Many American Muslims feel simultaneously overexposed in the media and invisible as part of the American mainstream. But while they generally perceive themselves to be under constant suspicion, a new study shows that Muslims still believe in the American dream and are quietly living out traditional American values.

“One of the most crucial things to emerge from the study is that American Muslims want to feel less singled out and to be simply acknowledged and accepted,” says Marian Salzman, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of JWT Worldwide. “They’re hyphenated Americans in a country where religious observance is normal.”

JWT, the largest advertising agency in the U.S. and the fourth-largest in the world, commissioned this wide-ranging study on America’s estimated 6 to 8 million Muslims; it includes in-depth interviews with noted American Muslims, ethnographies of ordinary Muslims and a survey of 350 Muslims that used face-to-face interviews. An adapted version of the survey was also fielded online to more than 450 Americans representing the general population.

“We quickly found out that Muslims have become wary of discussing themselves and their faith,” notes Salzman. “Many have felt a lot of hostility directed at them and didn’t want to risk expressing opinions on anything vaguely controversial. It took a lot of effort to convince enough Muslims that our study was purely market research, not for political purposes…”

Muslims are not necessarily looking for marketers to provide any specially targeted products, although Islam does require specific food and packaged goods (halal), clothing (modest) and financial transactions (shariah- compliant). What they are primarily looking for is acknowledgment from marketers, says Mack. “The challenge and the opportunity for brands are to connect with Muslims in a low-key way that recognizes their American-ness and seeks to understand their particular attitudes.”


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