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  • Berita Harian (Singapore): Helping MNCs address the problem of Islamaphobia

    In this week’s Berita Harian, published in Singapore, in Malay language, the paper talks to Ogilvy Noor Vice President Shelina Janmohamed about the importance of the Muslim consumer market, and why brands should be brave and reach out to this growing segment.

    You can read the full article in Malay here. Or you can read an English translation below.

    Helping firms address the problem of Islamaphobia

    Berita Harian (Singapore) | Friday, April 26, 2013

    As the vice president of a communications consultancy, Ogilvy Noor, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed who is based in London often gets similar questions from MNC clients from around the world.

    They would like to sell halal food which meet the demand of Muslim consumers but they worry about being criticized by a section of the population who suffer from Islamaphobia, which is the fear or prejudice against the religion and its people.

    “Many large companies are concerned when they are looking to launch products to the Muslim consumer. However, they get serious when they learn that there is a 1.8 billion Muslim population globally and a halal market worth US$2.1 trillion with average growth of US$500b annually. They then realise just how immense the business potential is and don’t want to miss out on this opportunity, “says Shelina, who is London-born and in her late thirties, during a phone interview.

    Approximately one in four of the world’s population is Muslim, and this number is expected to increase by 35 per cent to 2.2 billion in 2030.

    A graduate of Oxford University in the fields of psychology and philosophy, Shelina – who has been name a future leader in Britain’s advertising industry – has helped big names such as Coca-Cola and Nestle in Islamic branding since joining Ogilvy Noor two years ago.

    As a unit within the global communications consultancy, Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy Noor was created in response to the need for expert, practical advice on how to build brands that would appeal to Muslim consumers.

    Shelina acknowledges that Islamic branding is not easy, especially with the negative perception by a portion of the world population have about the Muslim community. This is further impacted by acts of terrorism and violence, such as the recent Boston Marathon incident in the US, which has placed more attention on the Muslim community.

    “The Muslim community condemns the act of violence in Bostin, but what is disconcerting is that there are some parties who make inaccurate conclusions that associate violence with Islam as a religion.”

    “This is worrying and a lot needs to be done to explain the truth,” said Shelina, mother of a two-year old daughter.

    Wearing a headscarf, Shelina admits that it’s not always easy living in London dressed as such.

    “The biggest challenge is in representing your religion in today’s modern society. Fortunately, I’ve not personally encountered Islamaphobia. However, there are instances when Muslims become victims of attacks,” says Shelina whose parents migrated to London from Tanzania in the 1960s.

    Often, when at the bookstore, she often sees books which show Muslim women dressed in purdahs beside a camel or sharing their experiences about how they escaped from an abusive husband.

    “I noticed that there were no books which reflected the life of Muslim women like me. This inspired me to write my novel Love in a Headscarf which reflects my quest for love in life,” explained Shelina who also has a blog, Spirit21.

    The book which was published in Britain in 2009 has been translated into eight languages including Bahasa Indonesia, Italian and Arabic.

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