The Muslim Consumer — Top 10 Key Findings

1. There is no U.S. Census data on the number of Muslims in the U.S., but several estimates put the figure at 6-8 million. Assuming a minimum of 6.3 million Muslims (a 2006 figure from the International Strategy and Policy Institute), and estimating the disposable income of each at the national average of $27,243, and their aggregate disposable income totals more than $170 billion. That is roughly equivalent to the buying power of Indiana (6.3 million population) or Massachusetts (6.4 million).

2. There is no single “Muslim community” in the U.S., just as there is no homogeneous “Christian community.” Muslims come from many ethnic backgrounds, traditions and cultures. The only things all American Muslims have in common are the broad outlines of their faith and the fact that they are American.

3. Muslims in America comprise not only immigrants from the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, Africa and the Balkans, along with their American-born descendants, but also many African Americans and others who have adopted Islam.

4. Many Muslim attitudes stem more from ethnic and cultural roots than religious faith. Some Muslims predict that one or more distinctive American Muslim cultures will eventually emerge.

5. While Muslims generally buy the same products as other Americans, three main areas of consumption are affected by their religion. Food, as well as some household goods and cosmetics, must be halal (in accordance with Islamic law). Muslims, especially women, seek out modest clothing styles. And Muslims require tailored financial services (that are Shariah compliant), as Islamic law prohibits the paying or receiving of interest.

6. For many American brands, embracing Muslims is less a matter of developing Muslim-specific products and more a matter of ensuring that marketing and communications don’t inadvertently exclude or offend Muslims. Like many religious Americans, Muslims are especially turned off by sexual suggestiveness and immodesty.

7. Contrary to urban myth, American Muslims are no more likely than non-Muslims to reject or boycott iconic brands such as Coca-Cola or McDonald’s. However, they do feel neglected by marketers, and are more likely to notice and respond to brands that acknowledge them and their needs.

8. Muslims feel strongly that mass media and entertainment portray them in a negative light. However, they do tend to feel they are treated respectfully by several other important elements of American society, including the medical profession and their local governments.

9. Brands play a much more important role in the purchase decisions of Muslims compared with Americans as a whole. Moreover, they trust advertising more than non-Muslims.

10. A wider gender gap exists among Muslims than in the overall American population. Muslim women are much more apt to stay home full-time, a phenomenon that may be partly faith based or a matter of ethnic culture. But American norms are gradually changing the expectations and behavior of Muslim women, and they are likely to become a more powerful consumer force.