Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Introduction From: Journal of Islamic Marketing, Volume 2, Issue 3
There is no doubt that one of the worst kept secrets of the global world of business is the increasing economic power of Islam. Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, some estimates placing its growth at over 2 percent per annum, and it will probably overtake Christianity before 2020.There are one-and-a-half billion Muslim consumers. In the early 1990s, Dr Mazen Alwani and I launched the Arab Management Conference at Bradford University School of Management in the face of perplexity, even derision, from colleagues but from the very first conference in 1991, there was a continuing stream of articles about business, management and marketing from an Islamic perspective. Within another two years, we were offering the Bradford MBA in Dubai and coming to terms with a radically capitalist economy that embraced Islamic principle as a core vector of economic growth. Contemporaneously with colleagues like Dr Ahmed Al Janahi, I was researching such topics as how Islamic Banks dealt with incipient corporate failure. The launch of the International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management and its establishment under the capable editorship of Kadom Shubber, well known as the translator of a major work on Islamic Economics, and that of the Journal of Islamic Marketing have confirmed Emerald’s central positioning in the field.
Only a few years on, and with the publishing of this important special issue, based on a highly successful conference in Dubai in February 2010, led by Dr Bakr Alserhan, we can say that definitely the field has come of age. It is an honour and a privilege to have been given the opportunity not merely to hear many of these papers in person at the conference but to read them carefully and reflect on these important contributions.
The articles in this special issue cover a wide range of topics and while some link directly into the traditional and classic concerns of established marketing theory and practice, others with established comparative literatures around cultural values while others strike out in new directions. They range in geographical location from the Gulf region to the Indian sub-continent and Malaysia as well as to Europe.
Hayat Muhammad Awan, Khuram Shahzad Bukhari and Anam Iqbal report a field study of service quality and its relationship to customer satisfaction comparing the customers of conventional banks and Islamic banks in Pakistan using the well-known Servqual instrument. Their factor analysis reveals the multidimensional structure of service quality expectations in the banking sector expressed in a comprehensive model.
Salman Alajmi, Charles Dennis and Yasser Altayab study the Takaful sector comparing Kuwait and Egypt using Hofstede’s model to illuminate the impact of cultural differences and their findings are very important in casting doubt on simplistic “culturalist” frameworks because they report that there are powerful grounds for doubting the assumptions of homogeneity between these two research sites despite the shared attributes of religion, language and geographic location.
Özlem Sandikci in a thoroughly documented overview article very helpfully positions the range of topics in terms of theoretical and business concerns noting that for many marketing analysts Muslims can be perceived as an untapped and viable market segment, analogous to other “non-mainstream” consumer groups like Blacks and Hispanics and that this interest is intimately linked with the perceived purchasing power of this “new” segment, articulated especially through the emergence of a Muslim middle class, “which is, although geographically dispersed, united in its interest in consumption and ability to afford branded products”.
Irfan Butt, Nausherwan Saleem, Hassan Ahmed, Muzammil Altaf, Khawaja Jaffer and Jawad Mahmood report on a mixed methods study of barriers to Islamic banking in Pakistan and find that these perceived barriers range from geographical and structural factors like inconvenient location to perceptions that not all Islamic banks do follow the appropriate Islamic precepts in their actions. While the services offered by Islamic banks were in general competitive with the banking environment and the avoidance of RIBA was in general an accepted feature, there was a perception overall that the accordance with Islamic principle could often be characterised as “modest”.
John Ireland and Soha Abdollah Rajabzadeh study the market in the GCC countries for halal products. The world market for halal is estimated at $580 billion annually and the Gulf region imports more than 80 percent of its food. Their findings show that consumers in the Gulf region share a range of concerns that both link them to wider market interests like a demand for product safety and quality assurance but are also more widely concerned with health and well-being expectations. At present, I am working with Aisha Ijaz in trying to understand the dynamics of the halal market in the UK and finding that it is very complex and not easily summarized.
Hatice Kizgin studied the experience of immigration of Turkish people from non-Western to Western markets and shows that while some value-expectations do change others remain steady. Again the important conclusion is that over-confidence in simplistic culturalist explanations is rarely justified. These situations are both complex and evolving. And in some ways can be depicted as attempts to acculturate not by either assimilation nor rejection of host country values but by personal and interpersonal negotiations around a double standard in which sharing the values of the home country and at the same time of the host country can be made behaviourally acceptable.
Hernan E. Riquelme studied status-oriented Muslim consumers in Kuwait and the impact of personality traits, such as materialism, susceptibility to social influence and self-monitoring on status-related consumption. These findings illustrate the importance of both cultural and demographic factors as well as of personality traits like materialism, susceptibility to interpersonal influences and sensitivity on actual consumption patterns.
Kambiz Heidarzadeh Hanzaee and Bahar Teimourpour discuss the reality of culture in relation to experience in Iranian society and confirm that even the apparently rational economic, objective and value free concepts of “luxury consumer” play differently in the precise context of Iranian society where brand consciousness and conspicuous consumption can appear to be compatible with Islamic values.
It is of course far too early to make any firm conclusions about where all this research, and much other that is going on, is leading to in terms of establishment of solid bases for theory or even depiction of current practice. What is very clear is that there now exists a very wide and strong current of empirical research in a wide range of geographical, sectoral and demographic contexts to both link the Islamic tradition to established interests of marketing theory but to enable scholars and practitioners to take these further by linking into the literatures and findings of inter-cultural comparisons and personality and organizational analysis. This is an important collection of papers that may be regarded as a landmark statement.
In a wider context, this special issue symbolizes both the differences and the overlapping similarities between Islamic markets and others that have been hitherto the conventional objects of the received theories of business and marketing as taught in business schools and this provide a basis for Sandikci’s well-expressed hope that “focusing on the moral and ideological commonalities as well as global socioeconomic interdependencies may contribute to more peaceful inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-national relations.”