debates surrounding
Islam and modernity is at the crux of this book ...

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