Among Islamists, certain global brands can be considered threats to Muslim identity, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
"'Infidel! Infidel!' cries the six-year-old boy upon hearing his mother mention Nestl� during our interview," writes author Elif Izberk-Bilgin (University of Michigan-Dearborn). "Why would a six-year-old call Nestl� infidel? How do global brands like Coca-Cola and Disney get tangled in a complex web of sociopolitical dynamics and become targets of religiously charged consumer activism?"
In describing a phenomenon she calls "consumer jihad," Izberk-Bilgin explores consumer boycotts of brands associated with Western influences and policies. The author conducted an ethnographic study of low-income Muslim consumers in Turkey. Her informants were shantytown dwellers who had migrated to Istanbul for employment. Many of her interviewees had traditional upbringings and faced economic hardships and culture shock when they arrived in Istanbul's urban setting. "These informants embraced Islam not just as a matter of faith and a normative system, but also as a political and social model," the author writes. "As a result, this Islamist view reflected on their consumption choices."