”Which multinational brand has the biggest image problem these days? BP? Toyota? Goldman Sachs? How about Islam? Say what you will about those other entities: They don’t have to deal with the public’s fear of terrorism. Last month, an opinion poll conducted by the online research firm YouGuv found 50 per cent of Britons associate Islam with terrorism, 69 per cent believe the religion encourages the repression of women and 41 per cent don’t feel Muslims have a positive impact on British society.”… ( Simon Houpt )
Turkish delight? The sultan’s treasures were hidden from the public for many years, yet their was a full splendor of the arts in the Ottoman empire. It is against the law of Islam for anyone to paint a portrait. On the Day of Judgement, the prophet Mohammed is reported to have said, painters will be doomed to hell for their blasphemous attempts to compete with God by creating life. If the religious laws were practiced as much as they were preached, Moslem artists would never have represented any living thing. Yet the Moslems did develop splendid schools of portraiture and historical painting, for they have been no more noted for strict obedience to religious laws than members of other faiths have been.
”…Which is why this week large posters began appearing on the London Underground and at city bus stops featuring three Britons who are seeking to put a different face on the religion. In the most genre-busting ad, a blonde woman without a head covering smiles prettily from the shores of a lake, accompanied by text which reads: “I believe in protecting the environment. So did Muhammad.” The woman is Kristiane Backer, a former MTV Europe host and convert to Islam who is identified as an “eco-Muslim.”
Part of ”brand Islam” whether marketed as Doritos or Dawn, remains something of an enigma if it is considered as a product. Hostility and violence have been part of all religions and to sweeten the offering with artificial flavors may ultimately leave a bad taste in the ”consumers” mouth.It may better to extol the goods in all their warts and blemishes. Islamic art of the Ottoman Empire and their mad sultans may be considered a good starting point. Over the centuries Islamic artists have painted pictures of dervishes, sultans and saints, subjects from the Koran, the Bible, and Arab and Persian legends, and vignettes of everyday life, from women in childbirth to street sweepers at work. Palace walls were decorated with hunting scenes, or portraits of conquered kings, or dancing girls, and, in one case, even a representation of a Christian church, complete with praying monks. The Ottoman sultans of Turkey were in the forefront of Islamic society, in theur patronage of art, commissioning numerous portraits of themselves, their favorites, and their families.
But this work was, often as not, done in secret, to keep the sultan’s subjects from discovering that he was breaking the religious law. Despite the secrecy, the Ottoman style of portraiture and miniature painting evolved into a distinctive and sophisticated art form, as splendid in its own way as Ottoman architecture, which is seen in so many beautiful mosques throughout Turkey and is usually considered the noblest accomplishment of Turkish art.
It was not until the eleventh century A.D. that the Turks themselves began migrating into the country. Their original home was in central Asia, where they were nomadic horsemen roaming the steppes. Even in that quarter of the world, seemingly so remote, the Turks were subject to the influence of the great centers of world civilization. Caravans made their way across the vast Asiatic plains, bringing Greek and Roman coins, silverwork and goldwork from Persia, and paintings and silks from China. At the same time, the Turks ranged widely over the steppes; remains of their own ancient art, showing these strong and varied foreign influences, are found throughout regions of Asiatic Russia, in Outer Mongolia and Afghanistan, and in the part of China that is today called Sinkiang, although it was formerly known as Eastern Turkestan.
By the end of the seventh century the Turkish tribesmen were in contact with the Arabs, whose armies had penetrated as far as the Turkish towns of Bukhara and Samarkand. The Arabs found the Turks to be formidable warriors, and so
he palace guard of the Arab caliphs at Baghdad was composed of Turkish mercenaries. From being the caliphs servants, they became his masters. By the ninth century the Seljuk Turks had made the caliph into a figurehead. In 1055 they took over most of the Arab empire for themselves; a few years later in 1071, they defeated the emperor of Byzantium at Manzikert in Asia Minor and began settling in that country.
Shortly before the year 1300 a few hundred families of another Turkish tribe left their central Asiatic pastures near the river Oxus to settle in the domain of their Seljuk kin. Under their leader, Osman, they soon moved into western Asia Minor, and as the Seljuk empire broke into fragments, they extended their sway to gain control eventually over the entire region. Osman’s decendents, the Osmanli or Ottoman sultans, continued to rule Asia Minor until the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1922.
Perhaps the most famous of them, Mohammed II, captured Constantinople in 1453 and put an end to the diminished Byzantine empire. Once his capital was established there, he sent his armies off in all four directions. The swiftly moving Turkish horsemen returned victorious and rich, and the sultans soon ruled an empire on three continents. Osman’s descendents led glorious but dangerous lives. Whenever a new sultan ascended the bejeweled, he had his brothers strangled to rid himself of rivals. later, when the Turks became more civilized, the sultan’s brothers, and often his sons, were merely imprisoned in cages, next to the royal harem, to keep them from mischief.
But whenever one of them was lucky enough to reach the throne, he could style himself as ruler on a grand scale. Turkish royal politics being what they were, it was a fortunate sultan who stayed on the throe long enough to memorize the names of his many concubines. The court artists who were called upon to depict so august and all-powerful a personage had a difficult task. They showed the sultan bigger than the people around him, his rich robes billowing out to fill an inordinately large share of the picture space.
The painters, like almost everyone else who lived and worked in the Grand Seraglio, the enormous royal palace at Constantinople, were his slaves, about on a level with the servant who carried in the clock when the sultan wanted to know what time it was, or the man who bore an extra royal turban in public processions and bobbed it up and down to save the sultan the trouble of acknowledging the applause of the populace.
“You can’t throw a brick without hitting a cause-marketing campaign,” noted Mara Einstein, an associate professor of media studies at Queens College in New York, and the author of Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age. “At this point, it’s the price of admission.” The approach of InspiredByMuhammad fits in that mould. “You could have been selling Dawn dishwashing liquid or you could have been selling Islam, it’s all the same thing,” she said. “You’re using the same emotional needs of people wanting to do good, but you’re using that to sell almost any product, and I consider religion to be a product.”
But as it seeks to clean itself up, Islam may face the same sort of problem as BP: that advertising alone can’t fix an image until the core reason for that bad impression – be it an oil spill or terrorism – is solved.Irshad Manji: “Mainstream Muslim behaviour is the reason so many Brits have a negative view of Islam,” she wrote. “They have not adequately challenged their spokespeople – the Muslim Council of Britain, for example – to become inclusive and pluralistic [or less insular and dogmatic]. Posters and videos don’t change that situation; they only seek to spin a happy image of a corrupt reality. …”